my gratitude, and a recipe for key lime cheesecake

For many months now, I have wanted to write about my father.

I’ve wanted to write about how he forgets the names of my children at times. He calls my daughter by my name, and he calls Oliver by my brother’s name. Β He doesn’t do this always, but just enough that it gets my attention. I wanted to write about how my father, an avid reader and accumulator of knowledge, stopped reading at least a year ago, or perhaps longer. He has my mother buy books for him, but they sit, untouched, on the table next to his recliner. I wanted to write about how he can no longer order from a restaurant menu without help. Instead, he just orders the same as my mother, probably because it’s easier for him that way.

I never wrote about these things, though, because he was still trying to live a normal life. What if his friends new? What if his business clients found out? But, of course, his business is dead, having essentially died the day this happened, two years ago. And I’m nearly certain his friends knew, in the way that good friends often know when something is wrong.

key lime cheesecake | the merry gourmet

Last weekend, I finally shared a piece of the story. I wrote about the difficult choice of placing my dad in a nursing home, and I wrote it simply because I had to. I was at a breaking point.

The comments you wrote on that post, the messages you sent through Twitter or Facebook, the emails you wrote to me — I have read, and reread, every single one. I am grateful to all of you who reached out to me. Every comment or message felt like a hug, a comforting squeeze of my hand. Thank you for that.

Mom and I are doing better. She finally shared what she’s been dealing with on her own blog. She sounds stronger than she has in the last 18 months. When I talk to her on the phone, her voice doesn’t tremble like it used to. I think she’s finally sleeping at night, the whole night through. She seems less frightened.

key lime cheesecake | the merry gourmet

Dad has been at the nursing home almost one week now. I don’t really like the place he’s in, but we don’t have a lot of other options right now. He has a new mystery book on his bedside table — and a huge magnifying glass to help him see the words — but he doesn’t read it. He keeps the television on, but he doesn’t really watch it. He picks at his meals, not remembering later what he ate. He mostly sleeps. He asks my mother if he can come home.

I know that we have more decisions ahead of us, but for now, my mom is catching her breath and regaining strength and I’m doing my thing – working, parenting, writing, and baking. We’re even going to do a bit of rest and relaxation on a warm, southern Florida beach very soon.

And about baking…

This is the cheesecake I baked on Saturday, the one that helped me to work through some of the stress of that day. Key lime pie is one of my husband’s favorite desserts, and, as it turns out, key lime cheesecake is now right up there as a favorite dessert contender.

And one more time, because I really mean it…thank you for being here.

key lime cheesecake | the merry gourmet

Yield: Serves 10-12.

Cook Time: 75 minutes

Key Lime Cheesecake

I think of Key lime pie as a classic Florida dessert, and if you have a cheesecake fan in your family, then you'll want to try combining the two. If you like the work of squeezing a bag full of tiny Key limes to get the juice needed for the recipe, then by all means, knock yourself out. If you're like me, though, you'll want an authentic Key lime taste without all of that work, so you'll use what I use - bottled juice. I highly recommend Nellie & Joe's Famous Key West Lime Juice.

Don't want cracks in your cheesecake? A water bath is essential. And trust me when I tell you that it's not as hard to do as you may think.

Ingredients:

Lime Curd:
7 large egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Key lime juice (I use Nellie & Joe's Famous Key West Lime Juice)
Zest of one lime

Crust:
1-3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (from 14 whole graham crackers)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
5 tablespoons Key lime juice
Zest of two limes

Directions:

For Lime Curd:

Whisk egg yolks, sugar, Key lime juice, and lime zest in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat until it thickens and comes to a boil, about 7-8 minutes. Let it boil for about 30 seconds, then remove from heat. Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

For Crust:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place oven rack in middle position.

Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Wrap the sides of the pan with a large sheet of aluminum foil (this will prevent leaking during final baking in the water bath). Whisk together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and salt. Stir in the melted butter until combined. Press the crumbs onto the bottom and about 1-1/2 inches up the sides of the springform pan. Bake for 5 minutes then let cool completely.

Decrease oven temperature to 325 degrees.

For Filling:

In a food processor or blender, process or puree the cream cheese, sugar, eggs, lime juice, and lime zest until smooth.

Spread the lime curd evenly over the bottom of the crust. Carefully pour the filling into the crust, on top of the lime curd. Set the foil-wrapped springform pan into a roasting pan. Make the water bath by carefully pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come 1 inch up the sides of the cheesecake pan, taking care not to splash the cheesecake. Bake for 70-75 minutes at 325 degrees, until the cake is set but trembles slightly in the middle when the pan is gently shaken. Turn off oven, crack the oven door, and let cheesecake sit in the cooling oven for about 30 minutes. Remove pan from oven, carefully lift the springform pan out of the water bath, and let the cheesecake cool completely on a rack.

Chill, loosely covered, at least 8 hours (or overnight) prior to serving. When ready to serve, run a blunt knife around edge of cheesecake to loosen it from the springform pan and remove sides of the pan. Serve ungarnished or with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

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19 Responses to “beach vacation dinners, and a recipe: mississippi mud cake”

  1. Paula - bell'alimento — September 9, 2013 @ 7:38 pm

    This makes me incredibly happy. And that table with low country boil. Perfection.

  2. Macaroni Mama — September 9, 2013 @ 7:53 pm

    Great post. Wished I was there.

  3. Laura — September 9, 2013 @ 8:13 pm

    Oh my goodness, my mouth is watering! And I’m more than a teensy bit jealous of your gulf coast vacation πŸ™‚

  4. Brooke — September 9, 2013 @ 8:13 pm

    Looks like you had an amazing time!!

  5. Denise @ Creative Kitchen — September 9, 2013 @ 9:21 pm

    Sounds incredible!! Food, drink, vacation and friends are what memories are built on! Our camping group is this for me. So glad you had a relaxing, fun time. I’ve been dying to do that low country boil for awhile. Your mud cake is a favorite from my childhood. πŸ˜‰

  6. Nancie McDermott — September 9, 2013 @ 10:43 pm

    I am very very happy.

  7. Di — September 10, 2013 @ 9:30 am

    The mud cake looks divine and I know first hand about that family practitioner’s shrimp boil (although it’s been a good number of years since he served it up at a family med-school graduation celebration). Looks like you got a much needed break surrounded by the nourishment that only close friends can give. Many blessings.

  8. Paula — September 10, 2013 @ 5:32 pm

    What a wonderful and restful vacation you had. The shot of the shrimp and the overhead shots of your dining table are fabulous. Such a contrast from your IG photos of the hospital hallway! So glad that you were able to recharge your spirit with friends and make some great memories together, not to mention some fabulous meals and dessert!

  9. Janice — September 11, 2013 @ 7:39 am

    That was, by far, one of the best vacations I can remember (and BTW – I still dream about the mud cake)! So glad I now have the recipe. And yes, we need to start planning next year’s trip ASAP!

  10. Kathryn — September 11, 2013 @ 12:06 pm

    Such a perfect sounding vacation; I’m so glad you got a good break.

  11. Carlinne @Cook with 2 Chicks — September 11, 2013 @ 3:04 pm

    Beach vacations are the best. Especially when shared with friends and everyone shares good food and plenty of conversation.

  12. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — September 15, 2013 @ 9:58 pm

    Sounds like such a wonderful trip… Thanks for sharing your memories and the wonderful recipe for Mississippi Mud Cake. Yum!

  13. Dina — September 25, 2013 @ 11:58 am

    that looks delish!

  14. Courtney — November 24, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

    When/how do you add the flour and salt? The recipe doesn’t say; it just says to stir until the flour isn’t visible: “In a medium saucepan, melt the butter with cocoa powder over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture is smooth, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat. Using a wooden or silicone spoon, stir in beaten eggs, vanilla, coffee powder (if using), and sugar. Stir until the batter is well mixed, smooth, and no flour is visible.”

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — November 24th, 2013 @ 3:21 pm

      Courtney – thanks for catching this error. I’ve corrected it in the recipe. Add the flour and salt at the same time you add the sugar.

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  16. Sharon — January 5, 2014 @ 9:31 pm

    No leavener? Dutch process cocoa or natural?

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — January 6th, 2014 @ 7:17 pm

      Nope, no leavener in this recipe. You can use any cocoa you like, also.

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