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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20 Responses to “apricot-almond shortbread bars”

  1. Miss @ Miss in the Kitchen — March 14, 2011 @ 10:06 am

    What a delightful treat! Beautiful too! Hope your little one is feeling better!

  2. Jenn S. — March 14, 2011 @ 10:19 am

    Shortbread is so simple, easy and delicious. I may make some pecan shortbread today (you inspired me!) And, no, I don’t think that balancing work and family can be mastered, but you can be a master juggler. πŸ˜‰ Hope Maddie feels better soon.

  3. The Yummy Mummy — March 14, 2011 @ 12:44 pm

    This is tough – mom or oncologist? Although I bet you are wonderful at both.

    Glad you were able to soothe some of that with shortbread. Your pictures are beautiful.

    xo Kim

  4. JenniferA — March 14, 2011 @ 1:25 pm

    These sound lovely – I was intrigued right away when you tweeted about them last week.

    Your north Florida weather sounds lovely too – I am jealous you can plant your veggies already. I have to wait another two months. Enjoy, and I hope your baby feels better soon – I bet those cookies will help a lot.

  5. Lucy@acookandherbooks — March 14, 2011 @ 1:28 pm

    Two of my favorite flavors – apricot & almonds! And so very pretty. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  6. Feast on the Cheap — March 14, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

    You have such a lovely blog – the design, photos, everything! This recipe looks pretty lovely too…

  7. Brian @ A Thought For Food — March 14, 2011 @ 4:01 pm

    These should be in my belly right now… like, right now. And they look beautiful too!

  8. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — March 14, 2011 @ 5:27 pm

    Hope Madeleine is feeling better soon. This post made me miss MY mum so much. The past two weeks even though Neil has been amazing, there’s nothing quite like your mum, you know?

  9. Barbara | VinoLuciStyle — March 14, 2011 @ 9:40 pm

    I don’t think there is any mastering of it…that parenting thing, the constant juggle of work and kids. But I do think we have to make choices and prioritize and though you feel a ping of guilt at having to cancel on patients…you simply can not cancel on your daughter so you did the right thing. There are those moments when only Mom and an apricot bar can make everything all better.

    I would like one of them too…I know it would make me feel better.

  10. marla — March 14, 2011 @ 11:21 pm

    These shortbread bars are so pretty & I can only imagine how tasty too! Hope your little girl is feeling better & that you had some special time together πŸ™‚

  11. Ethan — March 15, 2011 @ 1:22 am

    Hope Madeline is feeling better soon. Feeling bad about your patients is normal, but like you said, have to take care of the ones at home first!
    I love the 3rd pic, the one with the corner missing.

  12. I’m sorry that your daughter isn’t feeling well, I hope she feels better soon. These shortbread bars would certainly have brought a smile to my face on a day when I wasn’t feeling well.

  13. Lael Hazan @educatedpalate — March 15, 2011 @ 7:15 am

    Oh having a little one who is ill is the worst. I don’t know why, I always feel guilty and frustrated that I can’t wave my magic wand. However, your shortbread bars certainly will bring a smile to her face.

  14. Megan — March 15, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

    I hate the guilt that comes with the choices we have to make. I hope your daughter feels better and those darn berry plants thrive! πŸ™‚
    Your bars are beautiful and sure would make me feel better. I’ve always wanted to do something with almond paste but never have. This looks like a great way to change that!

  15. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — March 16, 2011 @ 11:21 am

    These look so beautiful! Hope Madeline’s feeling better now… I’m sure these tasty shortbread bars helped to cheer her up!

  16. Aggie — March 16, 2011 @ 5:02 pm

    I hope Madeline is feeling much better by now. Love Apricot preserves and I just happen to make my first ever shortbread like 5 minutes ago. I may have a new addiction, easy baking is fun for me πŸ™‚ These look so unbelievably tasty!!!

  17. a frog in the cottage — March 17, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

    that is THE ULTIMATE shortbread bar !! absolutely gorgeous !!

  18. Tiffany — March 18, 2011 @ 9:30 pm

    Oh my! Yes! Those look delish!

  19. These look so incredibly delicious!! I am going to make these this weekend – thank you for sharing. Have a wonderful weekend.

  20. What gorgeous bars and as always just lovely photos. I love almond desserts and these are calling my name! πŸ™‚

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