Unschooled cooking: Blackberry cheesecake

Posted: Sunday, July 25, 2010

I'm getting a little worried about my relationship with my editor. After doing all I could last month to get my Man Card revoked writing about salad ("Salad In Disguise" in L'attitude's July issue), I asked her what might be good to do for this piece. Her reply? "Berries!" Okay, I thought, berries. A quick Google search soon had me thinking, "cheesecake." My editor's thoughts on that: "Yum!"

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Chester Duke Carson / For The Juneau Empire
Chester Duke Carson / For The Juneau Empire

So, a month after writing about salad, here we go with dessert. At least there is nothing healthy about what I'm doing here. Just looking at the ingredients is likely to cause your cholesterol to spike. The plan had been to make a blueberry cheesecake, but I couldn't find blueberries (frozen or fresh) at Safeway when I went. I'm way too lazy to go to multiple stores, so that left me with: blackberry cheesecake.

My first time trying anything like this taught me one thing that might save you time if you are a rookie, too. You might not have a springform pan. I actually didn't know what it was and just assumed we had one. I had finally collected all the ingredients I needed and was ready to go the other night... "Do we have a springform pan?"

"Nope." Oh.

The next day eventually led to a trip to Gourmet Alaska in the Nugget Mall (not everybody has springform pans, FYI), where the guy took one look at my single item purchase and asked, "Making a cheesecake?" Consider the ten inch springform pan the first item on your ingredient list. Next, the stuff for the graham cracker crumb crust:

- 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (they crumble by hand way easier than I had feared)

- 1/4 cup melted butter/margarine

- 2 teaspoons sugar

As long as you take the time to crumble the crackers sufficiently, the rest is straightforward. Combine the crumbs, melted butter and sugar and press it into the bottom of your brand new (in my case) ten inch springform pan.

Now, get ready to raise that cholesterol! The cheesecake's filling:

- 16 ounces cream cheese

- 2 cups cottage cheese

- 1 1/2 cups sugar

- 4 eggs, slightly beaten

- 6 tablespoons cornstarch

- 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

- 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

- 1/2 cup melted butter/margarine

- 2 cups sour cream

Yeah, there's a reason cheesecake tastes so freaking good. Combine the cream and cottage cheese first in a large mixing bowl and blend it 'til it's smooth. Add the sugar, stirring it to keep it smooth. Then add the eggs and stir. Finally, the cornstarch, flour, lemon juice, and vanilla. Stir like hell. Toss in the butter and sour cream and, you guessed it, stir 'til smooth. Go ahead and taste it, it's okay (I did).

Pour that white, deadly goodness into your brand new springform pan with the graham cracker crust and put it in the center of the oven (325 degrees). Lastly, put about an inch of hot water in a baking pan and place that on the bottom rack of the oven (don't ask questions, just do it). Bake it for 70 minutes (you want the edges to be firm) and turn the oven off, letting the cheesecake cool with the oven for another two hours. Remove it from your brand new springform pan and refrigerate.

If you're as lazy as I am (and as disorganized) this could be two- or three-day project - four if you get sidetracked listening to Mel Gibson rant away like an insane person online. The last step is the glaze (you know, so you can add "blackberry" to the title), for which you will need:

- 1 cup sugar

- 2 tablespoons cornstarch

- 1 cup water

- 2 cups of blackberries (or whatever you prefer)

Combine the sugar, cornstarch and water in a sauce pan and add about half of your berries (crushed). Cook it on medium heat, stirring constantly, until it begins to boil. Let it boil for a couple of minutes until you like the thickness of the glaze and let it cool completely.

Almost home. Try not to drool directly onto your beautiful creation and place the rest of your remaining berries atop the cheesecake. Poor the cooled glaze over the berries and dig in.

Maybe Mel could use some cheesecake. Maybe that would calm him down a bit. Couldn't hurt.

• Chester Duke Carson was born and raised in Juneau. He graduated in 2004 from Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., and is scheduled to wed his fiancée in Orange County (don't you dare call it. "L.A.") in 2011. He also considers himself to be a bona fide fantasy football guru.

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