Remember high school? I totally do! I played volleyball. I was an editor in journalism class. I took all the AP classes. I stressed out over Algebra… and my hair was cut awkwardly short. Like… really bad. I also didn’t have a boyfriend. I didn’t even have the prospect of a boyfriend. I had to ask out my dude prom date. I dunno. I had some of the best friends ever… I wasn’t really worried about too many things.
I feel like a good amount of high school girls read my blog. I know this because most of them write me emails asking how to get through high school. Usually the only answers I have for them include trying out for volleyball and journalism, and cutting their hair awkwardly short. That’s really the only experience I have, and I really shouldn’t push that on strangers. It’s rude and damaging.
I recently received a question from a dear and darling high school senior in Chicago. She called into the Homefries voicemail to ask us a question. She didn’t have a Chicago accent… I was listening.
The questions boils down to this:
I’m in high school. I’m a senior. I’ve liked this dude since my freshman year. We’ve texted a few times. I think he likes me. I just don’t know if I should keep pursuing this guy because we’re never going to see each other again once I go to college.
My answer is this:
You’ve liked the same dude since freshman year? Dang. It’s too bad dudes in high school don’t know how to act. I’m 30 and most dudes my age don’t know how to act. Here’s the deal. You can sneak this dude behind the bungalows to make-out with him… that’s it. Simple. (Mom… I didn’t do any of this. Seriously. That’s not even a lie to spare your feelings). Mostly you just have to wait for this dude to grow up. That will probably take a while. Sorry high school is so awkward and confusing. We’ve all been there…. except without the text messaging confusion. Make-out or don’t… but don’t make it too complicated. In short: go to college and learn how to be an awesome and independent woman. No biggie.
Oh! Also… learn how to make an awesome cheesecake and feel good about your life.
Cheesecake is LONG overdue on this blog. It’s because I’m not a huge fan of cheesecake. I’m not a huge fan of cheesecake because I don’t own a spring form pan. Cheesecakes always felt out of reach because of equipment alone.
Let’s start this cheesecake with gingersnap crust. Butter. Sugar. A pinch of salt and fluff. Crispy (store-bought) Gingersnap Cookies. I love this crust because it so simply pressed into the pie plate and baked until golden.
Cheesecake filling is an incredible mixture of cream cheese, eggs and sugar. Cream too! Adding a touch of lemon zest is dreamy also.
I want to swim in here. I really really do.
You’ll lick the beaters. I did. Lay off.
We’ll top the creamy cheesecake with an almost bitter salted caramel. It’s sweet and full of depth… and it all starts with butter and sugar.
Caramel is so easy to make. There’s no need for a candy thermometer. All you need is the courage enough to boil sugar and water until it browns. If you have the balls to do that… you’re on the sweet sweet road to caramel.
Here’s the trick with caramel. Remove the pan from heat just as it starts to brown. The bottom of the pan will retain heat and continue to cook the caramel. If you need it slightly more brown, you can always return it to the heat. You’ve got the control. Take it totally easy.
Once cooked and cooled, pour caramel over cooled cheesecake. Cool the topped cheesecake with cool caramel. Do you see what’s happening here? Are you freaking out? I am. No bigs.
Cat wants too.
ps. As soon as I have a kid I’ll stop posting annoying cat pictures. Promise. (but my fingers are crossed behind my back).
Salted Caramel Cheesecake Pie
makes one 9-inch pie
adapted from Dorie Greenspan and Zoe Nathan
For the Crust:
2 cups ginger snap cookie crumbs
2 tablespoons brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
For the Cheesecake:
1 pound (2 blocks) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
For the Caramel:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Place two rack in the upper and bottom third of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. You’ll need a 9-inch pie plate and a 9×13-inch pan for boiling water.
To make the crust, place cookies in the bowl of a food processor and grind to a fine crumb. If you don’t have a food processor you can crumble cookies in a zip lock bag with a rolling pin. Once you’ve created a fine crumb, add brown sugar, salt, and butter. Toss together, moistening all of the ginger snap crumbs. Pour the mixture into a 9-inch pie plate and press with fingers until sides and bottom are evenly coated with crust.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool while you make the cheesecake filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Place a tea kettle of water on the stove top to boil. We’re going to add hot water to the 9×13-inch pan to place under the baking cheesecake.
To make the cheesecake filling: In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together cream cheese and granulated sugar. Beat until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in salt and vanilla extract until well incorporated. Add eggs, beating one at a time between each addition. Once creamy and smooth, slowly beat in the cream, beating on medium high until creamy and luscious. Add lemon zest if using.
Pour cheesecake mixture into the prepared cheesecake crust.
Place 9×13-inch pan in the bottom shelf of the hot oven. Carefully pout in hot water, and fill to 1/2 full. Push into oven.
Place cheesecake on the upper oven shelf. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until cheesecake is browned and puffed. When cheesecake is puffed and doesn’t have loose giggle in the center, turn oven off and use a towel to prop the oven open slightly. Let cheesecake rest for another 45 minutes in the cooling oven. Remove from the oven and cool completely, for at least 4 hours. Overnight is best.
While the cheesecake cools, make the caramel so it can cool as well.
To make the caramel, add sugar, water, and corn syrup to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring once or twice. Bring to a boil and allow to brown. Once sugar has browned to a medium amber color, remove from heat and immediately add heavy cream and butter. Mixture will boil and foam. Stir well. Add salt and stir well to incorporate. Caramel may seem thin… that’s ok. Place in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and cool in the fridge for at least 4 hours, overnight is best.
Pour the cooled caramel over the cooled cheesecake, return to the refrigerator until ready to serve. Sprinkle with a dash of sea salt then slice and serve.
Cheese will last for up to 4 days, well wrapped in the refrigerator.