But then, as we all now know, I've sort of turned a corner and started to embrace the misadventures, the complexity, and even the often called for gadgetry of certain recipes. Speaking of gadgetry, I went to Surfas this past week and got me a springform pan so now I can finally join in on all fun recipes I'd been missing out on. Like, say, Ina Garten's raspberry cheesecake for example.
Then, a few weeks ago, I was on Ruth Reichl's website and read an entry titled, On Cookbooks, which began, "Rereading Adam Gopnik's New Yorker piece on cookbooks made me mad all over again... Before asking why we read cookbooks, we need to question why we cook in the first place." (At this point, you may want to click over to the entry because I'm about to copy and paste a big chunk of it anyway.) Ruth goes on to describe quite beautifully why she cooks:
For me one of the great pleasures of cooking is that nothing ever turns out the same way twice. Each time you walk into the kitchen you are setting off on an adventure. What will it be like this time? Will it make people happy?
And that, to me at least, is the crucial question. Gopnik seems to cook for himself; for him it is an act of wanting. I cook for other people, and to me, cooking is an act of giving. When I leaf through cookbooks or magazines I am imagining all the people who will be sitting around my table, and I am looking for food that will make them happy.
In the end it is their pleasure that will take me back to the kitchen for the next experiment. I love the physical act of cooking - the feel of the knife as it slices through the apples, the scent of the onions as they caramelize in butter, the moment when the cake comes sashaying out of the oven. But more than that, I love to watch as everybody takes the first bite, and then, hurriedly, another. And another.
Blame it on my slight obsession with Ms. Reichl, but I like her thought process and conclusion best.
Things came full circle when I happened upon Michael Ruhlman's blog entry on why he cooks, which was finally straightforward enough to get me thinking about why I cook instead of thinking about how much I like reading the aforementioned pieces. (Rulhman actually out and out asks bloggers to write about why they cook.)
So, apart from my love of taking aerial food shots, why do I cook?
Well, first and foremost, I cook because I love to eat. That one is easy. And I wish I could copy Ruth and say that the second reason was to make people happy, but that's not really a main objective for me. I mean, I'm just not confident enough of a cook to derive too much pleasure from cooking for people that aren't Matt. With that said, I would have to say the other main reason I cook is for the sense of accomplishment, the pleasure in the finished product, which of course increases with the difficulty level of the recipe. This is kinda obvious/how this blog got started in the first place, no?here. And much thanks to Heather for leading me to these great works of video montage.)
For the crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (10 crackers)
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 whole extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the topping:
1 cup red jelly (not jam), such as currant, raspberry, or strawberry
3 half-pints fresh raspberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
To make the crust, combine the graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter until moistened. Pour into a 9-inch springform pan. With your hands, press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and about 1-inch up the sides. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.
To make the filling, cream the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and add the eggs and egg yolks, 2 at a time, mixing well. Scrape down the bowl and beater, as necessary. With the mixer on low, add the sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly and pour into the cooled crust.
Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 225 degrees F and bake for another 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and open the door wide. The cake will not be completely set in the center. Allow the cake to sit in the oven with the door open for 30 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and allow it to sit at room temperature for another 2 to 3 hours, until completely cooled. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Remove the cake from the springform pan by carefully running a hot knife around the outside of the cake. Leave the cake on the bottom of the springform pan for serving.
To make the topping, melt the jelly in a small pan over low heat. In a bowl, toss the raspberries and the warm jelly gently until well mixed. Arrange the berries on top of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Note: Measure your springform pan. The bottom of mine measures 9 inches, but it says 9 1/2. I put the springform pan on a sheet pan before putting it in the oven to catch any leaks.