Tuesday, October 26, 2004


While in graduate school, I sometimes forgot to be "happy-go-lucky" like this person. Silly, silly me. (Must... suppress... rage. Ah, New Kid's post helped.)

In months when my grad school research felt disordered, I took disproportionate solace in the then-new magazine, Real Simple. True, much of the magazine is a glorified sales catalog. It flatters its "busy women" demographic and offers "streamlining" solutions that just happen to require that you buy stuff. I'm aware of all this... and yet the magazine remains seductive. I'm taken by its fantasy of order — or, in some cases, the fantasy of the tantalizing possibility of order.

And there's no denying that I have learned some useful things from Real Simple. Many of these are domestic tips, such as how to bake a pie crust or how to fix a wooden table top that's been marred by a glass. (I read somewhere that Real Simple and magazines like it deliberately tap into the insecurities of the first generations of women for whom such domestic skills were not mandatory.)

But the most consistently useful feature in Real Simple is its recipes. Every thing I've ever made according to their directions has turned out very well. Much as I enjoy Cook's magazine, Real Simple does them one better in "teaching" their recipes so cleanly and concisely that I'm never overwhelmed by them. (Credit RS's soothing layout, and its economy of description.)

I'd never made a cheesecake before yesterday. But, as Professor B and Cheeky Prof rightly point out, it's not all that difficult. Here's the RS recipe that I followed, with solid results: (For the record, this worked without a springform pan. It had to, because I don't own one. And I garnished my cheesecake with Ghirardelli chocolate chips, which made it very pretty.)

Vanilla Cheesecake
• 3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
• 4 eggs
• 1 1/4 cups sugar
• 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
• 1 Ginger Graham Cracker Crust (prebaked)
• 1 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 325° F. In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth, about 1 minute. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add 1 cup of the sugar and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla and mix until well combined. Pour the batter into the crust and bake until set, 45 to 50 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream and the remaining sugar and vanilla. Pour the mixture over the cheesecake, spreading it to the edge. Bake 5 minutes. Cool and refrigerate overnight before serving.

Tip: Run a sharp paring knife around the outside of the crust before releasing the cake from the springform pan. Use a sharp chef’s knife to cut the cake.

Ginger Graham Cracker Crust
hands-on time: 5 minutes
total time: 20 minutes
makes one 9-inch piecrust

• 2 packages honey graham crackers, to make about 2 1/4 cups of crumbs
• 5 tablespoons sugar
• 2 tablespoons ground ginger
• 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350° F. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, grind the graham crackers to form fine crumbs. Add the sugar, ginger, and butter and pulse to combine. Press the mixture into a 9-inch springform pan, working the crumbs over the bottom and then up the sides. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool slightly before filling or according to your pie recipe directions.

Use for: Cheesecake, pumpkin pie, or any other favorite custard-pie recipe.


At 11:54 AM, Blogger ~profgrrrrl~ said...

Thanks for posting this. May try the next time I have folks over for dinner or need to bring a treat to an event.

At 7:18 PM, Blogger bitchphd said...

You know, in addition to writing a job app letter and grading my grad student papers this weekend, I think maybe pseudonymous kid and I will bake a cheesecake.


At 7:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't forgiven Real Simple magazine for including breastfeeding as a time-wasting "rule" to "break right now." To make its case, it cited as an expert an *OB/GYN* who claimed that the *worst-case* scenario for not breastfeeding was less mother-child bonding and perhaps not as strong an immune system. This was in the August 2003 issue, and I'm still fuming--I will never buy that magazine. (But that doesn't preclude their recipes being worth making!)

At 9:30 PM, Blogger YelloCello said...

What CRAPPY, HORRIBLE advice on RealSimple's part. I must have missed that issue, because I would have been furious.

On breastfeeding issues, have you read Sandra Steingraber's _Having Faith: An Ecologist's Journey to Motherhood_? Some pro-breastfeeding groups have misunderstood her as saying that it's a mistake to breastfeed. In fact, she's agitating to make the environment and the food we eat safer, so that breastfeeding can remain the beneficial practice that it is.


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