Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My Grandma's Cheesecake

I mentioned last week that it was the sort of week that's not exactly conducive to blogging. The main reason for that, unfortunately, is that on Saturday the 15th, my grandmother - my dad's mom - died. She was 94.

My grandparents lived in Epping Forest, in Annapolis, until I was going into high school. That's where my dad grew up and it's on the Severn River, just up river a bit from Ben Oaks, the neighborhood where I grew up. In 1989, they moved to northern Virginia to be closer to their youngest daughter.

Since we lived so close by, I saw my grandparents fairly frequently. And at their house, we did a lot of eating.

Many of my memories are focused on seafood, since they lived on the water and their kitchen was a constant stream of crabs (caught off the pier) and oysters (not caught off the pier) - I wrote a little about that here.

But even more than seafood, my grandparents' house was filled with sweet things. My grandmother was a masterful baker - she was constantly making cookies, cakes and - especially - pies. Last Friday, at her funeral, two of my uncles and one cousin spoke about Grandma. Baked goods came up more than a few times.

Though for most of my life, she looked like a sweet, older lady bearing cookies, she was quite tough and very sharp. Somehow, I think that helped her in the kitchen.

At any rate, I did not inherit her baking gene, so what she did with pastry seems nothing short of magical to me.

Fortunately for my branch of the Waskoms, my sister did end up with whatever skill helps you turn flour and sugar into something delicious. Recently, she's dipped her toe into the pool of Grandma's recipes, starting with her famous-in-the-family cheesecake, which is pictured above.

I can usually take or leave cheesecake - but I do love this one. It's dense but not heavy, with just the right balance of sugar and tanginess.

It's an appropriate mix, that combination of sweet and sharp. So much like Grandma.

Patsy Waskom's Cheesecake

Graham cracker crumbs to dust
Butter for greasing
1 pound small curd cottage cheese
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 pint sour cream

All ingredients should be room temperature.

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Grease springform an with butter and dust with graham cracker crumbs.

3. Run the cottage cheese through a sieve, discarding the solids.

4. In a large bowl, cream together the cream cheese and cottage cheese.

5. Add the sugar and beaten eggs and mix to combine.

6. Add the corn starch, lemon juice, vanilla, melted butter and sour cream and mix until smooth. (A note from Erin, my sister: Do not over-mix. It will add too much air and you will have a disaster.)

7. Cook for one hour plus ten to twenty minutes at 325 degrees. DON'T OPEN THE OVEN.

8. Turn off the oven, leaving the cake inside. Let it sit, with the oven door closed, for two hours.

9. Cool in the pan and freeze or chill the cake for at least 24 hours.

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