The Adventures of Kitchen Girl

June 18, 2012

New York Style Cheesecake with Dulce de Leche

Tell me that isn't food porn!

I've been meaning to share this recipe for over two years now. Where does the time go? Sometimes it seems living life gets in the way of my little space here in the blogsphere. Not that I would have it any other way. I happen to love my life and all it's busyness. Still, every so often I will come across a photo of some recipe I made long ago and never shared here and it makes me reflect on what was going on in my life at the time that it got cast aside.

The photo above was of the cheesecake I'd made to celebrate my eldest son passing his purple belt test in taekwondo. I remember that day like it was yesterday even though it was quite a while ago now. My son was so nervous about this particular test, I think partly because it was considered one of the higher ranks and so much more was expected of him to pass. He fretted and practiced for countless hours in the week leading up to that test. I think that was when I really started to realize how important martial arts were to him and how seriously he took it. It was also during that time when I began to see how he was changing. Growing up. He was just beginning the journey to manhood and leaving the little boy behind. I recall being so amazed at his commitment and tenacity. He would get home from school, get his homework done and immediately start practicing his forms. I'd have to actually tell him to stop for dinner or to take a break now and then. He's a passionate young man and when he decides to do something, he gives it his all. He inspires me to be better. I've learned a lot from him, watching him grow into this incredible human being he's become. I've learned to expect more from myself. That I can push harder and achieve what I first thought was unattainable. To believe in myself. And to be myself. Always to be myself... authentically.

Just starting taekwondo, white belt.
You see, my son was bullied in school for several years.... severely. He was smaller than most of the other boys his age. He was shy and a bit on the awkward side. He didn't know, back then, how to relate to people socially. He'd always been a loner and was just a different kind of kid. He didn't want to play football or do many of the kinds of things the other boys were doing. He was a reader, spending hours absorbed in books that kids twice his age were reading. He enjoyed drawing and cooking and spending time with the girls at school instead of the boys. It made him a target for being teased incessantly. This was how he got involved with taekwondo. We thought maybe it would give him some confidence, knowing he could defend himself, if need be. It did just that... and then some.

Almost 2 years later... being himself.
He's a totally different child now. He's no longer afraid to be himself. Unique, wonderful and different. Those things that once made him a target are now things that he's proud of. And those who once teased for being so unique, now admire his originality. He doesn't care these days what people say, if they stare and point and laugh. In fact I'd dare say he enjoys it. Look at that hair! He's come a long way and I am so proud of him for coming into his own this way. He's open and caring and thoughtful and is the first person to champion the underdog. He speaks his mind. So, you can see why this simple cheesecake represents something much bigger for me. I see the photo of this dessert and I see a celebration of the little boy who has become an incredible young man.

All of his many colors.
He's still very introspective and serious. But these days that's not a bad thing. He's happy with himself and he knows that it's okay to be different. We embrace and celebrate being different here. We've learned to celebrate the little victories as much as the big ones. I hope you do the same in your life, celebrate it all like it's the last you'll have. Life is too short not to. Your uniqueness is what makes you... you. Run with it and show it proudly, and encourage those around you to do the same.

Easy Dulce de Leche
1- 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
Pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1: Preheat the oven to 425° F
2: Pour sweetened condensed milk into a small glass baking dish. Stir in a pinch of sea salt.
3: Place the baking dish into a larger pan and add hot water until it reaches halfway up the side.
4: Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, making sure to check occasionally to see if the water needs refilling.
5: Once the Dulce de Leche is browned, remove from the oven and let cool completely.
6: After it is cool, whisk vigorously until smooth, adding in the vanilla extract at the end of the whisking.
7: Store in a covered container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  Before using, warm slowly in hot water or in the microwave.

Makes about 3/4 cup

New York Style Cheesecake
For crust:
20 graham crackers, crushed
3 Tablespoons salted butter, melted

For filling:
4- 8 oz bricks of cream cheese (don’t used the “whipped” version)
1 1/2 Cups white sugar
3/4 Cup milk
4 eggs
1 Cup sour cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 Cup all-purpose flour

1: Preheat oven to 350° F and grease a 9 inch spring form pan.
2: In a medium bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs with melted butter. Press onto bottom of spring form pan to form a crust.
3: In a large bowl with a stand or electric hand mixer, mix cream cheese with sugar until smooth. Blend in milk, and then the eggs. Mix in sour cream, vanilla and flour until smooth. Pour filling into prepared crust.
4: Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. Turn the oven off, and let cake cool in oven with the door closed for 5 to 6 hours, to prevent cracking. Chill in refrigerator until serving.
5: Slice and top with Dulce de Leche, if desired, just before serving.

Makes 10-12 servings