Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Not-So-Perfect Cheesecake

"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in"
 -Leonard Cohen
I don't have much of a sweet tooth. I'd rather skip the pumpkin pie for an extra helping of mashed potatoes and gravy. To be honest, I don't care much for pumpkin pie at all, which is how cheesecake snuck it's way into our Thanksgiving in the first place. 

Cheesecake is one of the few desserts I do enjoy, so ever since I became old enough to contribute to the Thanksgiving menu, I've made a pumpkin cheesecake in lieu of the traditional pumpkin pie. Over the years, it's become one of the staples that I associate with Thanksgiving -- turkey, stuffing, pumpkin cheesecake. It's light and creamy with the perfect amount of cinnamon-y pumpkin flavor. Unfortunately, there is one flaw in my cheesecake that bugs me to no end each year. Every year I bake it and every year it cracks.

I usually disguise the crack with whipped cream, but this year I was determined to make a perfect Pinterest-worthy pumpkin cheesecake.

I stayed up late one night researching no-fail cheesecake baking methods. Some recipes swear by the water bath technique. Others suggest adding a little cornstarch to the batter. Whatever tricks and tips the recipes recommend, they all preach the importance of cooling the cheesecake very slowly. Whatever you do, DO NOT open the oven door while the cheesecake is baking, which would cause a dramatic temperature decrease. Some bakers even suggest leaving the cheesecake in the oven for an hour after baking to let it cool gradually.

This year, with the help of a handsome little sous chef, I put all of this advice to work. We added cornstarch to the batter, I prepared the water bath and shut the oven door with my fingers crossed.

Periodically, I peeked through the oven window. My cheesecake was progressing beautifully. I've done it! This will be the year I make the perfect pumpkin cheesecake! I triumphantly declared to myself. Then I heard a little voice behind me,

“Look, Mommy! Our cake is going to be so yummy!” I turned and to my horror, saw my son peering in at the cheesecake, the oven door hanging wide open.

I screamed. I stomped. I threw a dish towel on the floor. I may have banged my head against the refrigerator. It was not pretty.

And then I saw little tears beginning to well up in my son’s eyes, “I’m sorry, Mommy, I just wanted to peek at our yummy cake.”

Our cheesecake came out of the oven with a crack this year. Actually, it was more like a giant crater. And somehow, despite the crack, it was still delicious.

Also, I'm an idiot. 

Who cares about baking the perfect cheesecake? I'd rather bake a million cracked ones with my son. Who cares what's on the table as long as we're around it together?

This year, I'm thankful to gather hand-in-hand with the people I love.

This year, I'm thankful for my children who are teaching me not to focus on imperfections, but on the beauty in the flaws.

This year, I'm thankful for my husband who loves me, cracks and all.

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