Monday, May 25, 2009

The Day of Doing Without


Last Friday was "the day of doing without" in my family. It started at 10:13 pm, Thursday night. I received a call from the mother of one of the children in Rosie's playgroup informing me that there will be a birthday party for her daughter tomorrow, and the teacher suggested she call me due to Rosie's allergies. I thanked her, but all the while was thinking, "Are you kidding me, you expect me to start making cupcakes at (now) 10:15 at night so my daughter feels normal". Well, knowing me, I would, and I kicked myself for not having a supply in my freezer as I normally do (OK I have some for Lillie in the freezer, but they have eggs, so they are a no-no for Rosie). Anyway, I thought quickly and told the woman I would send in some cookies she could have (which I did have in the freezer), and she assured me she would bring in some Tofutti that Rosie could enjoy with the rest of the class. Unfortunately, the Tofutti was really Rice Dream, and the teacher was reluctant to give it to Rosie because I didn't OK that product. The teacher, who I adore, thoughtfully gave Rosie some ices, which she enjoyed along with her cookies.

Over at Lillie's school, they were having a Yom Yerushalayim celebration replete with a snack of Bissli, a deep fried and flavored, wheat snack popular in Israel, so that was out. They also served fruit punch which Lillie was denied because she said her teacher told her I didn't put it on her list of permissible foods. I found that puzzling since I pretty much OK'd all beverages. However I told Lillie that her teacher probably read the label (assuredly full of various artificial ingredients) and didn't know if she could have it or not. I tried to explain that it was a good thing to err on the side of caution, and she should be happy her teacher was careful with her special needs. Then I handed her a glass of pink lemonade because she's 4 1/2 and was simply a bit sad she couldn't have fruit punch with the rest of her class.

As for my "doing without" on Friday, I decided I needed to slow down a bit as I have been keeping long hours and exhausting myself. I toyed with the idea of getting a head start on the challahs, (now both gluten-free and traditional) that I would need for the following week. And, as I stared longingly at my muffin pans, my fingers itched to make the new gluten free cupcake recipe I wanted to try. But, I resisted. I served the remaining challahs I had in my freezer along with two types of homemade gluten-free chocolate chip cookies I had frozen in previous weeks. And, it was fine! Everyone ate well and I was that much more rested. So sometimes "doing without" is a good thing.

Speaking of doing without, what would the upcoming holiday of Shavuot be without cheesecake. Most cheesecakes have a crust made either of graham crackers or a sponge layer. Both gluten-full! In addition, many cheesecake recipes call for a couple of tablespoons full of flour in the batter. A recipe caught my eye in the local paper a few weeks ago that neither had a crust, nor flour in the batter. It was by renowned pastry chef Sherry Yard, who is the executive pastry chef at Wolfgang Puck's Spago. I recently read her book Desserts by the Yard, which is part cookbook and part autobiography. Her story is quite inspiring. She went from being a secretary in Brooklyn to being the executive pastry chef at one of the world's most renowned restaurants, in a relatively short time, due to a life changing turn of events and a lot of hard work. I was struck by the motto she employs in the very busy and demanding restaurant that caters to Hollywood's elite, who don't take no for an answer. To paraphrase, "Difficult, right away. Impossible, give me a minute." When I first found out that Lillie had Celiac disease, I thought to myself how am I supposed to bake without eggs, dairy (to accommodate Rosie) and now without flour! I may be a good baker, but I don't do miracles. But, employing Ms. Yard's motto, I saw that the impossible can turn into the doable with a little effort and a lot of research.

Here is Sherry Yard's A and S Cheesecake as the recipe appeared in the L.A. Times. I can also recommend my standby cheesecake recipe which is "Montana Mom's Dynamite Cheesecake" in the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. There is no gluten in the batter, but you do have to use gluten free cookies in place of the graham crackers in the crust recipe. I like to use gluten free ginger snaps. Trader Joe's makes an excellent one. There is also a good one produced by Mi-Del brand.

From the Los Angeles Times, May 14, 2009

For those of you who grew up outside of the New York City area, A & S stands for Abraham and Strauss, a now defunct department store. I can only presume this cheesecake was served in their restaurant.

A & S cheesecake

Total time: 2 1/2 hours, plus chilling time
Servings: 16
Note: From "Desserts by the Yard" by Sherry Yard.

6 ounces soft, creamy farmer cheese
1 pound, 14 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup sugar

3 eggs plus 2 yolks, at room temperature
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3/4 cup sour cream 3/4 cup heavy cream

1. Place a rack
in the upper third of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. Spray the parchment. Wrap the outside of the pan with aluminum foil to prevent any water from coming in from the water bath.

2. Press the farmer cheese
through a fine-mesh strainer to ensure the curds are fine. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use a large bowl and a hand mixer), mix the cream cheese and the sugar. Beat on low speed for 2 minutes, or until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

3. Add the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down the bowl and paddle or beaters after each addition. Beat in the lemon juice and vanilla. Scrape down the bowl and paddle.

4. Still on low speed,
beat in the sour cream. Slowly add the heavy cream, beating until blended; stop to scrape down the bowl and paddle every 30 seconds. Gently press the finished batter through a fine-mesh strainer.

5. Pour the mixture
into the prepared pan, scraping every last bit out of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Place the pan in a baking or a roasting pan and place on the oven rack. Pour enough hot water into the baking pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake for 1 hour.

6. Turn off the oven;do not open the oven door. Leave in the oven for another 45 minutes to an hour; the cake will be golden and set (if you don't have a window, open the oven door quickly to check).

7. Remove the cake
from the oven, remove from the water bath to a rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. Chill for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator.

8. To serve,
run a knife around the inside of the rim of the springform pan and remove the rim. Allow the cake to stand at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.

Each serving:
333 calories; 7 grams protein; 16 grams carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 27 grams fat; 17 grams saturated fat; 147 mg. cholesterol; 195 mg. sodium.

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