A letter to my daughter post 2016 Election
A few days before the election you asked me to make a cheesecake. I agreed, deciding on an apple cheesecake that felt both celebratory and as American, as… well, apple pie. [Your big, beautiful green eyes sparkled with anticipation as you watched me drizzle caramel sauce all over the cheesecake. Do you know how much I love your eyes, sweet girl?] The eve before the election while we were eating dinner you excitedly told me your school held a mock election and…
Guess what, Mama?
Before I can say: what?
She won! Hillary Clinton won! Those eyes, again, so excited, so hopeful.
Do you think she will win Mama? Yes, goose, I think she will win. You seemed satisfied with my answer. And then asked: Can I have the last piece cheesecake?
Like a huntress enjoying every bite of her prey, you devoured the remaining piece of cheesecake, a smile spreading across your face. You will remember this cheesecake, I thought.
You voted with Daddy on Election Day, which now, more than ever, seems appropriate. You watched a man, a good, kind, intelligent, tolerant man, vote for the first nominated female presidential candidate.
Later that night, we put the three of you to bed, reassuring you and your brothers: yes she will win. I promised you, no matter how late, I would wake you, so you could watch the celebration. See the glass ceiling shatter. See progress.
I felt hopeful watching the returns comes in. [She can do this, she will do this!] And then my stomach tightened. What is happening? I wanted to scream, cry, throw something at the TV. I did none of those things. I went to bed, dismayed by the country I love.
We never fell asleep. We never woke you.
This can not be happening.
When I went into your room the next morning to wake you for school, I stumbled over my words. No she didn’t win. Yes I am sad, I am angry. But. But, it is time to get out of bed and start the day. [What the hell am I saying? You can’t run from this one.]
With wild hair and sleep still in your eyes you asked: Mama, why do they think a girl can’t do the job? I looked into your pensive, sea green eyes and said: I’m not sure. I wish I had better words for you. I’m sorry. I’m at a loss. [I hate at just nine years old, you understand some people think girls and women are not as capable. I will tell you this later.]
The thing is Charlotte there are many reasons why she didn’t win. Right now, everyone is pointing fingers at one group or another. I blame myself. I was lazy and complacent. I should have fought harder, donated, volunteered. Never again. Someday there will be a female president. Maybe it will be you? Or a friend? Or a complete stranger. She is coming, it is just a matter of time.
Please remember…you matter, you matter, you matter. Kind, capable, brave and smart, you are what this world needs…always.
Rum Caramel Apple Cheesecake
recipe adapted from Bobby Flay
Ingredients for crust:
12 whole graham crackers
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons melted butter
Preheat your oven to 350F. Add graham crackers and brown sugar to a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Pulse until finely ground. While the motor is running add the melted butter and process until the mixture just comes together. Spray the bottom and sides on a 9-inch spring form pan with cooking spray. Pat the mixture evenly across the bottom of the pan. Place on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Once cool, wrap your spring form pan in foil, covering the sides. (The foil will keep the water bath you create later from seeping into the cheesecake.)
Ingredients for cheesecake filling:
zest of 1 lemon
3 (8 ounce) packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup lemon sugar (see directions)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
Zest 1 lemon. Combine 1/4 cup of sugar with lemon zest. Mix with your fingers until wet and well combined. Using a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, add the cream cheese and beat until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon sugar, remaining granulated sugar and brown sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, only 1 at a time, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla seeds and vanilla extract and beat until combined. Add the salt and heavy cream and mix until just incorporated.
Pour the mixture over the prepared crust. Place the spring form pan in a large roasting pan. Pour hot water into the roasting pan until the water is halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan. Place in the oven and bake until the cheesecake is puffed and the center still jiggles, about 55 minutes.
Turn off the heat and prop open the oven door with a wooden spoon. Allow the cake to cook like this for 60 minutes. Remove cake and allow to cool for 2 hours. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Next make apple mixture and rum caramel sauce! Keep going it is worth it!
Ingredients for Apple Mixture:
2 cups apple juice (unsweetened)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 vanilla bean (leftover from cheesecake)
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter
3 Granny Smith apple, peeled and thinly sliced
3 Fuji apples, peeled, thinly sliced
1/4 cup rum
Combine apple juice, sugar and vanilla bean in a large sauté pan. Bring to a boil. Add butter and stir until melted. Add the apple slices and cook until soft and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add the rum and continue to cook over medium heat until reduced by 1/2. Using a slotted spoon remove the apples, place in a bowl and allow to cool a bit. Set aside.
Ingredients for Rum Caramel Sauce:
1 + 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream
generous pinch of salt
3 tablespoons of rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat without stirring. Swirl the pot once or twice and continue to cook until it turns amber, about 12 minutes.
When the caramel is a rich amber, remove from heat. Slowly and carefully whisk in the heavy cream. Add the salt and whisk until smooth. Stir in the rum and vanilla extract. Keep warm until ready to use or gently reheat on the stove, if necessary.
Remove the ring of the spring form pan surrounding the cheesecake. Top the cheesecake with the warm apple mixture, drizzle with rum caramel sauce. Save extra sauce and serve on the side. Enjoy!
**The cheesecake can be made two days ahead. Keep covered and refrigerated. The apple mixture and rum caramel sauce can be made one day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. When ready to use, gently reheat in the microwave or on the stove.**
5 Comforting Dessert Links
A warm, gooey, freshly baked chocolate chip helps mend a broken heart. Head to Smitten Kitchen for Deb’s consummate chocolate chip cookie recipe.
A pan of brownies and a glass of milk will aid in curing whatever ails you. Head to the Crepes of Wrath for Ina Garten’s outrageous brownies with 2 kinds of chocolate.
Chocolate not your thing? How about a crisp pate a choux shell filled with a silky vanilla rum custard. Eats Well With Others has the recipe for you.
A warm citrus pudding cake may add a little brightness even on the darkest days. Food 52 has the recipe for you.
Is cheesecake your go to when your not sure where to go from here? Check out my recipe for blueberry cheesecake bars.