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Education reform over cheesecake

The cream cheese has spent two full days softening on the counter. I plan to make two cheesecakes, just to have them on hand in the freezer to feed summer visitors and for weekend desserts for the family. Someone has dug into the big block for bagel frosting, the seal is broken, and mold is beginning to grow. It’s already after nine, but I can’t put off the work any longer. Yet I know from experience that, like sour cream, there’s something more rich and complex about cream cheese at this stage, so I take it up, cut off the grey growth, and spent the next hour preparing the chocolate-lined shortbread crust and mixing up the batter, dividing and modifying it into one chocolate espresso and one black- and blueberry swirl version. Midway my daughter comes and asks for a shoulder rub; wait until I get these in the oven, I say. She leans on the counter, admiring the cakes ready for baking, dips a finger in each in the guise of smoothing out the tops.

I pull open the oven’s maw, superheated for the initial twenty minutes, squint against the burn, and shut the cheesecakes inside. We slurp up the extra batter with spatulas conveniently not thought of until bowl scraping time. You have chocolate on your cheek, she says, and I disinterestedly dab at it. Who cares, really–going to to bed with chocolate on isn’t so bad.

She has been waiting with her aching shoulders and back all worked out by swimming and maybe then too much slouching in bed searching for the right Pandora stations. I try not to show that I don’t feel like serving at this late hour, instead tell myself these are the moments that matter and I’ll never regret saying yes. I’m thankful she feels comfortable with this; I remember rejecting my mother’s touch before her age–no particular reason I can explain. I work her shoulder muscles and get some of the knots out but I am distracted, not giving the prayerful attention she needs. I tire, she thanks me and goes off to bed. The child that never forgets to say good night, I love you.

I turn down the oven for the slow bake, open to remove the foil, receive a blast of steam that clouds my glasses, close the oven door again. I turn to act on my resolve to get that email to the school district superintendent, send a word of support for Washington State’s decision not to tie teacher evaluations to student test scores. I tried to send it yesterday in reply to the email from the district office about the effects of this decision, but the letter was bounced back from the box, which could not receive replies. Directly email him? Whom else? Deputies? Board? I decide to research their backgrounds. Ever been teachers? Previous affiliations? So as to say things in a way most likely to be received in the way I intend. Should I bring up related issues? I decide to look up what the current governor is saying about education, start a point-by-point commentary. Time flies, I write, research, write, until it’s past midnight again.

This is how it was with my college papers–I’d get so interested in every connected idea and fact, want to grasp and master it all, not miss anything, not content with a simplistic, predigested view. And end up not finishing on time, or doing it without enough rest to function in classes the next day. I must learn some expediency. Chesterton’s “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” I’m a harsh judge and badly it will have to be.

I decide to keep it simple, not reveal much of my current opinions, not assume any shared understanding, and get it ready to send it to the superintendent, the deputy and assistant in charge of teaching and learning. The result is:

I am mother of four students in the _____ school system. I was pleased to hear that Washington State rejected the tying of teacher evaluations with test scores. This idea is one of the many flaws in the Federal Dept of Ed’s attempts to standardize curriculum and testing across the country through financial incentives and other means. I’m aware of the growing movement to resist the implementation of the Common Core with its high stakes testing, and am following such arguments as well as the public relations efforts of Common Core supporters.

I hope you and other administrators will continue to listen to and support teachers and protect their freedom to do their best work in the interests of their students and with accountability to their communities.

Thanks for keeping us in the loop. I would even appreciate more details from our local perspective when you can provide them.

Sincerely,

Toesinthedirt

 

 

 

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Cheesecake with variations, an aid to building community.

Cheesecake with variations, an aid to building community.

I’m not very fond of sugary sweetness, but I do like creamy (fatty) desserts. Cheesecake is one of my favorites. In college I used to post a sign-up sheet shaped like a cheesecake cut into slices, and when all the pieces were claimed, make the cake in the dorm kitchen and deliver for $4 per slice. Now I make them when I have extra time, freeze, and take out when I need to come up with something delicious on the spur of the moment to share with friends. Fatty desserts freeze well. With a good arm, you can even slice a cheesecake that’s fresh out of the freezer, and put it back for later. By the way, I’ve cut down on the sugar–add some back if you like. I recommend that all cheesecakes be served with whipped cream as an option.

I buy a big 3 lb block of cream cheese and either use the whole thing to make two 9″ cakes, or two pounds to make one 10″ one. This recipe is for two cakes.

Shortbread Crust

(I usually don’t keep on hand graham cracker crumbs, the mainstay of most cheesecake crusts–they’re expensive and go stale. To heck with that–this crust is homemade, and tastes so good, you’ll eat it too.)

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1 egg yolk (2 if they’re small)

Take the bottom off the springform pan. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Mix the above ingredients together with a fork and then with your hands (or a nearby child’s hands) until it starts to hold together. Don’t knead it or it will be tough.

Press about half the mix onto the pan bottom. Place on a baking sheet and bake 10 minutes, then cool on a rack. Put the pan back together, and press the rest of the dough up the sides of the pan. It will only reach part way. It may be yummy, but who wants to eat lots of crust, anyway?

In a pan or in the microwave, melt 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips with 4 Tbsp whipping cream until spreadable. Spread over the bottom and sides of the crust.

Turn the oven to 475 degrees F.

Cheesecake

  • 2 lbs softened full-fat cream cheese
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 4 Tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 egg yolks

In a large bowl (standing mixer works best), beat cream cheese, sugar, flour, salt, whipping cream and 2 eggs until smooth. Add remaining eggs and yolks and mix well. Choose a variation, below:

Variations

  • Pour about two thirds of the batter into the crust. Melt more chocolate (bittersweet, semi, to taste and stir into the rest, then spoon it onto the plain batter in globs, gently swirl with a knife to make a pattern. Or melt more and stir into the whole batter for a uniform chocolate cheesecake. A bit of strong espresso is good here too.
  • Sprinkle the top of the cheesecake with sliced or chopped almonds, hazelnuts, or macadamias.
  • Make a sweet-tart raspberry sauce thickened with cornstarch, and swirl into the plain batter
  • Add 1 tsp vanilla for a plain cheesecake, to be served with or without toppings.

Cover the top of the pans with foil and bake in the 475 degree oven for 25 minutes (20 in convection oven). For one cake in a regular oven, make it 20 minutes (convection 15-17 minutes).

Uncover the cake, reduce heat to 300 degrees, and bake 1 hour more (50 minutes in convection).

Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecakes in with the door partly open for 15 minutes. Remove onto cooling rack and run a sharp knife around the edges. Cover and refrigerate when cool.

To freeze, cut cardboard circles the size of the cheesecakes, cover with foil (from the top of the cake), remove pan sides & loosen the cheesecake bottom with a metal spatula, then slide it onto the cardboard circle (the crust will be firm enough with the chocolate). Cover with foil and/or plastic wrap, put in a large zip plastic or similar bag, label & freeze.

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2013 in Food & Recipes

 

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