Being raised in the suburbs of San Francisco in the 1950's just after the war was something right out of
"Father knows best". Mom in a dress and heels every night to cook dinner. Dad in a suit for work each day and coming home with a martini waiting for him to relax with in front of the new television. Their little girl with a long blond pony tail and saddle shoes wearing a little apron in the kitchen with Mom making dinner or dessert. After years of memory lapse, I realized that most of my time in the kitchen with Mom was baking things...DUH! When you think about it... I have been baking most of my life. The best things I remember my mother making were her "famous" cheesecake, and her pies although she made cakes, cookies, brownies and the like. The reason I didn't think about it for a long time is kind of a sad story but please understand it has been many many years since this occurred and I have done my grieving. I now just marvel at the unintended influence that my mother had on me when I was young. This is what took me years to figure out!
The story goes like this; life was good for me until the early sixties when I was around 11 years old. My Dad went into rehab for alcoholism and my mother drank to cover up her disappointment that our life was really NOT like the TV sitcoms. So by the time I was a teen both my mother and my father had drank themselves to death. I was 17 and left an orphan. I put the past behind me and began to live my life on my terms. I was very independent and thus found a family in the Hippie movement of the 60's. I moved to Santa Cruz in 1970, lived on a commune of sorts...and whenever we had our feasts or parties I made (surprise) the desserts, usually pies made from fruit grown on neighboring farms. I used whole wheat flour and honey and ate vegetarian. When some of the other habitants got a job at the local health food bakery, I became intrigued and ended up working there as well. Here I found my passion and my talent. Still I hadn't realized how I was influenced by both my mother and my grandmother. Although, I did remember my Mom's cheesecake and spent many years looking for one that reminded me of it but to no avail.
Jump to 1982. I have now begun learning the art of French and European baking. While working at this local shop with several other women we decided to have a gourmet potluck dinner. We each drew a course out of a hat, all hoping we would be the one who got the dessert... but alas I did not. I did, however, offer to have it at my newly purchased house in Santa Cruz. At this point, I thought it wise to go to my half brother's house where I had stored my mother's belongings. I picked up her china, crystal and silverware. When I got home I unpacked the boxes and found my Mom's recipe box! As I was thumbing through the recipes I suddenly remembered the cheesecake and quickly jumped to the dessert section. These recipes were mostly magazine and newspaper clippings taped to 3"x5" cards with only a few handwritten or typed. When I got to the cheesecake recipe, it was not only typed but my mom had written on it. She wrote in pencil pointing to the word "Mom's" "SJ (she called me that, my middle name being Jane) that's me!" I got chills and then I cried, it was like she had been waiting all these 12 years for me to find this recipe. The memories came flooding back. The time we spent in the kitchen and how she taught me to make the proper pie crust and gave me the mixer attachments to lick when she made a cake.
Whenever I make this cake just the smell sends me back to the kitchen with her.
Please enjoy the recipe and as she wrote on the card by hand, "make for large parties, very rich!" and "it is the one I used to make for Christmas dinner every year". Enjoy and think of your Mom when making and savoring this creamy cheesecake.
Mom's Best Cheesecake
3 well beaten eggs
2 - 8 ounce packages of cream cheese (Philly style), softened to room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract and ¼ tsp. almond extract (the secret ingredient)
3 cups sour cream
Graham Cracker crust (recipe follows)
Graham Cracker Nut CrustCombine 1-3/4 cups fine graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and
1/2 cup melted butter
Reserve 3 tablespoons of the crust mixture for the top and press the remainder onto the bottom and sides of a 9-inch spring-form pan. Bring crust only about 1 1/2 inches up the sides.
Cream the cheese with the sugar and then add the eggs one at a time, the vanilla and salt. Beat until smooth. Do not incorporate air by over mixing on a high speed.
Blend in the sour cream just until incorporated.
Pour mixture into the prepared crust. Sprinkle the reserved crumbs on top.
Bake in moderate oven at 325 degrees for 35 minutes or until just set. Cool slowly at room temperature. Chill for several hours or overnight is best. The filling will be soft. It’s a very creamy cheesecake. This cakes flavor and texture improve with time. Making it a few days before you need it is a desirable thing to do. It is very rich, serve small servings.