This is both an exciting post and a very sad one. It is exciting because this post is a part of the The Lost Family Supper Club blog party that is being hosted for the release of Jenna Blum’s new novel, The Lost Family, which is being launched on June 5th. It’s a very interesting book, and there is a huge vintage culinary component to the novel, so you know I am on board with all of that.
On the flip side, this is a sad post for me, because this is the last post that I am making from our beautiful blue kitchen in our 1950’s time capsule home. If you follow the Facebook page, you know that Tom recently got relocated in the whole Dow/DuPont merger/split. And since the new DuPont is going to be buttering our bread in the future, we are required to make a move to the Detroit area. This is a hard move for all of us, but perhaps the hardest part of it all is that after some very hard decisions, lots of late nights and driving on many dirt roads (seriously, guys, what is with all the dirt roads in Oakland County?), we painfully decided to buy a new build home. I’m gutted by our decision, since I loved time-capsule living so deeply, but the priority scale goes 1) The Kids 2) Tom’s commute 3) Ruth’s desire to live in a time-capsule home. That’s just real life. So, I’m not going to complain about our situation. I’m just going to live it. There are plenty of opportunities in the future for us to find another mid-century dream home when the kids are older. Besides, it’s going to be nice to not have to do any restoration projects for a couple of years (she said through gritted teeth). And I’ve never lived in a brand new house before, so I’m looking forward to that.
But what does me moving have to do with The Lost Family? Not much. If I wasn’t so tired, I would have tied this together neatly with the ending of the book, but I’m too tired from packing to be clever. Plus, spoilers. But what I can say is that The Lost Family was a very engrossing book. Every time I peeled back the lovely cover, it sent me to a completely different, and sometimes uncomfortable, world, and made me forget about all of the deadlines hanging over my head, even if I only had 15 minutes to read. The language in the book, especially when describing the food, is gorgeous. Plus, being sent an advance copy of the book and being invited to participate in the blog party by Judy at The Book Club Cookbook gave me something fun to focus on that was not moving-related. In addition to the book, I had a great excuse to spend some time reading through my 1960’s restaurant cookbooks until I found the perfect recipe.
This is Lindy’s Cheesecake!
- For Cheesecake:
- 2.5 pounds cream cheese
- 1¾ cups sugar
- 3 Tablespoons cake flour
- 2 teaspoons grated orange rind
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
- Pulp of ¾th of a vanilla bean pod
- 5 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1 cup plus 1 Tablespoon sifted cake flour
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
- Pulp of ¼ of a vanilla bean
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- Cherry Topping:
- 2 cups of fresh or canned sour cherries (if canned, reserve juice)
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- For crust, combine flour, sugar, lemon rind and vanilla bean pulp. Make a well in the center and add egg yolk and softened butter. Knead together with hands quickly to form a well-blended dough. Wrap in waxed paper and chill for 1 hour. Roll out ⅛ inch thick and place over oiled bottom of 9 inch springform pan. Trim off dough by rolling a rolling pin over the sharp edge. Bake the crust covered bottom of the pan at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, or until the cookie is a light gold. Rechill the remaining dough.
- While the base cookie is cooling, make filling. Combine cheese, sugar, flour, grated orange and lemon rind, and vanilla. Add eggs and egg yolks one at a time, stirring lightly after each addition. Stir in cream and set finished filling aside.
- Take the remaining cookie dough and roll it out ⅛ inch thick. Take the springform pan ring and mark out the height of the ring on the dough. Oil the sides of the springform pan and attach pan to the baked cookie base. Cut the remaining dough into strips and line the sides of the pan with the dough, sealing all the cracks and pressing the dough down lightly onto the base. Fill the pan with the cheesecake filling. Make a ring of aluminum foil and place over the outside of the springform pan base. Bake the cheesecake at 550 degrees for 12 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200 degrees and bake for an additional hour. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool at room temperature 2 hours. Then serve or chill as desired.
- For Cherry Topping:
- If you are using fresh cherries, combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and cook until thickened. If using canned cherries, drain juice from cherries and add the juice and other ingredients to the saucepan, cooking until thick. Remove from heat and stir in cherries. Serve immediately or chill.
The language in The Lost Family, especially when referring to or describing food, is very lush and visual. So to compliment the book, I wanted to pick a recipe that matched the book in tone. This cheesecake recipe produces a cake that is slightly charred on the outside, but inside is so rich and creamy smooth that the first bite will suck you in and you will forget everything else that you have going on around you.
There were many great mid-century food writers, but one of my favorites for flowing descriptions and writing that really brings the food to the reader is the writing of Clementine Paddleford. Paddleford was a prolific food writer who was a woman after my own heart. Apparently, she rented a second apartment to house her enormous recipe collection, which she personally collected from home cooks, restaurants and hotels all over America.
Her wonderful cookbook, How America Eats, is one of the most interesting books in my extensive collection. And, as the proverbial flaming cherry on top, she lived in New York. Since The Lost Family is set in New York, I thought this was perfect.
See how I’m tying this all together? Maybe I’m not too tired after all.
In How America Eats, Paddleford writes, “In New York City, you eat around the clock.” The food in The Lost Family is there around the clock as well. It’s prolific, rich and almost a character in itself. Throughout The Lost Family, food is used as a weapon, an enticement, a safety blanket and as self-punishment. It winds through ever major scene in the novel.
Lindy’s was a restaurant and deli in New York that opened in 1921. It was famous for enormous, unusual sandwiches, snarky wait staff and cheesecake. The owner, Leo Lindeman, gained the recipe to the famous cheesecake by hiring pastry chef Paul Landry away from a competing restaurant. The cheesecake was so famous it was immortalized in the writings of Damon Runyon and eventually into the musical “Guys and Dolls”.
“Proud the cheesecake, a Broadway favorite,” Paddleford writes. “This is Lindy’s cheesecake, beloved by the Broadway celebrities, by all people who go to Lindy’s to feast. There’s cheesecake for luncheon, it’s an afternoon filler, starred as dinner dessert. But to see the cheesecake full bloom, go around midnight when the theater crowd pushes in. Then the orders for cheesecake and coffee are as a refrain.”
I bet Peter, the main character in the novel, would have loved Lindy’s. In my imaginary world he frequented it often, when he needed some comfort food and was too tired to make it himself.
I am definitely putting some of this cheesecake into the freezer, and pulling it out when I need some comfort food in the next couple of weeks.
“So, what do you think?”
“This is really good. It’s different from what I’m used to, but I like it. It’s not a sweet as I thought it would be.”
The Verdict: Really Good
From The Tasting Notes –
I totally had my doubts when I saw that this cheesecake started out at 550 degrees in the oven. That is crazy hot. And yes, it did char a bit on the outside, but after proper cooling, the inside was dense and creamy and sweet. The orange and lemon gave it a wonderful flavor and the vanilla bean is a must. Overall, really delicious and a fun dessert to make. It was good without the cherry topping, but if you like cherries, the topping was a delicious compliment.
Be sure to visit all the blogs participating in the #TheLostFamilySupperClub!
From Jenna Blum:
The Lost Family is a novel about a German-Jewish Auschwitz survivor named Peter Rashkin, who emigrates to New York, starts a restaurant, and falls in love—only to find his new American family haunted by the wife and daughters he lost during the war. Really, Peter is like Ferdinand the bull, except instead of wanting to smell the flowers, all he wants to do is cook. He was training as a chef in Berlin when the Nazis came to power; in America, being in his kitchen at Masha’s, his 1965 Manhattan restaurant named after his lost wife, is his happy place. The menus in The Lost Family are a fusion of 1965-era favorites and German-Jewish comfort food, Peter and Masha’s favorite childhood dishes: Masha’s “Little Clouds” (cream puffs with chocolate fondue), Brisket Wellington, Chicken Kiev, and my favorite, Masha Torte—an inside-out German chocolate cake with cherries flambé. There’s also a Hamburger Walter, invented for news anchor Walter Cronkite when dining at Masha’s, served Au Poivre with No Vegetables At All. (my dad was a newswriter for CBS and he told me this was how Walter liked his hamburgers.)
I LOVE FOOD, and I had a joyous time creating and kitchen-testing all the recipes for Masha’s menus in The Lost Family (there are two, Spring 1966 and Fall 1965). I relied on my German friend Christiane’s mother’s recipes, my childhood memories of my Jewish grandmother’s dishes, the Mad Men Cookbook and similar cookbooks from the 1960s, and ingredients from my garden. I worked in food service for many years as a waitress and a prep chef to subsidize my expensive writing habit, but I’m not a chef, so there were some notable cataclysms, for instance throwing ice cubes into the oven to create crispy baguettes for Peter’s crostini (explosions) and dropping an entire Masha Torte on the floor (flaming explosion; we ate it anyway, and it was good!).
Yet part of me has always wanted to be a restaurateur. When I was a child I had a restaurant in my basement called Faster in which I held my parents hostage. For The Lost Family my fiancé and black Lab were my taste testers, but they were much more willing than my parents and gladly ate all the recipes. The lusciousness of food, its importance as art form, comfort and sustenance, runs throughout the novel like the marbling of fat in a good steak. I hope you enjoy it, and the story of the Fabulous Rashkins, as Peter calls himself and his daughter when he’s teaching her to cook, as well.
*Disclosure: I was sent an advance copy of The Lost Family and some lovely chocolates. I received no other compensation. All opinions are mine!