Shyly hiding behind those strawberries is a magical barely-any-fat cheesecake based (admittedly more loosely than I’d originally intended) on the Swedish Ostkaka (recipe), which I’m promised was brought by immigrants to Nebraska.
Nebraska also offers a nifty regional-music blog, Hear Nebraska, that lists bands. In a moment of shallowness, I became deeply smitten with the photo for All Young Girls are Machine Guns, due to the singer’s playing a stringed instrument that’s shaped like a machine gun. Fortunately, I also liked the act’s music (Tumblr, Reverbnation, CDBaby), as it turns out that singer-songwriter Rebecca Lowry is the leader of the mythical Ukelele Resistance that I’ve been nattering about for years now.
To get a sense of AYGAMG’s sweet, sultry retro sound, let’s start with the minimalist ukelele stylings and longing vocals of “Give A Damn.”
Also, let’s make cheesecake! Preheat the oven to 35o.
Mix together three eggs and about one-quarter cup of sugar. I’ll admit that I ditzed out and forgot that I was going to use sweetened yogurt instead of sour cottage cheese or neutral ricotta or even unsweetened yogurt, so it’s pure luck that the result is not insanely sweet. It isn’t. It also won’t win me hipster points for being dessert that frowns upon tasting dessert-like.
To this mixture, add 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup ground nuts (I used walnuts), and 1-1/2 cups of the milk-like liquid of your choice. I used 2% milk. Then add two cups of non-fat yogurt and use the hand mixer on it with vim and vigor. I chose the vanilla bean-flavored organic sort, because that’s what Safeway had on sale in vat-sized.
One could question whether using yogurt is really equivalent in spirit to putting rennet in milk to turn it into curds. One wouldn’t even have to cross-examine: it’s pretty clear that I have strayed from the path of authenticity into irresponsible experimentation. Also: while in the supermarket, I blanked on the reality that ricotta is what one substitutes if one finds cottage cheese to be gross. Ricotta.
At this point, it almost seems to be tempting fate to pour the custard into the pan and put it in the oven for an hour. (The risks increase with the dawning realization that I’d done a sloppy job of cleaning up a garlic spill earlier in the week.) Nonetheless, the custard goes into the pan. The pan goes into the oven. The cook goes into a generally supplicatory attitude toward the household lares and penates.
Or the cook could wallow in sultry ukelele stylings. In fact, let’s go straight to some more sultriness with “Someday.”
Well, perhaps not sultriness. This one is more meditative. In a sultry way. Meditative sultriness. Sultry meditativeness.
We know this is hipster music from the immediate reference to raising chickens.
My delight in AYGAMG comes in large part from its commitment to telling a story. With “Someday,” it’s as clear as a Norman Rockwell painting what idyllic life is being envisioned. I suppose it’s an ironic and inconsistent preference from a person who usually likes her lyrics enigmatic and open to multiple interpretations — but it works with the elegant simplicity of the instrumentation.
It’s also music that’s designed to charm rather than to hook. It belongs on the weathered, grey front porch in late afternoon, with a bowl of peas to be shelled and the sun gilding the prairie.
Meanwhile, the custard puffs! At about the 50-minute mark, the edges are massively puffy and the center was firm, so I decided it was done and took it out to cool.
The puffing subsides as the cheesecake cools. (Is this truly a cheesecake? It contains no cheese.)
One practical warning: this custard weeps. If the goal is something a tad firmer and less moody, going half-and-half with the yogurt and some ricotta, and maybe making one-third of the milk not low-fat would be prudent.
On the other hand, it tastes lovely: a gentle vanilla-nut flavor with a slight cheesecake tang. And if one’s in the grip of an insane craving for cheesecake, there are worse ways to indulge it.
Okay, I want to keep this around the house in multiple flavors. In this spirit of quiet passion with a hint of practicality… well, “How the Night Ends” fits nicely with its sweet melody and low-key sultriness. Also: crickets!