Warm cheesecake with blueberry compote
Ask anyone close to me and they’d tell you my biggest obsession is Dibba. An obsession so deep that it sickens them. Diba, Dibbah, Doba, or even Daba; I never really knew there were so many names for this little piece of a town. I only called her Dibba. Obsessions can come about in different ways – and mine was through trauma. The trauma of being plucked away too soon from where it all had started. Plucked without a warning. Plucked without being told I couldn’t be put back there. Dibba was the childhood I longed for again and again.
My brother and I had two choices for weekends: to go to the park and run around, or head to our favourite little beach near the mountains. Sometimes if we were lucky, we got to do both. And if things just weren’t so leisurely, we were taken along to the fruits and vegetables market or the fish market in Dibba al-Hisn. Scuttling around the markets, hiding behind crates, I never took the time to stop and smell the peaches. The only memory of good food revolved around home – especially, my mother's oven. Her burnt sugar cakes and bread puddings. Her semolina halwas. I remember baking for the first time as a little girl. I saw these baked apples on television once and tried them out. Those baked apples were... my first kitchen disaster too.
I think after that little dud, I vowed not to do anything in the kitchen again, and it took me around ten years to find the courage to make something on my own. What remained throughout these years until now, with all the memories, is my mother's electric oven – I began my midnight baking with her. She’s old and rusty now and sits waiting for me to adopt her, which I will. That is the only one material thing I want to inherit from my mother.
Tonight, I set to bake a blueberry cheesecake. And as we do it, I'll tell you a story.
When the agency I was working in decided to wrap up for good, I had a little less than three months to prepare for the closure. That meant doing everything from updating my resume and applying for new gigs from my seat at work, slowly emptying out office cabins, watching smart-ass colleagues who bagged better jobs, farewell lunches, lonely office lunches, packing up any pending work (the nastiest ones)... well, doing basically nothing but applesauce. I was worried stiff. What would happen if I didn't land a job? Somewhere in the middle of January of 2011, I sent off an email to myself, full of L.O.Ls and rushed grammar – a half-baked idea. I had named it the most heinous of names – Project Cheesecake. In my defence, it sounded good at that time. My plan was to take up baking cheesecake for an entire year and write about it. My folks were horrified.
While the cheesecake is in the oven, I put together the lemon juice, sugar and corn starch, and watch my blueberry babies frolic in the rich juice. A blueberry compote is an easy topping, if you would rather not keep it plain. I would have said sour-cream topping, but uh, please do not slather a tub of sour cream on that cheesecake!
Take a close look at the compote. The blues and purples have come out, and it glistens in the light. Give them a stir.
The timer goes off, but I keep her in the oven for a bit more – an hour, with the door ajar. This is me ensuring that she would all be smooth inside. I take that time to prepare myself with some disco.
The cheesecake coming out of the oven is the most sensual sights ever. Her satin surface, dotted by little browns, her slightly puffed up edges, the wobbly middle... aah, the wobble in the middle! I always shake the pan gently (of course, with my mitts on) and get mighty aroused by that wobble – does it for me. I am so given to gluttony, leaving her on the rack on my counter to cool down is the hardest part.
I have to have a piece. No eating it the next day for me. No shifting the love making to another day for me. I wanted her without the blueberry compote. Right then. I get myself a warm piece that swam in my mouth for a whole two minutes before I chomped her down.
I almost forget about the compote because of my preoccupation with cheesecake! I stir it all up with my ladle. That glossy crackle as one blueberry wave crashes down on another one is instantly uplifting. And then, they pour their magic over my cheesecake.
There is nothing like the sight of oxblood-purple juice dribbling down a creamy hill with a random blueberry or two rolling down. It's like the compote is holding my cheesecake so close, embracing her with yummy love – so much that I get a tad jealous.
With all humbleness, my blueberry-crowned cheesecake is celestial.
My cheesecake song for today's post :: Let's Groove, a 1981 song by R & B and Funk band Earth, Wind & Fire.