Back when I was a suffering grad school student, I had one saving grace. Right at the edge of my campus there was an independent ice cream store adorably named Cone E. Island. I got into the habit of stopping there before my grueling night classes and getting something creamy and sugary.
Their signature treat wasn’t ice cream, though. It was a giant blondie called a Fantasy Bar. While it came in many flavors, the original was the best. I could always count on that bar to deliver with its giant chunks of caramel, chocolate and white chocolate.
Okay, I admit it. I’m going heavy on the Oreos this week. After eating all the cookies and cream bark, my cravings just intensified. But I wanted to be somewhat healthy, so here we go!
Cheesecake is exciting. I used to go to the Cheesecake Factory and inhale giant slices of peanut butter cookie dough cheesecake. It was really awesome until they stopped making it. Oh yeah, and until they posted their nutrition information. All of a sudden, I was horrified.
Okay, I know cheesecake is not a health food. Duh. So now and then, of course I’ll indulge. But I have to have cheesecake more often than “now and then,” so that’s why I decided to make this cheesecake.
When I was a kid, I used to read books from a bygone era where the characters eat lots of plum desserts: plum pudding, plum pie, plum cake, plum tart. I always wondered what that would taste like. Could it really be as good as it sounded?
Turns out, it is! This cake is dessert gone retro, the kind of treat people used to eat in the dark days before peanut butter cups existed. But there’s a lot to be said for the sweet, buttery crumbs that contrast so beautifully with the plums.
While I went ahead and called this a tart, that was really for lack of a better word. It’s very dense and kind of like a cross between a giant sugar cookie and a yellow cake. The hybrid works, but I still have no good word for it. And there’s a gentle sprinkling of cinnamon sugar on the top that is reminiscent of a Snickerdoodle. So you could call it a cookie cake if you like. Either way, it tastes happy!
I’ve heard that climbing Mount Everest is pretty hard. For most people, anyway.
We all have our version of that, the near-impossible summit that we can’t reach, no matter how hard we try. For years, that was my grandmother’s mocha bread.
When I was little, I didn’t like apple pie. Chalk it up to youthful foolishness. So when my grandmother made the pie, she’d also make this bread. And I loved it. It was so special that I’d eat it slowly, sliver by sliver, to make it last. Usually, I gobble up my dessert. But this was too special
And when I grew up, I tried to make it. Over and over again I followed the recipe, calling my grandmother each time I failed. It was too light in color, or too heavy in weight. What was I doing wrong? It got to the point where I suspected her of recipe sabotage.
Finally, about a year ago, and shortly after my grandmother’s death, I got the mocha bread right. I’m still not sure exactly what I did to make it correctly other than acquire more knowledge and skill, but I feel like the torch has been passed. She was a phenomenal baker who used scant resources in harder times to make amazing food. Later in life, she still had the knack for producing recipes that nobody else seemed to have.