When I think of March, I think of them; their birthdays; St. Paddy’s Day and the color green.
To my high school best friend, when I was that quirky nerd (I still am actually, have been more of an artistic person, which explains my eccentric personality), I was a target among the bullies inside the classroom. But, she’d erase the stigma surrounding me and approach me as a friend. That conversation ignited our friendship 11 years ago, and is still burning today. (Not that she herself was a nerd; she’s never been one, in fact. It’s just that we click.) Lee Ping, thanks for being there for me, always.
Same goes to my American best friend, who fetched me back to my apartment after an evening class, when it was icebox temperature outside and we were summoned to a wind chill warning by the meteorologists. She showed me how it feels like to be part of the Minnesota nice (it’s a myth I subscribe to!), and how one learns through cultural openness. Becky, thanks for embracing me into your life — into part of the American experience, and for unlocking yourself to my side of the story and culture. (See you and Ryan soon in Malaysia!)
To my American dad, when I was that lonesome student in the first days of my stay in Minnesota, you came into my life. You lent me a helping hand whenever I was stranded amid difficulties. You taught me not to say “boring” — that we take charge of our own lives. You gave me the chance to learn and grow; the wings to fly and to be myself. Steve, thanks for guiding me through.
To my American sister Martha, when I was that dull girl who buried herself in a sea of textbooks, you brightened up my taste buds with your delectable bakes and dishes; you enlivened me with the joy of baking and cooking. Martha, thanks for helping me find my true passions, and for inspiring me to pursue what I truly enjoy — and for reminding me of St. Paddy’s Day and its color, green! You’re my favorite St. Paddy’s baby!
I don’t celebrate St. Paddy’s Day, but I do commemorate the birthdays of the most important people of my life — even when they’re miles away.
My high school best friend is in Taipei; my American best friend in southern Minnesota; my American dad in northern Minnesota, while his daughter, Martha, in North Carolina; and I’m home in Kuala Lumpur. We can’t see each other physically, but etched in our memory is the presence of each other and the time spent knowing each other. I make sure I remember their birthdays so that special messages will reach them with an impeccable timing.
And to top it all off, in this case, since I run a (food) blog, a virtual birthday treat to celebrate their birthdays and St. Paddy’s. This time around, a milky green tea cheesecake should do.
After letting my American dad try some green-tea-flavored dessert, I know that Steve isn’t a fan of that “grassy” taste. Steve, I know you’re reading this, and I can assure you that this green tea cheesecake doesn’t taste grassy, at all. Imagine sipping on lusciously smooth milk tea — now we’re talkin’.
Dense. Not cloyingly rich. Creamy, with the soothing earthy note of green tea. It’s got a sweet milky green color, too. A dessert fit for the greenish theme of St. Paddy’s. And you know there’s a proper way to savor chilled baked cheesecake, right? (If you know, well, ignore the rest of this paragraph and read on.) Remove the cold, firmed cheesecake from the fridge, refrain yourself from eating, and diligently let it sit on the counter to soften up a little before tucking away. Now that, after all the hard work spent in the kitchen, you’ll be rewarded with dessertspoonfuls of plush, velvety bites that melt in your mouth, little by little.
And I’m sure Steve, Martha, Becky and Lee Ping would enjoy this green tea cheesecake, as much as I do, had they been presented with one in real life. Nothing fancy. Just a simple, greenish homemade green tea cheesecake saturated with tender loving care.
And to those affected by the quake, tsunami, and nuclear catastrophe in Japan, I’d like to send my thoughts with you, wherever you are.
There’s this clash of feelings that’s grappling me. It’s odd. It’s surreal. March of 2011, I shall remember you, too. Always.
Milky Green Tea Cheesecake (Cheesecake au Matcha au Lait 抹茶歐蕾芝士蛋糕)
Adapted from Cheese Cake Book, by Junko Fukuda, Kumiko Yanase, and Yasuyo Shida
150 grams digestive biscuits, or, honey (plain) graham crackers
54 grams unsalted butter, melted and let cooled slightly
390 grams cream cheese, softened
124 grams caster or granulated sugar
78 milliliters heavy cream
1 medium-size egg, at room temperature
1½ tablespoons cake flour, sifted
3 teaspoons matcha powder
3 teaspoons caster or granulated sugar
1½ tablespoons cherry brandy, or, kirschwasser
Lightly grease the sides of a 23-centimeter springform pan, and line with parchment; line the base of the pan with aluminum foil. Secure the ring (i.e. sides) to the base of the pan. (Well. You know how to use a springform pan, don’t you?) Then wrap two layers of aluminum foil on the outside, around the base and sides of the pan. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 160°C.
Place the digestive biscuits into a Ziploc bag, press to force the air out of the bag, and seal the bag tightly. With a rolling pin, bash the biscuits into fine crumbs. Alternatively, a food processor will help you do the job. Mix in the melted butter, then press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan to get an even layer. Chuck the whole thing into the fridge to chill.
In the meantime, using a hand mixer, cream together (A) till smooth and creamy. Then, stir in the heavy cream, and followed by the egg, in two to three times to avoid curdling of the mixture. Next, mix in the sifted flour. Whisk together (B), and stir into the batter to combine. Lastly, mix in the liqueur.
Pour the batter over the crust, and place the whole pan into another larger baking pan that comes with sides taller than those of the springform pan. Prepare the bain-marie by filling the baking pan with boiling-hot water. Place the assemblage into the preheated oven and bake for 40 minutes, till almost cooked through and the cake’s surface begins to spring back when gently touched. Turn off the oven, leave the oven door opened ajar as you let the cheesecake cool to room temperature in the oven.
Remove the cooled cheesecake from the oven, the bain-marie, and then the layers of aluminum foil. Refrigerate for at least at least three hours, preferably overnight, before slicing to serve. Cheesecakes, including this one, keep real well in the fridge. (Mine kept for seven days, since my family consists of small eaters.)