So right about the time you just feel like maximum Gross Girl Overload, your new haircut looks like you didn't do anything to the lower 1/2 and then decided, made an executive decision to cut the top half into a bowl cut, and you don't have bangs so much as "Tiny Mullet Hairs" framing your face that is breaking out like it's the summer the Bayside High gang worked at Lea Remini's Dad's Country Club and you're so repulsive the city passed a new ordinance against you, allowing children to scream in fear and grown men to weep for your soul when they pass you, things start looking up.
You go out for dinner with friends, you make a new friend, you reconnect with some old ones, you drink some good alcohol, you have Thai food twice in five days, and you have plans to go to the beach twice in the coming days. It's like the part in "Devil Wears Prada", when Anne Hathaway travels .5 miles and crosses one street and enters one lobby of one building, managing to wear ten different outfits in the process. Things are just great, and they get even better because you discover Weleda's Skin Food and New Seasons still has strawberries that are red all the way through. The whole week is like that day you read a book when you were 13, and realized it had a good 3 or 4 sex scenes in it. Or that time you keyed Color Me Badd lyrics into the passenger side door of a station wagon one late night on the east side of town. That never happened, but I bet I wish it did.
And then, AND THEN, you bake a cheesecake that is pretty outstanding (Recipe originally mentioned by Deb). Rich, thick, creamy, speckled with vanilla bean and a crust that reminds you of gingersnaps, reminding you that fall is almost here. So you eat it, and remember that everything feels better inside of a wool coat and even the Tiny Mullet Hairs can be hidden underneath a cap that makes you look like someone you hate.
All the reasons you need to make this. The warm, plump-y figs with their syrupy juices are simply one more reason not to lock yourself in the bathroom and read old magazines in the bathtub, like your name is Stephanie Tanner and DJ just kicked you out of your room.
Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Caramelized Figs
Adapted from the Three Cities of Spain Cheesecake recipe
1 sleeve Mi-Del Graham Crackers (2 packets any other brand)
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup + 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Whiz the Grahams until they become fine, but not sandy/pulverized, crumbs in the bowl of a food processor, or by hand (in a sandwich bag, pounded with a rolling pin or mallet).
Combine the crumbs, cinnamon, sugar, and nutmeg, whisking together to combine. Add the melted butter, and mix just until crumbs are moistened and clump together when pinched. Press into the bottom of an 8 or 9-inch springform pan, and use your fingertips or the bottom of a level glass or measuring cup to press flat and slightly up the sides of the pan. Bake for 7-10 minutes, until edges are just golden brown, and cool completely on a wire rack.
3 8-oz packages of cream cheese, softened slightly
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Seeds from half of a vanilla bean, scraped
1 cup of granulated sugar
Whip the cream cheese on low speed until silky and smooth. Then add the eggs, two at a time, and beat until completely combined, scraping after each set. After all four eggs are mixed in, stream in the sugar and vanilla extract, mixing continuously, and finally, add the vanilla bean seeds. Mix just until seeds are dispersed through the batter, scrape and mix one last time, and pour into the cooled, set crust.
Turn your oven down to 300 degrees, and bake the cheesecake for 45 to 55 minutes or so, or until the edges are set 3-inches inward, and the center is still wobbly when pan is nudged or gently shaken. Cool completely on a wire rack, cover loosely with tin foil or saran wrap, and chill overnight, or preferably twenty-four hours. Slice into wedges and serve with warm figs.
Eat until you choke.
6 large, ripe Mission figs
2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
Wash and pat each fig dry. Slice in half and arrange, snugly, in a small baking dish or pie pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar, and broil on High for 5-7 minutes, until the sugar has melted and begun to bubble and figs exude obscene juices. Remove, cool slightly, and serve alongside cheesecake.