Paul and I are not big Valentine’s Day people; we are actually not big on any type of holiday (I don’t think Valentine’s is a holiday but you know what I mean), birthday, anniversary etc. We don’t do presents, pretty sure the only time we ever gave each other presents was in the beginning of our relationship, when you are just learning about each other and it is the “norm” to give. I realize this sounds kinda depressing but it gets better don’t worry... There has been an odd time that Paul has bought me flowers but it is far and few between. None of the above is because we love each other any less we just both happen to believe and go with the truth that love is not represented by material things. Most of the time for our anniversary or birthday or any other special day (which really can be any day of the year) we make a really beautiful meal together, or we take a day trip to our favourite beach or sometimes we splurge and go away together for a romantic weekend.
If we are going to spend money on things to represent our love I would much rather do something together, that we both get to enjoy and indulge in. Me getting a bouquet of flowers or a pair of earrings is sweet don’t get me wrong but spending the time together, time we can make extra special because we don’t spend on smaller things, like renting a cozy beach front cabin in the middle of nowhere that we both get to enjoy and build memories from that will last forever seems a lot more important to me.
Time that we get to focus on just us, our relationship, our intimacy, our growth as partners in life is priceless. And it doesn’t even have to be a weekend away, a lot of times it is us staying in, going to our favourite market and picking up some gorgeous fresh veggies to come home and cook together. With a glass of wine for me and a cold mug of beer for him, candles around the house, jazz music playing in the background (sappy I know but we actually do this once a week), a crackling fire in the living room is all the gift I need.
For us personally it is the quality time spent together that has grown our relationship to what it is. Honestly I think the last gift I got Paul was a George Foreman Grill back in 2008! That we just got rid of because seriously I think that thing is filled with toxic chemical coatings.
I guess my point in all of this is maybe you will get flowers or diamonds this Valentine’s or maybe you are like us and don’t do presents or maybe heaven forbid he (or you) might forget (this does not mean your love is any less meaningful, it really is just a silly hallmark holiday), however you spend it just remember you are together and love comes in all shapes and forms and ways. Each person as their own way of showing love and not one way is right. Some tell and speak and write poems, others spend lavishly, Paul and I show each other our love in the things we do more so than the things we say.
And although we don't partake in the traditional ways of Valentine's day, I do always make him (or we make it together) something extra special, his favourite dessert is either cheesecake or something with chocolate (which I would never deny either). This year I decided to make a creamy mascarpone cheesecake and for my first time I made it in a water bath.
Water baths and cheesecake should be mandatory in my opinion, it is life changing. The water bath cooked it so beautifully, it turned out extra luscious and there was no cracking whatsoever. This was also my first time making a cheesecake using maple syrup instead of white sugar and as much as I was hesitant I figured it just had to work. It is definitely a different kind of sweet for a cheesecake but since I try and cook only with natural sweeteners (maple syrup, honey, sometimes coconut sugar and the occasional white sugar when really needed, which is really hardly ever) I tend to like things a lot less sweet now and can really taste the white sugar when used.
The mascarpone is deliciously creamy and the pecans in the base add the perfect amount of nuttiness. The strawberry compote to top it with is optional, I had it both ways and honestly a simple piece of the cheesecake alone was perfection. It really has so many different flavour notes, the lemon zest, the vanilla, the nuts that it really didn’t need anything to go on top. But the recipe is there in case you want to add a little extra love. Plus it’s red and goes with the whole v-day theme.
maple mascarpone pecan cheesecake + strawberry compote
2 cups of crushed graham crackers
1 cup of finely crushed pecans
4 tbsp of melted butter
2 cups of cream cheese
2 cups of mascarpone
2 tbsp pf flour
2 cups of maple syrup
3 tbsp of vanilla
zest of one lemon
juice of half a lemon
2 cups of frozen strawberries
juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp of maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take the cheeses and eggs out of the fridge and let them get to room temperature, very important.
Cover a springform pan with a couple of layers of tinfoil all the way up to the outside edges (this is for the water bath later). There is a great picture tutorial here.
In a food processor mix the graham crackers and pecans until very fine. (I bought already crushed graham crackers so I only have to do this for the pecans). Melt 4 tbsp of butter and pour over the graham crackers and pecans. Mix together.
In your tin foil covered 9 inch springform pan spread the crust mixture and pat down evenly into the pan. Place in the oven for 12-15 minutes until the crust is golden. You can use half of the above mixture if you like your crust not as thick. Also for nut allergies you can just take the pecans out and just use the graham crackers.
Once cooked set aside and let the crust cool completely and turn the temperature of the oven down to 325 degrees.
In a stand mixer add the cream cheese and mix until smooth (about 3 minutes). Next add in the mascarpone and flour and mix until incorporated. Next add in the maple syrup, vanilla, lemon juice and rind. Mix again. Slowly add in the eggs one at a time, mixing each one fully before adding the next.
Bring a kettle of water to a boil for the water bath. In a large roasting pan place the springform pan with the cooked crust into it and pour in the cheesecake mixture over the crust. Once the water has boiled pour it around the springform pan, filling it about ¾ of the way up the pan.
Place the roasting pan with the water bath and cheesecake into the oven and cook for an hour and 15 minutes. The cheesecake will seem wobbly but it will set up in the fridge overnight. After an hour and 15 minutes, turn the oven off and crack the door about an inch, leave the cheesecake in the oven for another hour before taking it out of the water bath and transferring it to the fridge to set up overnight.
You can make the compote the same day as the cheesecake and set in the fridge or you can make it right before serving. In a small sauce pan on medium heat add the strawberries, lemon juice and vanilla. Bring to a slight boil, stirring continuously, then down to a simmer for about 10 minutes.
I like this compote a bit more liquid like to soak into the cheesecake, but if you want to thicken the mixture add 1 tbsp of cornstarch to 1 tablespoon of water, mix and pour into the strawberries, cooking until the compote starts to thicken to your liking. Serve immediately over a piece of cheesecake.