I let the torte cool, held my breath as I released the spring form pan and, to my amazement, the thing was perfect. A slice revealed the crust was even, the filling was perfectly cooked, and the bright pistachios even added color to the drab brown topping. I found myself relieved, but also curious.
More recently, I started looking through one of her well-worn cookbooks. And there on the page, in plain sight, was a recipe for cheese torte. The same recipe for cheese torte. What I had thought to be a family recipe meticulously improved upon and changed over the years, I found, word-for-word, in a cookbook.True, some of the terms were a little outdated (a speck of salt, for example), but the ingredients were exactly the same. And, just for the sake of making the recipe my own (and laying some claim to it), I have since changed a few measurements around. But still, some family secret! Now I laugh at this discovery, especially since I have known to be a slave to recipes in my own kitchen. I can only believe that finding this so-called secret recipe printed in a book is the ultimate proof I don't fall far from the family culinary tree. And that, like me, she knew a good recipe when she saw one.
For the crust
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, melted
For the filling
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 cup heavy cream
36 ounces large curd cottage cheese
6 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup chopped pistachios
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
To make the crust, mix graham cracker crumbs with sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter until well combined. Reserve 3/4 cup of mixture and press remaining amount evenly into a 9-inch spring form pan. Set aside.
To make the filling, in a large bowl, beat eggs, and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. On low speed, add salt, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Stir in cream, cottage cheese, and flour. Force mixture through a sieve or mesh colander until smooth. This process will be slow and frustrating, but is necessary (I think, I've never been brave enough to omit it!) for the ultimate texture of the torte.
Pour liquid mixture into crust-lined spring form pan. Sprinkle reserved graham cracker mixture on top and top with pistachios. Bake for 1 hour or until set. Then, with the torte untouched in the oven, turn off heat, open the oven door slightly and let sit for 1 hour. Remove from oven, gently release form, slice, and serve once fully cooled.
(Images: Stephanie Barlow)