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The Brunch Bunch

Staving Off Angst With Cheesecake

May 10, 2000|MARCY GOLDMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Over the years I have come to host a brunch for a group of my friends and their mothers for Mother's Day.

It started with my mother and my mother-in-law (back when I had one). Then I invited a couple of friends and, because it was The Day, their moms as well. It has expanded to include, on occasion, my dad's girlfriends, a surrogate mother or two and assorted grandmothers.

I don't do this out of sheer kindness, and I am not a masochist. It's more like self-defense. When there are so many mothers and daughters together, all the usual angsts are put aside. It's too weird to act out in front of strangers.

So it does make for a nice morning. My friends and I get to see one another, meet one another's moms and toast one another. And we get to feel good about doing something for our mothers as well.

We make it a real girl breakfast: best china, real linen tablecloths, scented candles, simmering potpourri, fragrant oils and flowers. It turns out to be kind of a cross between Martha Stewart and Oprah.

Or maybe "collision" would be a better description. We've got all the frilly aesthetics and "remember your spirit" kind of stuff, combined with delivery stories and--these days--discussions of hormone replacement and osteoporosis.

We always do this party at brunch. It's a timing thing: The younger mothers in the group need to eat early to make up for the requisite kid-made breakfast (burnt toast and weak coffee). And this way the older moms can still have the evening free to be taken out someplace nice for dinner.

The best way to arrange something like this is as a potluck. Everybody brings one thing; that way nobody gets too much of the burden. The trick is to eat well but still not have to work up too much of a sweat on "Your Day."

Make sure there is at least one substantial egg-type dish and, of course, lots of fruit and salads and things. Non-cooks in the crowd can bring breads (baguettes and bagels), assorted cheeses and beverages--good strong coffee, fruit juices and bottled waters. New millennium-type fruit teas might work too.

There's only one unbreakable rule: Comparing Mother's Day gifts is strictly verboten. We don't need all that hurt estrogen wandering around.

Goldman runs the Baker Boulanger Web site, http://www.betterbaking.com.

Oreo Cheesecake

Active Work Time: 30 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 2 1/2 hours plus 8 hours chilling

COOKIE CRUST

1 1/4 cups Oreo cookie crumbs or chocolate wafer cookie crumbs

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

Cinnamon

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted

* Combine cookie crumbs, brown sugar, dash cinnamon and butter. Pat evenly into 9- or 10-inch springform pan.

CAKE

2 pounds cream cheese, softened

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/4 cup flour

4 eggs

2 egg yolks

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/3 cup whipping cream

1 1/2 cups Oreo cookies or similar chocolate-vanilla sandwich cookies, coarsely chopped

* Cream cheese in electric mixer on lowest speed until smooth. Add sugar and flour. Add eggs and yolks and continue blending until smooth and liquid, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in vanilla and cream.

* Pour half batter into pan, spreading over crust, and sprinkle with chopped cookie pieces. Top with remaining batter, smoothing evenly. Place pan on baking sheet and bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Reduce heat to 225 degrees and bake until lightly browned, 50 minutes more.

ASSEMBLY

2 cups sour cream

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup whipping cream

4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate

12 Oreo cookie halves, for garnish

1 maraschino cherry, for garnish

* Combine sour cream, sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Spread on cake and bake at 350 degrees until topping is set, 8 minutes. Turn oven off. Open oven door and cool cake 1 hour in oven. Cover cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

* To make glaze, scald cream in small saucepan over medium heat until bubbles form around edges. Stir in chocolate to melt and blend. After 1 minute, remove from heat and stir in remaining vanilla. When cool, spread or pour glaze onto chilled cake. Arrange 12 Oreo cookie halves around outer perimeter (to look like a clock dial) and place cherry in center.

12 to 16 servings. Each of 16 servings: 502 calories; 266 mg sodium; 187 mg cholesterol; 39 grams fat; 33 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams protein; 0.27 gram fiber.

Babka (Sour Cream Yeast Cake)

Active Work Time: 45 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 2 1/2 hours plus 4 hours chilling and 45 minutes rising

No brunch is complete without a babka. I make the dough in my bread machine, but a dough hook on a mixer works fine. A combination of bread flour and all-purpose flour makes for the best texture. An overnight rise works well here and ensures that warm coffeecake is there when coffee is poured.

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

3 1/2 cups bread flour

2 (1/4-ounce) packets dry yeast

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup warm water

1/2 cup milk

1 cup sour cream

2 eggs

1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 drops lemon oil

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