Let Them Eat: Orange Blossom Cheesecake
It was usually dark when the covert missions would happen. My grandmother would casually stroll down the block, then suddenly stop and snatch a plant from a boulevard or a front yard. She was quick, furtive, and efficient, pulling it up with roots intact or snipping a piece off with small shears she'd concealed in her handbag. Harmless, but probably illegal and quite embarrassing to the younger version of me.
Her kleptomania didn't stop at plants-- apparently she would thieve recipes, too. It was granny! In the library! With her pen and paper! We have a "secret family recipe" for cheesecake that, as it turns out, belongs to someone else's family entirely (I know whose but won't say for fear of Culinary Interpol deporting me and shaming me before Nicaraguan society). Grandma says my mom committed the crime, but mom denies it so there is no knowing who the true bandit is.
The infamous cheesecake was exclusively made on special occasions, and I would always request it on birthdays. It is rich and creamy, but lightened with the inclusion of egg whites beaten to stiff peaks. The crust was usually Galletas María crumbs and it was served plain--very understated but sumptuous.
This modified orange blossom version stems from having heard the words "orange blossom cheesecake" in a movie that was playing in the background while cooking dinner one evening; I thought it would be a lovely turn on the original. Orange blossom water is fragrant and delicate, like a fine scent from a high-end apothecary. The homemade candied orange slices are a special treat—their tart sweetness pairs perfectly with the creamy filling, besides which, they're a good recipe to have on hand for other uses and occasions. They are simple to make and beautiful as a late summer sunset.
You'll be so glad my grandma had sticky fingers when you try this.