Why do I love Mike? Here are just a few reasons:
1. Sometimes I'll come home from an errand and find that he's cleaned my apartment. Without being asked. Just because he thought I'd like it. Do you even need any more reasons?
2. He's a mathematical genius, meaning he blows my mind on a regular basis with fancy subjects like algebraic topology or complex analysis. What happened to arithmetic?
3. Every Easter Mike's grandparents hold an Easter egg hunt. One year Mike noticed how much fun I was having. He went out and bought plastic eggs, put a sweet message inside each one, and hid them around my apartment. I found eggs for months in places like my bathroom closet, my bookshelf, and my desk drawers. Byrd found one under the bed, thinking it was a ball! I saved all the messages -- you can see them in some of these photos. Can you read them?
4. When he's at my apartment in the evening, he takes Byrd outside for me.
5. We love the same food: Thai, Indian, Jamaican, Italian, Mexican, Japanese . . . and dessert.
6. He's watched countless episodes of Top Chef, Extreme Home Makeover, House Hunters, Undercover Boss -- even Toddlers and Tiaras! -- with me, despite hating every single one of those shows.
7. We've been watching Star Trek together for years and both love it. He's a closet Trekkie. He will deny this fact.
8. When Byrd threw up all day, he cleaned up all the carpet messes. That night I took her to the emergency vet, and he drove to the vet's office to sit with me at 2 a.m.
9. He eats every single thing I make with gratitude and supports me while I pursue my passion.
10. He is determined. He went back to college after dropping out, graduated magna cum laude in only 3 years, and is now off to get his Ph.D. at NC State -- Go Wolfpack!
11. We have similar tolerance levels for being out in public. We like to do things like the Southern Christmas Show here in Charlotte, but we do them strategically: get in, get the good food, buy a few gifts, leave immediately! We're both more comfortable hanging out at my apartment than being out and about.
12. He calls me Little One. Or Frog.
13. One Valentine's Day in college, I came back to my dorm to find roses, new shoes, a new shirt, and a note on my computer from Mike saying he wanted to surprise me. They were cute shoes, too!
14. He introduced me to Top Chef by buying me the first season as a gift. Recently, he introduced me to America's Test Kitchen in the same way. I'm baking him dishes from the shows to demonstrate my gratitude.
15. He's strong. Every now and then after a hard day, you just want to be picked up and rocked like a baby. He's got me covered!
16. He loves his family. You know how they say you can tell a lot about a man by how he treats his mom? Well, Mike not only adores his mom, but all of his relatives. He would do anything for them.
17. Gorgeous blue eyes, and an amazing smile. He's so handsome!
18. He loves to help people, and hates to see them struggle. Whenever someone needs help with their computer, help with math, help moving furniture, help tying their shoe -- you name it, he's there.
19. He's cool. He likes cool music, wears cool jeans, reads cool books, thinks cool thoughts, has a cool attitude, and is just . . . super cool.
Because Mike is so amazing, he more than deserves this fancy Coffee Cookie Dough Fudge Cheesecake. Even if it's not your anniversary, any day is a good day to dig in to this cake! It's phenomenal. The filling has a coffee flavor that complements the rich fudge and cookie dough. In ours, the cookie dough didn't stand out enough, so I've adjusted the amount of coffee flavoring in the below to let all the flavors shine. The result is utterly indulgent, utterly delicious, and utterly gorgeous. Perfect for my very, very special occasion!
And since we're being all mushy, tell me: What do you love about your special someone?
Coffee Cookie Dough Fudge Cheesecake
Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, adapted from Annies' Eats' Cappucino Fudge Cheesecake with eggless cookie dough by Family Fun
Yields: one 9-inch cheesecake
32 chocolate sandwich cookies, finely processed into crumbs (use whole cookies, filling and all)
5 1/3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Small pinch of salt
1½ cups heavy cream
20 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I combined both)
3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons instant coffee granules
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ teaspoons mild-flavored (light) molasses
3 large eggs
1½ cups sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Cookie Dough Layer Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
4 to 6 tablespoons water (I used 4)
To make the crust, butter a 9-inch springform pan. Combine the chocolate cookie crumbs, melted butter and salt in a small bowl. Toss with a fork to moisten all of the crumbs. Press into a thin layer covering the bottom and sides of the springform pan (at least 3 inches up the sides). I did this using a smooth glass to press crumbs into place.
Bring the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Once the cream reaches a simmer, pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk in small circles until a smooth ganache has formed. Pour 1.5-2 cups of the ganache over the bottom of the crust. Freeze until the ganache layer is firm, about 30 minutes. Reserve the remaining ganache; cover and let stand at room temperature for later decorating.
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F and position a rack in the middle of the oven. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium-high speed until well blended. Beat in the flour. In a small bowl, combine the coffee granules, vanilla and molasses, stirring until the coffee dissolves. Add to the cream cheese mixture and beat until well incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition.
Pour the filling over the cold ganache in the crust. Enclose the bottom of the springform pan in tightly wrapped foil and place it in a baking dish. Fill the baking dish with hot water about halfway up the cheesecake pan, careful not to let the moisture touch the cheesecake. Bake until the top is lightly browned, puffed and cracked at the edges, and the center moves only very slightly when the pan is lightly shaken, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire cooling rack. Cool 15 minutes while preparing the topping (maintaining the oven temperature.)
To make the topping, whisk together the sour cream, sugar and vanilla in a small bowl. Pour the topping over the hot cheesecake, spreading to cover the filling completely. Bake until the topping is set, about 10-15 minutes. Return to the cooling rack and let cool at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Transfer to the refrigerator and let cool at least 3 hours, until completely chilled and set.
To make cookie dough layer, cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in the flour, salt, vanilla and chips. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time, until you have reached a cookie dough consistency. Line a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper. Spoon the cookie dough into the pan and flatten to an even layer. Freeze the cookie dough layer until ready to use (at least 30 minutes).
To finish, wrap a warm towel around the outside of the springform pan to help loosen the crust from the sides. Carefully remove the springform. Transfer the cake to a serving platter. Turn cookie dough out of cake pan and place layer on top of cheesecake, pressing it gently into place. Place the reserved ganache in a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip and use to garnish the top of the cake as desired. Chill until the ganache is completely firm, at least 6 hours.
Happy Anniversary, Mike!