Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cheesecake Heaven

Perfection.
This weekend, we had awful, cold, rainy weather here in Greenville. So I decided to bake something. Standard. However, I didn't want to just make my normal cookies or brownies, I wanted to try something new. In all my years of baking, I've never made a cheesecake, so I decided that was the dessert of choice I wanted to conquer this weekend. Why a cheesecake? We are having people over for Easter in a few weeks, and I'm thinking about making a one then. I've heard they can be a little tricky, so I figured it would be best to try making one first before I had a house full of guests!

I went out and bought a 9" spring form pan (despite Alton Brown's advice to use a solid pan), and that ended up working out perfectly.  I read that, typically, Italian style cheesecakes are made with ricotta cheese, while New York style cheesecakes are made with cream cheese. I opted to make a NY style, as that's my favorite kind. Everyone has different preferences for how they like their cheesecake; some people like a more dense, dry cheesecake, while others prefer it lighter and creamier, so my goal was to find a balance right in the middle of those qualities. I ended up drawing from 3 different recipes for the my cheesecake: Alton Brown's Recipe, the Joy of Baking recipe, and "The Cheesecake Factory" recipe...so here is my version of NY Style Cheesecake :)

For the crust you'll need:
  • 18 Graham Crackers (a little over 2/3 of one box)
  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 2 tbs sugar
First, I melted the butter, then I brushed it around the inside of my spring form pan. I then lined the pan with parchment paper. I crushed the grahams in the food processor, then poured in the remainder of the melted butter and the sugar, and processed it all until it was thoroughly combined. I used the bottom of a glass to pat down the graham cracker mixture until it was all around the inside of the pan. Now, 2 of the 3 recipes said not to bake the crust first, but I went with Alton Brown's advice and baked the crust for 15 mins at 300 degrees, then set aside to cool. (Also, turn the oven up to 350 for the following step...) Now it's time to make the filling! You'll need:
  • 32 oz of cream cheese (yes, that's 4 bricks)
  • 1 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 2 tbs of flour
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • 1/3 cup of heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup of sour cream
  • 5 eggs
Start by blending the first 3 ingredients until fluffy. (It helps if you leave the cream cheese out to soften a bit first!) Then I added the next 3 ingredients and beat until incorporated. Then I added the eggs one at a time, and beat just until each one was mixed in. Pour into the crust.

Now here's where I hit a little hitch in my plan. 2 of my 3 recipes (as well as "On Food and Cooking," my go to reference guide in the kitchen!) said that the ideal way to cook cheesecake is in a water bath. It wasn't until I had the cheesecake in my pan that I realized I didn't have a roasting pan large enough to do a water bath. Whoops. However, the Joy of Baking recipe said just to bake the cheesecake sans water bath, so I went that route since it was my only option. I baked the cheesecake at 350 degrees for 15 mins, then I turned the oven down to 250 degrees and baked the cheesecake for 2 hrs. (It said to bake until firm and just wiggly or a little wet in the middle...mine was still pretty jiggly after 2 hours, but I was tired of waiting!) I then made a sour cream topping for the cheesecake which consisted of:
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • 2 tbs of sugar
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
I wasn't sure about doing this, but in hindsight, I think it was an excellent choice because it added some tangy sweetness and helped to make the top look perfectly smooth. I just mixed these 3 ingredients in a small bowl until smooth, then spread them over the top of the cheesecake I had just pulled out of the oven. I put the cheesecake back in the oven (which is still at 250 degrees) and let it bake for another 15 minutes. I then turned the oven off, and cracked it open for a minute or two, and then closed it to let the cheesecake cool in the oven. I left it in there for another hour and a half (in case you haven't figured this out, don't make this cheesecake if you have somewhere to go because it takes a whole lotta time!) and then removed it, covered it in plastic wrap, and put it the fridge overnight.

In the morning you will wake up to most delicious cheesecake you've ever eaten. Seriously. Not to toot my own horn, but this cheesecake is awesome. Which Cam and I discovered when we had a piece for breakfast on Sunday morning before church :)

(I actually had a friend who fancies herself a cheesecake connoisseur and she said that this is the best homemade cheesecake she's ever had!)

This may have been my first cheesecake, but it's definitely not my last! :)

3 comments:

Your sweet words make my day! :)

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