Saturday, December 18, 2010

New York Cheesecake

I love a good plain cheesecake.  If I was faced with having to choose either cheesecake or chocolate, cheesecake would win.  There....I said it.  Now I have to go and make it up to chocolate.

For a basic crumb crust, you will need the following:
2 cups of crushed graham crackers
1 cup of granulated sugar
2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
3/4 stick of melted butter

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl.  You can either melt the butter on the stovetop or simply throw it in the microwave for a few seconds.  

Pour the melted butter over the stirred dry ingredients and mix with a big spoon.  You may need to add more butter if the mix is too dry.  The best way to tell is to use your hands.  Grab a handful of the graham crackers, squeeze, and let go.  It should act like wet sand.  If it holds its shape, then you are good to go.  If it crumbles really easily, add a little more butter.  Once you have the crackers ready, pour them into a spring form pan.  Using your hands, press them into the bottom.  Push up a little on the sides, but not too far. Bake the crust for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

While that is baking, you can mix your cheesecake batter.  

What you will need:
27 ounces of cream cheese (that's about 3 1/2 blocks of Philly cream cheese)
1 cup of granulated sugar
4 eggs
3 1/2 tablespoons of corn starch (you can also use cake flour if you have it laying around)
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
1 cup of heavy cream

It is really important that your cream cheese is soft.  You can break a mixer if you try to whip cream cheese straight from the fridge.  So leave it out on the counter for a bit before you start anything.  Cutting it into smaller pieces helps too.  Using a mixer, you are going to blend the cream cheese and sugar until it is lump free.   If you are using a stand mixer, use your paddle attachment. 

Now slowly add in your eggs.  Add in one egg at a time and scrap down the bowl as you go. Once incorporated, add the cornstarch (or flour) and combine.  Add in your vanilla, zest, and heavy cream.  

Pour the batter into the cooled graham cracker crust.  Bake your cheesecake at 300 degrees for 60 to 90 minutes.  I know that is a long time to wait for a cheesecake.  It's so worth it though.  To tell when a cheesecake is done, shake the pan just a little.  Not too much.  The middle should be solid.  If it wobbles like my Grandma's Jello Surprise, keep on cooking. 

Once the cheesecake is done, DON'T immediately pull it out of the oven.  Open the oven door just a little and turn off the heat.  Slowly let it cool down.  Cheesecakes can "souffle" and when they fall, they can crack right down the middle.  Cooling it down slowly helps prevent that.  Once it has had plenty of time in the oven, pull the pan out and let it cool on a rack till it is comfortable to touch.  Place it in the fridge overnight. Remember....."Patience is a virtue".  Smile and know it will be there waiting for you in the morning.  

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