January 19, 2009

An Ode & A Cheesecake


This is Jerad. He is my best friend, my lover, my support, my strength, my inspiration. I couldn't have made it through these past couple years without him.

It was not, however, love at first sight. In fact, we hated each other the first time we met. I thought he was a stupid hick, and he thought I was a raging bitch. But, we worked together often and eventually became friends. After I separated from my husband, Jerad and I spent more time together. I began to fall in love with him a few months later, when he surprised me with a Valentine's Day gift...a red Kitchen Aid toaster, the perfect thing for me!

Since then, Jerad has always been there for me. He understands me better than anyone else ever has and accepts all my faults & quirky habits. He is the most attentive, caring, loving, generous person I've met. For the first time in my life, I feel like this is where I belong. Overall, I'm happier than I've ever been, and I am thankful he's a part of my life.

This is for you, buddy! Hope you had a wonderful birthday this weekend!

Tall & Creamy Cheesecake
from Dorie Greenspan's
Baking: From My Home to Yours



INGREDIENTS

For the crust:

1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake:
2 pounds (four 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
zest & juice of 1 lemon
1 1/3 cups sour cream or heavy cream, or a combination of the two
1 cup fresh raspberries

DIRECTIONS


To make the crust:


Butter a 9-inch springform pan—choose one that has sides that are 2 3/4 inches high (if the sides are lower, you will have cheesecake batter leftover)—and wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil; put the pan on a baking sheet.

Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Pour over the melted butter and stir until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. (I do this with my fingers.) Turn the ingredients into the buttered springform pan and use your fingers to pat an even layer of crumbs along the bottom of the pan and about halfway up the sides. Don't worry if the sides are not perfectly even or if the crumbs reach above or below the midway mark on the sides—this doesn't have to be a precision job. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven.

Center a rack in the oven, preheat the oven to 350°F and place the springform on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Set the crust aside to cool on a rack while you make the cheesecake.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

To make the cheesecake:


Put a kettle of water on to boil.

Working in a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is soft and lives up to the creamy part of its name, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition—you want a well-aerated batter. Add the lemon zest & juice. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the sour cream and/or heavy cream.

Put the foil-wrapped springform pan in the roaster pan.

Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that nothing has been left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape half the batter into the springform pan. Sprinkle the raspberries over the batter & top with remaining batter to reach the brim of the pan. (If you have leftover batter, you can bake the batter in a buttered ramekin or small soufflé mold.) Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the roaster to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, at which point the top will be browned (and perhaps cracked) and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven's heat and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour.

After 1 hour, carefully pull the setup out of the oven, lift the springform pan out of the roaster—be careful, there may be some hot water in the aluminum foil—remove the foil. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.

When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and chill the cake for at least 4 hours, although overnight would be better.

Serving:
Remove the sides of the springform pan— I use a hairdryer to do this (use the dryer to warm the sides of the pan and ever so slightly melt the edges of the cake)—and set the cake, still on the pan's base, on a serving platter. The easiest way to cut cheesecake is to use a long, thin knife that has been run under hot water and lightly wiped. Keep warming the knife as you cut slices of the cake.

Storing:
Wrapped well, the cake will keep for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or for up to 2 months in the freezer. It's best to defrost the still-wrapped cheesecake overnight in the refrigerator.


NOTES:
  • Cheesecake, I've learned, takes a long time to make. From start to finish, it's about 8 hours. Plan accordingly.
  • I couldn't find fresh raspberries (because the grocery store re-arranged the produce section and I was having a blonde moment that day), so I used frozen. This was a mistake. The thawed berries were too wet and therefore the middle of the cake didn't set.
  • I had enough batter leftover to fill two ramekins. I filled each half full, added a couple pieces of Toblerone to one and a couple Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies to the other, then covered them with the remaining batter. I added the ramekins to the waterbath when there was about 30 minutes of cooking time left and let them sit in the oven with the cheesecake for the extra hour.
  • OH MY! The Thin Mint mini-cheesecake was awesome! I''ll be making those again, for sure!

2 comments:

slush said...

Looks fantastic Kelly! Happy Birthday Jerad!

Rach said...

I love the photos in this entry! Beautiful!