I’m not a very good baker, and I’m not a big cake person, but I do have my favorites, and cheesecake is right at the top of the list. Unfortunately (or fortunately for my waistline), you can’t readily find New York Cheesecake in Italy, possibly in Rome or Milan, but I’ve never had the pleasure of eating it here. There are lots of cakes with cheese… but nothing that satisfied my palate. I haven’t managed to make it back to the US for two years, that’s the absolute longest I’ve been away, but what with the pregnancy, having the baby and the husband’s illness, we just haven’t made it out, so for my 35th birthday I decided to overcome my fear of the oven and bake myself one, or give myself a nervous breakdown trying.
The results were surprisingly good for a newbie, a little undercooked, just a little too big for my household, but overall I was satisfied and, most importantly, I satisfied my cheesecake craving for a good long while!
Following is the recipe I used, for the original click on over to Deb's New York Cheesecake or check it out in the Joy of Cooking, though credit for the Cherry topping goes fully to Deb at Smitten Kitchen (one of my all time favorite food blogs).
An oven and a round spring-form baking pan – I used a 24cm (9.5inch) pan, but next time I’ll go for slightly smaller (adjusting the ingredients!)
For the crumb crust:
230gr (8oz.) graham crackers (I had some that my Mom brought over from the new world, but you can also use digestives) finely ground.
115gr (4oz.) unsalted butter – though I’m partial to salted butter if you’re using digestives you really want it to be unsalted.
50gr (½ cup) sugar – this was made the crust a little too sweet for my taste, so next time I will definitely reduce it! Bear in mind also that in many countries in Europe (Italy for one) white sugar comes from beets, whereas in most of the Americas it comes from sugar cane. Sugar from beets is sweeter.
¼ tsp salt
This is what you do:
Butter your spring-form pan (I also like to lightly flour it). Melt your butter any way you like, I use the microwave, but you can bain marie it too. Mix all your ingredients together and press into the bottom and up the sides of your pan. And here is my first note for the inexperienced cook (i.e. me), you must try to press it evenly, especially at the corner, and don’t make the bottom too thin… I ended up with a thick edge and a thin bottom… also, make sure you go all the way up to the top of your pan!
Either do this right after making the filling and fill it right away or stick it in the fridge or freezer (I never have enough room in my freezer) so it sets while you make your filling.
For the filling:
1.1kg (40oz) cream cheese – yes, you read right, it’s a TALL cheesecake. Let it soften.
330gr (1¾ cup) sugar
3tbs all-purpose flour (I used whole flour cause I didn’t have white flour and it worked out fine)
1tsp finely grated lemon zest and 1tsp orange zest (I used a bit more of both cause I like my zest!)
5 eggs + 2 egg yolks
½ cup heavy cream (for Italians that’s unsweetened whipping cream NOT cooking cream)
½ tsp vanilla extract.
And lots and lots of patience.
This is what you do:
Preheat oven to 550°F or 290°C – my oven does not go up this high, so I heated it to 240°C and make sure that the pan you’re using can withstand these high temperatures – Teflon, can’t for example.
Beat together cheese, sugar, flour, zests and vanilla in an electric mixer until smooth, make sure you scrape the sides often so that it mixes evenly.
Then add eggs and yolks one at a time and scrape the bowl after each one, this is very important lest you get stripey filling. And last of all add the cream.
Fill your pan (put it in a shallow baking pan to catch drips, writes Deb, but I didn’t need to, I guess it depends on your spring-form and how steady your hand is transferring it to the oven as it’s going to be pretty full!) and put in center of oven for 12 minutes or until it puffs.
Turn down temperature to 100°C (or 200°F) and cook for about another hour. It should be mostly firm with a slightly wobbly center.
Turn off your oven, but do not take the cake out, LET IT COOL IN THE OVEN, keeping it partially open. When oven cools, take it out, run a knife around the top edge, but then let it sit some more, so it cools completely.
Take of the side, but leave it on the bottom of your springform. The Joy of Cooking has a method for taking it out of the pan completely, but frankly it’s complicated and I started to do it and almost mushed the whole thing so….
What you need:
300gr pitted cherries (whatever kind you like) – I used frozen - 2tb lemon juice - ¼ cup sugar ( I went with less) - 1 tablespoon cornstarch (maizena) - ½ cup water
This is what you do:
Put all ingredients in a sauce pan and boil for 2 – 3 minutes (I let it go on for almost ten cause I like it a little thicker). Cool completely before spooning onto cake (try to keep the sides of your cake dry!)