Sunday, April 01, 2007

it's so easy

which is what my mother used to say about some fabulous dish she'd just served--and it wasn't always true. Sometimes there was a lot of folding, chopping, mincing, kneading, etc. in her it's-so-easy. I found myself saying it about the cheesecake I made for company on Friday, but in this case, it was true. Easy, uncomplicated, didn't take long, came out perfect.
This was the Inaugural Cheesecake: 1st cheesecake I've ever made, and 1st time using my lovely new springform pan (offered to me when I whined on this blog about not having one: thanks MB; fittingly, she was one of the guests for whom the cheesecake was made).
Cheesecake was one of those things I put off trying, like yeast doughs, or handmade pasta, or Beef Wellington, because I thought it would be hard. I'm not sure why; maybe just because it often requires a springform pan? Something that is baked in a pan with a mechanism--how can that be easy?

I used the most basic recipe I could find, the Joy of Cooking's Cheesecake Cockaigne. And I went against my tinkering inclination and didn't change anything because of my fear of cheesecake (well-maybe 2 things).

The Feared Cheesecake Which Yet Turned Out to be Not Only Beneficent but Luscious

Prepare a crumb crust (I used Joy's--graham crackers, sugar, melted butter, adding a pinch of ginger; but any crumb crust would be fine), and press into a springform pan.
Beat until creamy 24 oz cream cheese. Joy suggested that this would only take 30 seconds, but it took more like a minute. Beat in 1 cup sugar and 1 tsp vanilla or 1/4 tsp almond extract (I used vanilla). Beat in 3 eggs, one at a time, just until incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl and beaters after each. I added the zest of one lemon, an ingredient borrowed from the New York style cheesecake that was on the same page of Joy. Put into pan, smooth the top lovingly, bake at 300 degrees 45 to 55 minutes. Joy said to put the pan on a cookie sheet, which I forgot to do, but luckily there weren't any leaks.
Combine 1 cup sour cream, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tbs vanilla, 1/4 tsp salt and spread on the cooled cheesecake. And that is it--you've got your cheesecake.
I used my mother's Kitchen-Aid, which is getting along in years (it's avocado-colored, if that tells you anything), but still works fine. I worried when the cream cheese all got stuck inside the whisk attachment, but it worked itself loose as more things were added.

The most difficult part of this was deciding when it was done. The directions suggested that it should still have a bit of a wiggle in the center when it was time to take it out. But how much of a wiggle? D and I consulted over the degree of wiggliness--I needed the support, for I have a tendency to want to put things back in the oven if there's the least bit of doubt.
And it was beautiful (top picture). The Joy said it should be cooled on a rack for an hour, and then after the topping was added, should be refrigerated for 3 hours or preferably 24 before serving, which part of the directions I hadn't bothered to read until I was starting to put it together at 4:00 pm (company coming at 6:30). I compromised by cooling it on the rack for 30 minutes; putting on the topping; and putting the whole thing in the refrigerator on a rack for about 45 minutes. It was fine--not totally chilled, but cool and creamy, and it didn't, as I feared it might, fail to come out of the springform neatly, and it also didn't lose its firmness once it was out.
I think it might have been the best cheesecake I've ever eaten--light, sweet with a small tartness from the sour cream and the lemon zest, the filling creamy over the crunch of the crust. I regret to say that everyone except for D had 2 pieces, with Margaritas, to celebrate spring. And the next day I had 2 more. Needless to say it's quite gone now. But I'm already planning the next one: chocolate? marbled? strawberry-topped? cashew-caramel?


erieblue said...

I vouch for the luciousness of this. I think it may have been the best cheesecake I've ever eaten: because sense of lightness and creaminess and subtle flavoring.

MBR said...

It was light, luscious and altogether wonderful. Pale daffodils in bloom in color, and truly a harbinger of spring. It floated and tasted of what you think pale yellow chiffon should be like (I'm a material girl). Taken with Margaritas, it was a dream, but you could have it with coffee or tea or milk or anything else, and it still would be wonderful.

lucette said...

A blushing thanks. I promise not to do my mother's other thing, and explain what I did wrong when I was making it or it would have been even better.

MJN/NYC said...

God, that sounds good. Where was I?

lucette said...

We missed you!