Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dirty thirty cheesecake.

Jared celebrated the big 3-0 this weekend with a big slice of cheesecake. Last year, I told of Jared's love of key lime birthday pie so this year both me and his mother were surprised when he requested a cheesecake. I knew the cheesecake was coming months ago when I opened a wedding gift containing the springform pan I had been wanting for years (thanks, Curt and Laura!) and the first thing Jared said was, "Does this mean we can have cheesecake?"

Of course, my answer was yes. This is actually the first cheesecake I have ever made and I chose the recipe because 1.) Ina Garten said it never cracks in the middle 2.) it doesn't require a hot water bath.

I'd love to tell you I have lots of beauty shots of making the cake and the finished cake but the truth is I made it late one night and then we had friends over the next day so the majority was consumed very quickly. It is quite good. One friend, who does not like cheesecake, declared that it won her over because it's lighter than more traditional cheesecake and the addition of lemon gives it a rounder flavor (i.e. less like eating a brick of cream cheese).

That being said, you might call this more of a "crowd pleaser" cheesecake as those of you who love that super dense, cream-cheesey cheesecake might feel like you're missing the usual heaviness. However, you can definitely eat a slice of this after a meal and not feel really weighed down, which is a plus in my book. Serve it with strawberries and/or chocolate ganache and you'll send you dinner guests home happy!

Adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Family Style

Note: Ina made a raspberry sauce for this cheesecake but Jared isn't a big raspberry fan so we had strawberries and ganache (see recipe below). Feel free to eat it plain or garnish it with whatever suits your fancy!

Serves 8-10

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (approximately 10 crackers)
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted

2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs, room temperature
2 extra-large egg yolks, room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the graham crackers, sugar and melted butter thoroughly. Place the mixture into a 9-inch springform pan and press them in, forming the bottom crust and going about 1 inch up the sides. I like to use a measuring cup with a flat bottom to make it really even. Bake the crust for 8 minutes then cool to room temperature.

2. Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Cream the cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the eggs and egg yolks two at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape the bowl as needed. Reduce the speed to low and add the sour cream, zest, and vanilla, mixing thoroughly. Pour the cream cheese mixture into the cooled crust.

3. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 225 degrees and bake for an additional 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn off the oven and open the door wide. Allow the cake to sit in the open over for 30 minutes. It won't look finished baking when you first open the door, but it will set up as it cools. Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool completely, about 2-3 hours. Store the cake in the refrigerator overnight. To remove the cake from the pan, run a hot knife around the outside to loosen the sides and remove. Simply serve the cake from the bottom of the springform pan.

Chocolate Ganache

8 oz good-quality semisweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream

1. Finely chop the chocolate and place in a medium, heat-proof bowl.

2. Heat the cream over medium heat until it's steaming but not boiling. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and allow it to stand for 5 minutes. This allows the cream to melt the chocolate. Mix the cream and chocolate mixture with a spatula until the mixture is dark and glossy. Pour over cheesecake, ice cream, etc. Store covered, in the refrigerator and reheat over low heat until fluid or scoop into balls and roll in cocoa powder to make truffles.

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