I love cheesecake. Absolutely love it. I even remember my first experience with cheesecake--I was about five years old and visiting my aunt in New York. We went to a high-end restaurant in Manhattan and I ordered the cheesecake. The rest is history. I spent years selecting cheesecakes at every restaurant I went to (usually instead of a meal). I remember eating at The Cheesecake Factory when they were still cool and made their cheesecakes in-house, before they had a 100 page menu complete with ads. But I haven't made my own cheesecake for years (although I have three sizes of springform pans).
When I saw that the Shortbread crust (p. 667) was an option on the randomized list, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to make a New York-style cheesecake (p. 744). "New York" refers to the cooking method--extremely high heat followed by low heat.
Readers know that my main problem with baking recently has been the high altitude--I was hoping it wouldn't affect the cheesecake.
I made both recipes concurrently. The crust was easy. Flour, sugar, a little lemon zest, and a bit of salt were whisked together. A stick of butter was then mixed in. I used my pastry blender to mash it until it resembled coarse crumbs and then added an egg yolk.
The recipe asked for a nine inch pan. I only had a 8.5" and 9.5" pan. I decided that the smaller pan would be easier to fit in the refrigerator, so that's the one I used. I patted a third of the dough into the pan and then baked it.
The bottom crust came out beautifully!
The sides were then patted into the pan, making sure that the bottom crust was connected to the side crust. I realized as I was patting the crust that I didn't rebutter the pan--the recipe didn't call for it but I was really hoping that the sides wouldn't stick to the pan.
The cheesecake recipe was actually really easy. I took five packages of cream cheese (the expensive part of the recipe) and beat them until they are fluffy, then mixed in some sugar and flour (necessary if you want a denser texture, which I did). I then added in a little lemon zest (thank god for the microplane!) and vanilla, followed by five large eggs and two more yolks, one at a time. Finally, some heavy cream. Easy!
There are some important points to keep in mind--the ingredients should be room temperature because if they aren't you will probably end up overbeating the batter.
I poured the cheesecake into the crust. There was extra filling that I threw away, which is horrifying, but I didn't want to overfill the crust and didn't have a little pan.
The cake was baked for 15 minutes at FIVE HUNDRED DEGREES FAHRENHEIT. You might wonder why I capitalized that--it is such an enormously high temperature that you have to capitalize it. My stovetop was smoking. Then you lower the temperature to 200 degrees for an hour. Finally, the oven was turned off and the oven door was propped open (easy if you have an electric oven, more difficult if you have a gas oven) for another half hour.
The cake was capital letter BEAUTIFUL! It wasn't caved in the middle, it wasn't cracked, it was perfection.
I cooled it overnight in the refrigerator and popped the springform off--perfection! The crust looked beautiful! It didn't stick at all!
I know you are impressed--as you should be :) The cheesecake was creamy and flavorful. The texture was perfect--creamy but not like a Jello cake, dry but not too dry. The crust was amazing and I usually cut the crust off--like a thin cookie on the bottom of the cake. I loved it. I would make this again but for a bigger crowd than the two of us (we are eating a LOT of cheesecake).
But what is a cheesecake without toppings?? I made two.
First, Chocolate satin frosting (p. 796). I only made a half batch of this because I knew I didn't need the full three cups. A half cup of heavy cream was boiled in a small saucepan. Three ounces of unsweetened chocolate were then added (but not stirred in) and the pot was left off heat for exactly ten minutes.
When it was done, I added the chocolate mixture to sugar, butter, and vanilla.
And then processed until it was smooth.
Parts of it were a little gritty (probably because of the sugar) but the flavor was really good. It wasn't bitter (I don't like dark chocolate) and was really smooth. When I melted it, it was pourable. When it cooled it was the consistency of frosting. TJOC recommends smearing it on graham crackers--that would be absolutely delicious, especially with a marshmallow or two.
I also decided to make a fruit topping, specifically Fresh raspberry sauce (raspberry coulis) (p. 853). There are four coulis recipes in TJOC, which is hilarious because they are all exactly the same. Add a pint of fruit, some sugar, and a little lemon juice, and blend:
Strain (if need--this step is in the raspberry and blueberry recipes but not the strawberry or mango).
And it's done! You can probably tell that I used a half pint blackberries and a half pint raspberries (because that's what was on hand).
Incredibly delicious! An intense berry flavor, no seeds, a perfect compliment to the cheesecake. I will definitely make this again because it was so easy. It would be really good on ice cream too.