March 13, 2007
I suppose it follows that if you're a freak for cheese, you're a freak for a good cheesecake. This is definitely true for me. I adore them both.
I think I must have tried almost a dozen different cheesecake recipes in my lifetime searching for the one. Not too long ago I followed a cheesecake recipe from the Philadelphia Cream Cheese Classic Recipes book, thinking this would yield the quintessential homemade cheesecake I was searching for. It was good but not great. The lack of greatness may have been due to my own shortcomings but I'm pretty confident I followed it to the tee. I'm far from being a professional or even seasoned baker though, so don't take my word for it. :)
Those jiggly gelatinous cheesecakes just don't do it for me. And while I prefer my cheesecake plain, you won't find me turning down the occasional fruit-topped one or any of those gourmet flavored cheesecakes either. I'm pretty easy to please as long as it's creamy. Oh and the crust must be good! I'm partial to graham cracker crusts, but am also eager to experiment using the wide variety of options out there like gingersnap cookie crusts- yum!
When I'm craving and too lazy to make my own, I turn to the old reliable cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory. You can pick up a pick up a frozen box at S & R (it's about P1,200 if I'm not mistaken) or buy them by the slice from The Old Spaghetti House. Recently I had the craving, but couldn't sleep so I consulted my new best bud Dorie then ordered 4 boxes of Philadelphia cream cheese from our neighborhood store - they deliver anything from candy bars to blank cds to ice to... you name it (yes, we are spoiled like that☺). I knew this was serious business, using 4 boxes like that. And it was. I practically had to lift the cake out of the oven with a crane! It was super heavy and very dense. Nope, nothing light and fluffy about this baby. The top took on a golden brown sheen, the crust had a nice crunch to it and the sides were bursting with cheesy creaminess ( I didn't bother smoothing them out, I like how that makes it look 'rustic'). It was in my opinion perfect in every way. It was creamy, it was velvety, it was rich, it was luxurious. This, this right here my friends is the stuff dreams are made of! Tall and creamy basic cheesecake:
recipe from : Baking, from my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan
for the crust:
1 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tbsps. sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
for the cheesecake:
2 lbs (four 8 oz. boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsps. pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sour cream (you can also use heavy cream or a combination of the two)
To make the crust:
Butter a 9-inch springform pan (with sides at least 2 inches high), and wrap the bottom of the pain in a double layer of aluminium foil.
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. Transfer into the springform pan & use your fingers to pat an even layer of crumbs over the bottom of the pan and about halfway up the sides. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven to 350° F.
Center a rack in the oven and place the springform pan on a baking sheet then bake for 10 minutes. Set the crust aside to cool on a rack while you make the cheesecake.
To make the cheesecake:
Boil some water.
Beat the cream cheese at medium speed until soft and creamy, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat for 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. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the sour cream.
Put the springform pan in a roasting pan that is large enough to hold the pan with some space around it.
Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure there is nothing left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape all of it into the springform pan. The batter may reach the rim of the pan. Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into it to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour & 30 minutes, at which point the top should be browned and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven and crack the oven door open a little, if needed you can prop the door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour.
After 1 hour, carefully remove the roasting pan out of the oven, then transfer the springform pan onto a cooling rack and allow it to come to room temperature. When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and refrigerate overnight.
At serving time, remove the sides of the springform pan and set the cake on a serving platter.
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Variety is the spice of life, so they say. And as much as I adore this basic recipe, I'd like to play around with some variations such as adding lemon for a lemon cheesecake, slipping a layer of berries in the middle - blueberry most likely, and using a gingersnap crust.
In her book, Dorie offers us some very helpful tips on making great cheesecake:
Prebake the crust: the 10-minute baking is what gives the curst it's nice crunch. For best results, slide the pan with the crust into the freezer first while you preheat the oven.
Mix like mad: for that flawlessly smooth texture that is the hallmark of a great cheesecake. Make sure to blend the batter until it is satiny, any lumps in the batter will not disappear during baking.
Cool the cake: cooling and then chilling the cake is as important a step in its preparation as baking.
Unmold it with care: run a blunt knife around the cake and then warm the sides of the pan with a hairdryer.