Friday, June 11, 2010

New York Style Cheesecake.... THE ultimate cake!

Cheesecakes have been around since Roman times but they used ricotta or Neufchatel cheese in France which is one of the oldest cheeses around. Then cottage cheese and Mascarpone was used as well.... along came cream cheese after 1754 and it became popular since you could have it fresh without the need for ripening the cheese and was more practical. Now, all types of cheese are easily available and it's mostly your preference, or where you are, that determines what cheese is used. In NY it's Cream Cheese but in Little Italy, Ricotta reigns supreme.

I'm always up for a challenge and if I see a dish on TV or in a restaurant that "calls to me", I make it a project and set about to recreate it.... it's fun to discern the ingredients and come up with the right combination of items that make something out of the ordinary; plus it gives me something creative to do, we all know what they say about "idle hands......" A long time ago I began on the idea of perfecting a NY Style Cheesecake and off I went, along the way I tried all the other types as well and I can say that at my house we love the Italian version best followed by the NY one with the sour cream top.

It might sound kind of weird to most people but the truth is I get some of my best ideas in dreams, I work out some of my best plans during sleep and there's nothing like waking up in the morning with new ideas ready to be perfected; dreams to me are my blackboard, I can jot stuff down, erase it or change it around and work on it until I get it to be the way I want. No nightmares for me anymore since I learned how to control my dreams, now they always end just the way I want them to. Especially when I have something in mind, I'll take my time and "consult it with my pillow"..... works for me.

The recipe I'm posting today has come as a result of my dream projects and has taken a while to get finished but I can now tell you that this one works and you can expect to get good results. My "guinea pigs" (my guys, lol) agree..... I've been adding, changing, refining this for a long time and even though all the versions have been good, I always thought it could be better, but you know when I knew to just leave it alone? When it's cut to the basics with nothing extra added, just good natural ingredients made in the simplest way. You'll find many, many similar recipes all over for this cake, some with less cream cheese and more cream, more flour or this or that; this version works for me using any old oven (gas or electric), no fancy pans or imported ingredients, generic brands and dump it in a bowl, mix it up and stick it in the oven kind of procedure....

Don't let the ingredients or this long drawn out post scare you, it's very easy and gives fantastic results. I just thought that it needed a really clear explanation that's all. Once you read through it you will be able to see that it's simple and straightforward and you can just follow along. Once you decide to make this cheesecake, gather your ingredients and leave them out on the kitchen counter for a while, (I do it early in the morning, bake it in the afternoon, let it cool overnight and Voila! it's ready the next day! I should also mention I prepare it on the sly so my guys don't know what I'm up to, they have a problem with the waiting until tomorrow requirement so I just hide it at the bottom of the fridge and cover it up with a plate of something- I also do this when I make flan) everything needs to be room temperature. Again, this cheesecake is like flan, you can't eat it the same day- it's a next day kind of thing for it to be amazing, ok? Otherwise it will just be "meh.." So plan ahead and let's go.... It's worth it.

Old Fashioned New York Style Cheesecake.- Who doesn't like cheesecake? Not anyone I know, that's for sure.... Smooth, super creamy, fast and easy to make plus I don't think there is any way to screw this one up either!.....

We cannot talk about cheesecakes without telling you about possible problems you might encounter along the way, mainly the questions of how do we prevent the top cracking and how do you know when the cheesecake is done? First, let's talk about cracks on the top of a cheesecake, a very common problem caused by over beating the batter and/or over baking. Here's some tips: to prevent cracks make sure you beat the ingredients at low speed, you don't want to incorporate a lot of air into the batter, you only want to beat the ingredients until they are nice and smooth.

As far as the over baking goes, a lot of people find it hard to tell when a cheesecake is done. All you need to remember is that you want the cheesecake to be firm but, if you shake the pan gently, it should still giggle a little, and the center will still look a little wet. Never mind how long it's been in the oven, I can give you an idea but you'll have to check. Even though the center may not look fully cooked, once it cools it'll firm up and be the right consistency. All ovens are different, so use your oven thermometer and make sure. (I wing it and just keep checking) Cheesecakes need to cool, preferably overnight, so the flavors have time to meld and the texture becomes nice and firm. The great thing about cheesecake is that it stores very well and can also be frozen.

Tip: To freeze, place the cooled cheesecake on a baking pan and freeze, uncovered, until firm. Remove the cheesecake from the freezer, wrap it in heavy duty aluminum foil and place in a freezer bag. Seal and return to freezer. It can be frozen for several months. Thaw the uncovered cheesecake in the refrigerator overnight. So you might want to make a couple of cheesecakes at the same time, eat one and freeze the second one for later.....

2 cups graham wafer crumbs or finely crushed vanilla wafers or gingersnaps (process whole cookies in a food processor or blender until they are fine crumbs- I used Macaroon's)
1/4 cup granulated white sugar (I omit the sugar if using cookies, they're already sweet)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

4- 8 oz packages) cream cheese, room temperature (never use reduced or fat free cream cheese)
1 cup granulated white sugar
3 tbl all pu
rpose flour
5 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tbl lemon z
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sour cream (not low fat or fat free)
2 tbl granulated white sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Grease, or spray with Pam, a 9 inch (23 cm) springform pan. (I cut out a circle for the base of aluminum foil and place it shiny side up- I also cut 3 strips to cover the sides of the pan up to the top too. Then I spray again.) Place the springform pan on a larger baking pan or cookie sheet to catch any
leakage while the cheesecake is baking. (prevents dirty oven which I hate to clean) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) with rack in center of oven.
NOTE: Other recipes will tell you to use parchment paper to line the pan with but it's expensive and I try to keep everything within budget. You could leave out the lining too, your choice.

For Crust: In a medium sized bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Mix it well. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the springform pan. I use th
e bottom of a glass to press into place evenly. Cover and refrigerate while you make the filling.
NOTE: if you like the crust to come up all the way up the pan, make 2 1/2 cups of crumbs.

For Filling: In bowl of your electric mixer place the cream cheese, sugar, and flour. Beat on medium
or low speed until smooth (about 2 min), scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well (about 30 sec) after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the whipping cream, lemon zest, vanilla and beat until incorporated. Remove the crust from the refrigerator and pour in the filling. Place the cheesecake pan on a larger baking pan and place in the oven. Bake for 15 min and then lower the oven temperature to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C - don't open the oven door) and continue to bake for about 1 hour -after the hour, check the cake; if still too liquid all over the top leave to bake some more & check every 10 min or so until firm on the edge and only the center of the cheesecake looks a little wet and wobbly. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack. Don't turn off the oven.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the sour cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Spread this topping over the warm cheesecake and return to oven to bake for 15 more minutes. Remove from oven and carefully run a knife or spatula around the inside edge of pan to loosen the cheesecake (helps prevent the surface from cracking as it cools).
you went ahead and used the aluminum foil as I said you might not need to do this and you will see the cake separate from the edges by itself with no sticking. Let cool before covering with plastic wrap (make sure it touches the cake or you will get water drops on the plastic which will wet the sour cream- if this happens then take a paper napkin and gently dab the surface moisture until all gone) and refrigerating. This cheesecake tastes best after being refrigerated for at least a day. NY cheesecake doesn't need anything else, but you could add fresh fruit or sauces if you like.

I'll tell y
ou how to "fancy it up" later and turn a simple (what's simple about it, huh?) basic Cheesecake into a complex dessert by adding liquor, flavorings or any one of many variations you can give this wonderful cake. But for now, relish the wonderfully creamy and smooth Cheesecake you've made. It's a good thing! A definite entry into anyone's culinary repertoire! I've made Chocolate, Strawberry, Caramel, Marble, Lemon, Kahlua, Espresso..... large cakes or individual ones, formed into cheesecake bars or tart like, there's really no way NOT to have cheesecake! Just pick your favorite.....

I had purchased some amazing blackberries the day before at the farmer's market and decided to make a sauce with some of them by putting them in a small pan, adding some sugar and cooking them down and mashing them gently. I cooked it for about an hour over low heat until it was nice and thick and very nice. I added some whole blackberries on each slice of cheesecake when I served it along with a dollop of whipped cream. (Hey! If you're going to sin, might as well be worth it, right? It was more than fabulous!......) Take care, talk soon..............

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