Since the Ancient Greeks over 2,700 years ago, the cheesecake has been pleasing taste buds all over the world. Cheesecakes come in all forms, from graham cracker crusts to sponge cake, flavored with berries and fruit to chocolate, made with cream cheese, ricotta or quark. The sheer amount of options will make almost anyone happy, but usually no one is picky when eating a cheesecake.
There hardly exists a dessert that can compare to a cheesecake, in my opinion. I love the graham cracker crust, and the richness and the versatility of a cheesecake is incomparable. However, I wouldn’t say that cheesecake is easy to prepare, requiring a water bath, a spring form pan and a hefty amount of patience and self control.
I discovered my love affair with cheesecakes about a year and a half ago. It started as a feeling, but slowly developed into a fiery passion. I received Christmas gifts of a lemon zester and a spring form pan from a friend a year ago and I thought long and hard about what I could possibly do with these. There was only one thing that could happen: a lemon cheesecake. Chalk full of lemon zest and juice, so tangy and tart that it would make a normal person’s mouth pucker.
I tried it, I made it, but it was genuinely hard for me. Cheesecakes are one of the most temperamental desserts out there. You have to bake it in a water bath with tin foil spread over the bottom of the spring form pan with the water half way up the side of the pan. If the top of the cheesecake is cracked, it means it’s been baked too long. If it’s extremely loose and jiggles, then it’s under done. Only if the very middle jiggles, then more than likely it’s perfectly done.
As far as baking times, each oven is unique; with cheesecakes this is particularly true. There’s any number of factors when baking a cheesecake, electric or gas oven, convention or convection, distance from the heating elements, and even amount of water that’s in the water bath. So when cooking a cheesecake use the baking times as guidelines, checking often to see if your cake jiggles just right.
Don’t be deterred though, the reward is that perfectly cooked, extremely delicious cheesecake--and that’s a pretty swell prize in and of itself. The recipe this week is the recipe I originally used for my cheesecake using lemon, my favorite flavor in the world.
The recipe calls for a 10-inch spring form pan, but I’d also add a pan that you can fit the 10-inch spring form for the water bath. Remember to coat the outside of the spring form pan with tin foil to waterproof the cheesecake. Also, one lemon is enough to get the zest and juice.
· 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
· 1/4 cup sugar
· 1/3 cup butter, melted
· 4 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
· 1 1/4 cups sugar
· 4 eggs
· 1 tablespoon lemon juice
· 2 teaspoons lemon zest
· 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
· 1 tablespoon of lemon extract
1. In a bowl, combine crumbs and sugar; stir in butter. Press onto the bottom of a greased 10-in. spring form pan; set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, beating on low speed until just combined. Add lemon juice, peel and vanilla; beat just until blended. Pour into crust.
2. Bake at 350 degrees F for 55 minutes or until center is almost set. Remove from the oven; let stand for 5 minutes. Combine topping ingredients; spread over filling. Return to the oven for 5 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
3. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight. Remove sides of pan. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before slicing.