There’s No Cake In Cheesecake

This past week we celebrated our friend Rebecca’s birthday. She doesn’t like cake. I have known her for four years now, and it still amazes me. How do you not like cake? We are going to keep asking!

So, instead of cake, I made her a cheesecake. It happened to work out well since cheesecake was one of the monthly recipes for the Easy Bake cOven for April. I made a lemon base cheesecake, and instead of topping it with the lemon glaze, I used fresh strawberries and kiwi.

It’s been a long time since I made cheesecake! I also had never made a cheesecake without the water-bath technique. I decided to go ahead and try it without since the recipe said to… and the top cracked. Thankfully, I could cover it up with pretty fruit. No one seemed to care, and the cheesecake turned out well. I’d make this again, and it would be fun to try with the lemon glaze. I hope you enjoyed your birthday un-cake Rebecca!


Daring Bakers: Four Cheesecakes

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

I recently joined the group Daring Bakers. It is an online community of bakers who come together once a month and bake the same recipe. As you can see from my title, this month’s challenge was Cheesecake. Jenny chose this recipe and asked the bakers to be creative and alter the recipe however they wish by adding ingredients, changing the crust, or making an interesting topping. I decided this was the best challenge to break in my new 4″ mini spring form pans. Since we were supposed to get creative, and I had four pans to get creative with, I decided to make four versions of the Cheesecake:

Pistachio Crust with Basic Cheesecake filling + lemon zest
Pretzel Crust with Margerita Cheesecake filling
Graham Cracker Crust with Lemon Cheesecake filling + Blueberry Compote
Graham Cracker Crust with Vanilla Bean filling

I have had a recipe in my box for Pistachio Lime Tart for a while now and since I haven’t made it yet, I thought it was time to steal the idea for a Pistachio crust. Though the recipe is more like a pie dough for the tart, I made mine more like a typical cheesecake crust using about 2/3 pistachios and 1/3 graham crackers. It turned out really well with the basic cheesecake filling and lemon zest.

My other ideas for the cheesecakes were somewhat random. I liked the idea of lemon cheesecake and wanted to use up some lemons from my CSA box and decided to try a Blueberry Compote based on a recipe from a blog I follow. The lemon cheesecake could be a lot more lemony, but it was hard to tell how much to add to a 4″ pan. I think the addition of blueberries was not necessary, but interesting and varying from the regular lemon + raspberry combination. With a little tweaking this recipe will be successful.

I have also had a little vile of vanilla beans in my spice cabinet for too long and decided to break them open for the cheesecake. They are so expensive I kind of think of them as sacred – but am glad I took them off of their pedestal for this recipe. The addition of vanilla bean was delicious and not too overpowering and the left over pod will make a great addition to sugar.

The fourth cake – the Margarita – was inspired by my friend Joey. The fact that I have a huge weakness for Margaritas did not help my quest to make this recipe work. I used pretzels for the crust for the salty addition and added lime juice and zest and triple sec. Interesting is a good description. I think with a little makeover it would be lovely and very different.

Here is the recipe and below my variations.

Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake:

2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too – baker’s choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done – this can be hard to judge, but you’re looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don’t want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won’t crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Variations (for full 9″ cheesecake):

Lemon Cheesecake

Crust: Graham Cracker Crust

Add zest of 3 lemons
3 T lemon juice (no liquor)

Pistachio Cheesecake
1C finely ground pistachios
1/3 C graham cracker crumbs
1 T sugar (more if you like sweeter crust)

zest of 1 lemon

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake
Crust: Graham Cracker Crust

Add contents of 1 vanilla bean to filling
no liquour

Margarita Cheesecake (changes for next time)
Crust: Graham Cracker Crust
1T sugar
1tsp salt
no vanilla

zest of 3 limes
1/3 C lime juice
Substitute Orange Extract for Vanilla
1T Tequila

Coarse Salt with zest for garnish