I truly enjoyed making this month's challenge. It gave me an excuse to break out the springform pan I got for Christmas that I had yet to use, and I had something special to serve to the company we had over Easter! The challenge directions were to get creative with the cheesecake, but since this was my first attempt at cheesecake I decided to go old school and make plain cheesecake with a fresh strawberry topping. So, let's get started...
I have a thing for graham cracker crust. I'm not a huge fan of pie crust, but I absolutely adore graham cracker crust. So much so that I took a picture of it while I was measuring out ingredients (above), and again once I got it into the pan (below). I'd read that all springforms will leak at one time or another, so I wrapped mine with foil, twice, as the good folks from Cooks' Illustrated advised me to do.
Now that my crust was ready and waiting to be filled, I moved on to making the cheeesecake. It was suprisingly simple, just add the ingredients and mix. What I didn't realize what that the tricky part was yet to come...
As you can see above, my cheesecake is mixed, poured into the pan, and ready for baking. The tricky part for me was the water bath. I live in an apartment and have a half size oven. Aside from my oven being too small to cook a frozen pizza, it's also a bit finicky on temperature. So my oven and I frequently discuss it's behavior and the myriad of things it can do to improve our relationship. So far, the oven is still winning. But today, I beat the oven. I needed to give my cheesecake a water bath so it would cook properly, and a roasting pan was the only thing that would fit and still hold enough water to come up the sides of the springform. The handles hit the sides of the pan, so I filled my pan with hot water and then added my cheesecake. Then I opened an oven with mitts up to my elbows and proceeded to put a roasting pan full of hot water and a sliding cheesecake (those handles didn't keep it too steady) into the oven. I was starting to understand why people do not frequenly make cheesecake at home. Sloshing hot water has never been a friend of mine.
Sloshing hot water aside, my cheesecake turned out beatifully! I topped it with a classic strawberry sauce, and it made the perfect Easter dessert.
Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup 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.