Cheesecake Triumph!

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Springform Pan with the walls loosened from th...

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I married an Italian man, which means it’s all about the food. In his family—and thus in mine—there is no better way to offend a person than to attack his or her family gastronomic traditions.

I have developed into an opinionated, confirmed recipe fiddler. Christian is always teasing me for turning a tuna casserole recipe into beef Bourgogne, but you know what? Good cooks fiddle, tweak, and personalize.

Enter cheesecakes. I have been trying to make a good cheesecake ever since we got married. Every time I see a new recipe, I look to see what’s new from the last one I saw. But guess what? I finally hit jackpot—and I’m going to share today!

I tweaked this recipe off of My First Kitchen, who adapted it from Chaos in the Kitchen. (There, see? I’m not the only recipe fiddler!) Mostly, my adaptations made things slightly less damaging to the waistline. (Slightly.)

Crust:

2 c. graham cracker crumbs
½ c. butter, melted
Some unspecified, but generous, portion of cinnamon. Good cinnamon. Like Penzey’s.

Mix together and press into the bottom of a springform pan.

Filling:

2 bars of Neufchatel (i.e. “low fat cream”) cheese, room temp (very important!)
1 bar of full-fat cream cheese, room temp (very important!)
1 ½ c. white sugar
2 tsp. good quality vanilla (like Penzey’s; believe me, it does make a difference)
3 large eggs
3 T. cornstarch
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1 c. 2% or whole milk
½ tsp. salt
2 T. lemon juice

Mix the cream cheese, sugar & vanilla at high speed until creamy. The only way you’ll get this is if the cheese is room temp. first. Otherwise, it’ll just be clumpy. Turn the mixer to low and add the eggs one at a time, waiting until each is incorporated before adding another. Add the cornstarch, cream & milk and mix together till mostly worked in. Turn up to high and beat for several minutes, till fluffy. Add lemon juice and mix until just combined.

Oven 325 for more than an hour. I can’t be too specific, but here are the baking tips:

  1. “Water bath.” This means set the cake in a larger pan and fill the pan with water about halfway up the sides of the springform. This diffuses the heat, and supposedly prevents cracks as well as giving the cake a creamier texture & lighter texture.
  2. Bake “until it looks set.” Cheesecakes still jiggle in the center when they’re done—Kendra says “Jiggle like Jello.” Another thing to look for is tiny cracks at the edge of the cake. That was what I had to look for to know it was done. And those tiny cracks did seal as it cooled.

What makes this cheesecake so special is twofold: taste (thanks to the salt & the lemon juice) and it’s moist (thanks, I believe, to the cream/milk). Almost all my cheesecakes have been dry on the tongue, and this one was not. Heaven. Heaven on a fork. Seriously.

Go forth and bake!