Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lemon Cheescake

I thought a good dessert for Mother's Day was a cheesecake, and when I asked my mom about it she enthusiastically agreed. I gave her the choice between strawberry topping or lemon curd, and she chose lemon, saying the strawberry was a little too... typical (she's a unique and classy lady). I really wanted to make the Cook's Illustrated New York style Cheesecake from March/April 2002 because my friend Emily swears by it, but I liked some elements of their Lemon Cheesecake from May/June 2003. There were differences in the ingredients and cooking method (the lemon one was much fussier, and also seemed to be aiming for a denser, wetter texture than I like in a cheesecake, with the New York style trying to have that cake-y texture at the edges, which I like). So this hybrid was born, and lo, it was very good.

Here are some points Jenean suggested I make when writing about this cheesecake:

- !!
- Light and creamy!
- Not like regular chessecake where you want to die after you've eaten a piece. After you've eaten a piece of this, you just want another piece.

We are a cheesecake loving family, no doubt, but everybody kind of lost their minds about this one. Jenean texted me super late the night we had it to say she's obsessed with it now.
So you should probably try it. Because of all the steps (relatively easy but there are several parts to it) and cooling down process, this is a good cake to make a day in advance. Take it out of the fridge to let it come to room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving it.

Light and Creamy Lemon Cheesecake
adapted from Cook's Illustrated as noted above

5 oz animal crackers
2 tbsp sugar
5 tbsp butter, melted, plus an additional 1 tbsp melted to brush the pan with

2 1/2 pounds cream cheese (5 blocks)
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz) sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp EACH finely grated lemon and orange zest*
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 large whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks

Lemon curd:
1/3 cup juice from 2 lemons**
2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cold, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
1 tbsp heavy cream***
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt

To make the crust:
Use the 1 tbsp of melted butter to grease up your 9 inch springform pan using a pastry brush. Preheat the oven to 325 and make sure your rack is in the middle of the oven.

pulse the animal crackers in the food processor until very finely ground. Add the sugar and pulse to combine. Turn the processor on and drizzle in the 5 tbsp of butter slowly, and pulse until it looks uniformly moist, like wet sand.

Press the cookie mixture into the bottom of the springform pan using a flat bottomed glass or similar to get it packed down and even.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, take it out to cool on a rack.

While it cools make the filling:
Turn the oven up to 500 degrees.

Cut the cream cheese into roughly 1 inch chunks and put them in your stand mixer bowl. The chunks need to sit at room temp for a while, so I waited to juice my lemons and zest my citrus until after I cut up the cream cheese.

Combine the sugar, the lemon juice, the zests, the sour cream, the vanilla and the salt in a bowl. Crack all your eggs and put them with the egg yolks in another bowl.

add a third of the sugar/juice mixture to the cream cheese cubes (which have sat out at room temp at least 30 minutes by now) and turn on the stand mixer to low to combine, then turn up a little more to beat until uniform. Stop the mixer and scrape the beater and the sides and bottom of the bowl well. Do the same with the remaining sugar/juice mixture, in two more parts. Add the eggs and yolks a couple at a time, again scraping the bowl and beater thoroughly between each addition.

Put the springform pan with your golden brown crust onto a big sheet pan or cookie sheet to make transfer easier. Pour the filling into the springform pan (I found I had too much filling, not sure why; it made a good snack, I confess). Put it in the 500 degree oven for 10 minutes. After ten minutes, turn the heat down to 200 WITHOUT OPENING THE OVEN DOOR**** and let bake for about an hour and a half, until and instant read thermometer registers about 150 degrees. I guess if you don't have one of those, you should look for the very middle of the cake to just barely reach the point where it doesn't jiggle. If you go so long the top cracks, you've gone too far, but it'll probably still be delicious.

Take the cake out and after 5 minutes, slide a thin knife all around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the sides, but leave the springform collar on. Cool all the way down at room temperature, 3 hours, about.

While the cake bakes, you can make/cool the lemon curd:
Heat the lemon juice in a non-reactive saucepan, till hot, not boiling (this will happen fast because it's not much juice). In a medium non-reactive bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolks (try to remove those little white things that stick to the edges of the yolks, if you don't, you'll need to strain the curd later). Gradually add the sugar, whisking the whole time vigorously. Whisking constantly, pour the hot lemon juice very slowly into the yolks (you risk lemony scrambled eggs if you aren't careful with this step). Return the lemon/egg mixture to the saucepan, and stir constantly, scraping every surface, with a heat resistant spatula or a wooden spoon, over medium heat, until it registers 170 on an instant read thermometer - it should thicken enough to cling to the spatula and leave a trail on the bottom which fills in quickly. This should take about 3 minutes. Remove it from the heat and stir in the cold butter cubes. Then add the cream, vanilla and salt and stir till combined. Pour into a bowl, cover with plastic (put it right down on the surface so a skin doesn't form and chill.

Once the cake and the curd are fully cool:
Scrape the curd onto the top of the cheesecake with the springform collar still on. using an offset spatula, smooth the curd over the whole top of the cake evenly. Cover the whole thing well with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours, preferably about 24 hours.

To serve:
Let the cake come to room temperature (about 20 minutes out of the fridge should do it). Remove the springform collar, slice into wedges, and serve. I bet a couple of raspberry would be awesome alongside this, but it was plenty great just like this.

*I recommend using the really tiny holes on a box grater - yes, it's super annoying to clean, but you get really fine zest that disappears beautifully into the filling, and doing it this way allows you to skip a fussy step cooks uses because of grating the zest on a microplane, which I really do not recommend because the chunks are too big.

**I substituted about a third of the lemon juice with orange juice, myself, and I don't recommend it, and won't do it again I don't think - I guess you need a specific acid level from the lemon juice to "denature" the proteins in the eggs and get the curd to set, and my curd very clearly did not set very well, and I blame the orange juice. It TASTED great, but it was a bit of a mess.

***I didn't have any heavy cream, but I did have an excess of cheesecake filling by the time I was making the curd, and I thought, well, THIS is creamy, right? So I used a tablespoon of the cheesecake filling instead of heavy cream. That could be another reason my curd didn't quite set up, don't you think?

****sorry for the all caps. I think you can save yourself some trouble (i.e. an extra 45 minutes of baking time) by paying attention to this point (which I, alas, failed to notice). I think if you open the oven door at this point, it loses a lot of heat, and causes you to have to bake the cake way longer than you would otherwise (or at least, this was my experience, and either that was the problem, or my oven temps are just way off (also possible, I should buy and in-oven thermometer).

1 comment:

  1. Its true, I am totally obsessed with this cheesecake and am very sad that it's all gone.