I’ve been dreaming (and talking) about this #baketogether subject for months and I am so happy it’s finally February and I can post Cheesecake ~Your Way.
I’m expecting big twists from everyone for this month’s recipe. Hey, no pressure but .. I know cheesecake devotees are a loyal, opinionated and vocal group and the mere mention of cheesecake will immediately elicit as many opinions as there are voices. You know who you are. Some like their cheesecake filling dense, sweet and rich; some like it fluffy, tangy and light and still others prefer an Italian –style ricotta filling and that doesn’t begin to cover the zillions of different filling flavors, shapes, crusts, sizes, toppings and combinations there are to choose from. The beauty of my version of the classic is it’s chameleon-like personality – one recipe can take on the attributes of everyone’s personal favorites making it, perhaps, the perfect #baketogether recipe.
Let’s start with a quick rundown about this recipe:
This cheesecake consists of two, simple to prepare elements – crust and filling – making it a perfect recipe for all skill levels including newbie bakers.
⁃ The crumb crust can be made from any type of crisp cookie. Grahams, gingersnap and chocolate cookies are the norm but most markets and gourmet shops offer a wide variety so feel free to experiment. You’ll need a 9-inch springform pan. If you k=don’t have one, well, I think you should. The only skill needed here is to press the crumbs into the pan with just your fingers, plastic wrap and a flat-bottomed mug or measuring cup.
⁃ The filling is just as easy but there are a few tricks to making a luscious filling that bakes without cracking. First off, for a smooth filling, be sure to start with fresh (not old and expired), softened cream cheese and beat it, scraping down the sides and beater frequently, until no lumps remain. Once you start adding other ingredients, it is difficult to get rid of those pesky lumps without overworking your filling which can cause it to over puff and crack during baking and cooling (not good). Also, be sure to follow the doneness test and remove the cake when it wiggles like jello when nudged, the edges are puffed and the center still looks wet. The cake will continue to cook as it cools.
⁃ For BIG vanilla flavor, I use vanilla beans to flavor the filling. If you don’t want to fuss with scraping the seeds from the bean but you still want those pretty little seeds, you can use vanilla bean paste.Or, of course, you can just use pure vanilla extract.
OK.. how about a few suggestions for making this recipe your own:
⁃ Change the shape: Make it bigger or smaller. Make it a tart (I think I will) or Bars or Minis or how about a V-Day cheesecake for two.
⁃ Change the filling: Swap out the sour cream and add just about the same amount of of the ingredients like dulce de leche, pumpkin, peanut butter, ricotta, fruit puree or chocolate
⁃ Add more flavors: Match citrus; espresso powder; booze; ground spices with your filling to take it to the next level
⁃ Add a topping: This can add complexity to the cake as well as some high-wattage star power to the cake’s presentation. Anything from caramel /chocolate sauce to sweetened crème fraiche or fresh fruit to a bruleed sugar crust. Remember, this is the icing on your cake.
Here at #baketogether, we love all shapes and flavors equally so put on your thinking caps and start planing Cheesecake ~Your Way right now. If you need further guidance or inspiration, give me a holler or check out the options for a similar cheesecake I did for Fine Cooking a few years back.
A few #Baketogether reminders:
- Use this recipe as your starting point and twist and turn it anyway you’d like.
- In your post, link back to my original recipe & invite your readers to join our #baketogether – the more the merrier!
- Post your version & pix on your blog, Twitter & Instagram and FB pages by Feb 29 (or there abouts) so we can all see your version.
- Tweet & post Loud & Proud and we will all join in to share your wonderfulness with our readers, friends and followers.
- Leave me a comment so I know you’ve posted & don’t forget to use the linky thingy to add your post (below) for the round up.
- If you don’t have a blog, you can still join in the fun. Email me a pic & your switch-ins and I’ll add ’em to the post.
A couple of pix to help:
Line the bottom of the springform pan and clasp the outer ring onto the bottom, leaving the excess foil on the outside. This will come in handy for moving the cheesecake from the pan to a serving plate.
Cover the crumbs with plastic wrap and use your finger to press the crumbs to the sides of the pan. The plastic keeps the crumbs in the pan and off your fingers.
Use a flat bottomed measuring cup to press the crumbs onto the bottom and edges of the pan — still using the plastic:
Classic Vanilla Bean Cheesecake
Makes 12 to 14 servings.
For the crust:
• 2 cups (9 ounces) finely crushed graham cracker crumbs
• 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
• 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
▪ 3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, at room temperature
▪ 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
▪ Good pinch of table salt
▪ 1 1/3 cups (9 3/8 ounces) granulated sugar
▪ 3/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
▪ Seeds scraped from 3 large vanilla beans or 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or paste
▪ 4 large eggs, at room temperature
To make the crust:
1. Heat the oven to 375°F. Wrap the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with a piece of aluminum foil and clasp the outer ring over the foil so the edges hang outside the ring. In a medium bowl, stir together the cookie crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon until well blended. Drizzle with the melted butter and mix until well blended.
2. Dump the crumbs into the springform pan and cover with large piece of plastic wrap. Place your hands on the plastic wrap and press the crumbs about 2 1/2 inches up the sides of the pan.(The plastic wrap will keep the crumbs from sticking to your hands.) With the plastic wrap still in place, redistribute the remaining crumbs evenly over the bottom of the pan and firmly press down to make a compact layer. I like to use a metal measuring cup with straight sides and a flat bottom for this task.. Bake until the crumbs are fragrant, about 12 minutes and set on a rack to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.
To make the filling:
1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, flour and salt until very smooth and no lumps remain. It’s very important for the cream cheese to be lump free at this point so stop and scrape the beater and sides of the bowl frequently. Add the sugar, sour cream and vanilla seeds or extract and beat until well blended and smooth, stopping to scrape beater and bowl several times. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until just blended, stopping to scrape beater and bowl before each addition. (Don’t over beat the filling once the eggs have been added or the cheesecake will puff too much.) Tap the bowl several times on the counter to release some of the air bubbles. Pour the filling into the cooled crust. Using the tip of a small knife or a toothpick, pop any air bubbles on the surface.
2. Bake at 300°F until the center jiggles like jello when nudged, 63 to 68 minutes. The cake will be slightly puffed around the edges and the center will still look moist. Set on a rack and cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 8 hours or overnight or up to 3 days. The cake can also be frozen up to 1 month.
Have a flat serving plate ready and close by. Unclasp the pan’s ring, remove it, and using the excess foil, gently nudge and lift the cake to be sure it’s released. Using the foil, carefully lift the cheesecake and slide it onto the serving plate and center it.. Tear off one side of the foil close to the cheese cake. On the opposite side of the cake, gently pull the remaining foil out from the cheesecake. (If you are topping the cake with something yummy, do so now.) Run a thin knife under hot water, wipe it dry, and cut the cake into slices, heating and wiping the knife after every slice.