the gregarious homebody

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Cheesecake

Back in the day, "and that day was a Wednesday," I made the 12 1/2 pounds of cream cheese version weekly

I've been making this same recipe ever since I got out of cooking school (a million years ago) and I have no idea where my friend and baking colleague Beth got it, who Judy is, or what exactly makes it so fabulous. And I don't care because it comes out perfect every single time. It's also adaptable; add some melted chocolate or some pumpkin or some lemon zest and Sambuca (you get the idea) and it's a different but still perfect cake. AND it freezes like a dream. Like I said, PERFECT!

2 1/2 lovely pounds of (*gasp!* Wegmans' brand) cream cheese

I've never been a very careful baker. Maybe that's why decorating a wedding cake is my least favorite thing to do. But with cheesecake, there has to be some care taken and I make sure I do it every time.

Before you even start, the cream cheese and the eggs must be room temperature. These ingredients above have been sitting on my counter for 4 hours. Don't let that scare you. Nothing will happen except your cake will be lump-free. You want this.

Now, you make the crust of your choice, pressing it into a springform pan that has been sprayed with Pam and lined in parchment. I don't have a crust recipe here because I don't use one. And my crust is different every time. Sorry.
Onto the rest of the cake!

When I add the sugar and flour to the cream cheese (the first step), I beat the crap out of it. And I scrape the crap out of it. And then I beat the crap out of it again. After that, I handle it as I would a baby---gently, lovingly, carefully. I know. At this point it's already annoying for you whip-it-together-bakers. But honestly, it's worth it.

So then you add the eggs. ONE AT A TIME, with careful, slowish beating until it's completely absorbed. And then you scrape the sides with a spatula and slowlyish beat it again. Then add the next egg, and so on. From here on, the remaining 2 ingredients get added the same way: slowly beat in. Scrape! Slowly beat again.

NOW, you think you're out of the woods with all this carefulness. NO! You may think you've scraped well. MWahahaha! Oh I've been there. But there is always a lump of cream cheese (even if it's small) lurking in there, waiting to plop down on all that creamy goodness, waiting to make a huge nasty crack in the oven. So, you do something a baker never does. You simply pour the batter into your waiting crust and let the residue in the bowl be.

beautiful, right? Don't be fooled. There could still be some lumpiness in that bowl.

Here's where you're salivating child/husband/dog comes in. Give them the bowl and the spatula. They'll scrape it alright. Right into there quivering-with-anticipation lips. Yeah, yeah, I know there are raw eggs that have been sitting on a counter for 4 hours in there. What can I say, I buy fresh eggs regularly and then I live dangerously.

Okay, you're almost there. Put it in a ridiculously low oven (the temperature in the recipe is not a typo and if you have a convection oven it's lower), set your timer for 1 hour, pour yourself a glass of something, pick up a book, and lie down on the couch. Or whatever it is you do when you're not baking. I rest.

When the timer goes off, you may peek at your cake. You might not be ready to take it out yet. Don't panic. Every oven is different. The way you'll know if it's done if it the edges have started to brown and the middle of the cake quivers a little bit (sort of in a jello-y way). If it really REALLY looks loose, close the door, pick up your book again, and set the timer for 10 more minutes.

When it IS only quivering a bit, turn off your oven. Don't take it out of the oven. Now this next part sounds weird, but it's important. You may think "Ha-HA. No cracks! I'm home-free. NO PROBLEM."

This is what the cheesecake wants you to think.

The next very important step is to take a non-serrated knife (a cake icing metal spatula is the perfect tool for this) and carefully place the tip along the edge of the cake, making sure it goes to bottom of the pan AND the side touches the side of the pan on the inside. Oh-so-carefully, making sure the edge of the knife keeps dragging along the edge of the pan, you drag the knife all the way around the circle of the cake. You're basically trying to free the edges of the cake, crust and all, from the sides of the pan. If you don't do that, as the cake cooks, the sides of the cake will adhere to the side of the pan and pull the center, making the dreaded crack.

Then close the door, leaving the cake inside, pick up your book and beverage of choice and go back to the couch. Your cake should sit inside for at least another 20 minutes.

I know that looks like a crack. It is. BUT IT'S TINY.

Now you can take it out of the oven. Put it in the fridge, brush your teeth, and try not to wake your snoring husband when you get into bed unless you want to. You are, after all, well-rested. teeheehee

Next day you'll thrill at the site or your cake. Really. You will! Now you'll see why it's all worth it, even before tasting it. Your cake is now a tough guy. Able to take flipping, freezing, almost anything. Now you take a piece of cardboard (I have cake boards) or a plate and place it on top of your cheesecake. Don't worry. It can take it. Flip it over and take the bottom of the pan off. It'll come off with no problem because you've lined the bottom of it with parchment paper. Parchment paper is as important to baking as butter and decent pans.
Peel off said parchment to reveal the cakes lovely brown bottom *snort*.

Now take your serving platter, put it on top of the exposed cake bottom (teehee) and flip it right-side-up. Now you can do lots of different things with. Top it with fresh fruit and an apricot glaze. Pour some ganache on top and let it drip down the sides. Or, do as I did today and keep it nude, simply wrap it in plastic, making sure to adhere plastic wrap to the sides tightly, and throw it in your freezer, telling your poor son he will DEFINITELY get the first piece a month from now.

Behold! A bad picture but a still-lovely cake.

Judy's Cheesecake
makes one 10-inch cake
2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons flour
5 whole eggs plus 2 yolks, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 285 degrees (250 degrees if a convection).
Combine cream cheese, sugar, and flour and beat until smooth and creamy. Add eggs and yolks, one at a time, scraping well in between each egg. Add vanilla and heavy cream, beating carefully until smooth.
Pour into prepared crust. Bake 1 hour or until top is only slightly quivering. Turn oven off and leave cake in the oven 20 minutes. Refrigerate cake overnight.


: add 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/3 cup Sambuca, and 2 teaspoons lemon zest
Pumpkin Marble: add 1/3 cup pumpkin, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg to 2/3 of the plain batter. Pour alternating pumpkin and plain batters into pan and swirl slightly to marblize.


Katherine Lee said...

Yummy! I love that first photo of the handwritten recipe. On another note, I'm so happy to have come across your lovely blog, and have added you to my blogroll over at Urban Flea. Cheers my dear!
xo Katherine aka. Urban Flea :)

jen said...


Katherine Lee said...

Thank you so much for the comment my lovely! Viva the Gregarious Homebody!
xo Katherine aka. Urban Flea :)

Anonymous said...

oh lord.... my weakness cheesecake

turned out yum!!


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