Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Baker's Corner: New York-Style Cheesecake

Those who know me well, will know that I am a sucker for cheesecake. Even if you don't know me well, all you have to do is head over the the recipe index on my blog and you may notice that there is already an American Chocolate Ripple Cheesecake, Japanese Cheesecake and a White Chocolate Yuzu Cheesecake recipe in the dessert gallery. I even have a recipe for Blackberry Cheesecake Brownies. That is pretty telling isn't it? 😁

What's not to love about cheesecake? If your answer is that you don't like cheese, then I'm sorry but I don't think we can ever be friends 😂 Jokes apart, the decadent taste and texture of cheesecake belies the fact that it is fairly simple to make. Cheesecake lovers know that they can enjoy this velvety smooth and creamy dessert anytime they want by stirring up a few basic ingredients including cream cheese, sugar and eggs, pouring it over a crust made of graham crackers or digestive biscuits and baking it till done. The only difficult part is waiting for the cheesecake to set in the fridge which takes a couple of hours! But then again, good things come to those who wait, right? 😜

So, why did I make cheesecake yet again you ask? Well aside from the fact that I don't need any excuse to make this dessert, I realized that I didn't have the classic New York-style cheesecake on the blog and in this recipe, I tried a few new tips and tricks that I hadn't in my other cheesecake recipes.

For starters, I pre-baked the crust for 10 mins. With my previous cheesecakes, I just chilled them in the fridge prior to pouring in the filling and baking. Pre-baking the crust made it firmer and crunchier. For the first time, I used graham crackers instead of digestive biscuits to make the crust and I finally understand why they are preferred. Much superior in terms of both texture and flavour.

A little bit of cornstarch or flour in the cheesecake batter is insurance against cracking and makes the cake easier to cut into clean slices, though it does change the texture of the cheesecake a bit. Starch makes the cheesecake more firm and sturdy, while a cheesecake that relies on eggs alone has a softer, super-creamy texture. I added flour in this recipe and yes, there were absolutely no cracks and I was able to get very clean slices. I agree that the texture was not as soft as when flour is not used but I still thought it was pretty good.



A water bath isn't mandatory if you use starch in your recipe. Many recipes even suggest baking a starchless cheesecake on its own (the American Chocolate Ripple Cheesecake and White Chocolate Yuzu Cheesecakes on the blog were baked in the oven sans a water bath), but for this cheesecake I did use a water bath just like how I did when I made the Japanese cheesecake. A water bath helps cook the cheesecake gently while also creating a steamy environment so the surface doesn't get too dry. It serves like a day spa for the cheesecake, and makes it supremely smooth and creamy. I have to concur! You don't need to be intimidated though - a water bath is not that hard. Just set the cheesecake in a roasting pan or other large baking dish, fill it with a few inches of boiling water, and put the whole contraption in the oven. The whole shebang takes a few minutes extra but is worth the effort. Wrapping the cheesecake pan in foil also helps keep any water from seeping through the cracks of the pan.

I also went a step further and made a fresh strawberry sauce. The sauce turned out lush, thick, bursting with fresh summer strawberry flavor and stunning in its ruby-red glory. The acidity from the strawberry sauce cuts through the richness of this dessert and makes for a perfect topping.

Creamy, sinful, non-stop bliss! Try it you guys 😊

New York-Style Cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce

Prep Time: 30-40 min; Cook Time: 60 min
Total Time: Slightly under 2 hrs (plus 1 hour cooling + 8 hours of refrigeration)
Servings: ~8
Recipe category: Western\Dessert
Recipe level: Intermediate
Recipe source: Adapted from here

Ingredients:

For the Crust:
1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, from 12 whole crackers
1/3 cup (5 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the Filling:
3 packages (each 250gm or 8-oz) full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon good-quality vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon packed lemon zest, from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1/4 cup full-fat sour cream

Other items needed:
8-inch springform pan
Heavy-duty aluminum foil
Strawberry sauce, for serving (optional, recipe provided below)

Method:

For the Crust:
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190 C) and set an oven rack in the lower middle position.

2. Wrap a 8-inch springform pan with one large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil such that it is covering the underside and extending all the way to the top. Repeat with another sheet of foil for double coverage. Spray the inside of the pan with nonstick cooking spray or grease well with butter.

3. To make the crust: In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar, and salt. Stir until well combined. Press the crumbs into an even layer on the the bottom of the prepared pan. Using the underside of a measuring cup to firmly press the crumbs down is a good trick. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, until set. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside.




4. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F (160 deg C). Set a kettle of water to boil.

5. To make the batter: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or beaters, beat the cream cheese, sugar, and flour together on medium speed until just smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to be sure the mixture is evenly combined. Add the vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt; beat on low speed until just combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed until incorporated, scraping the bowl as necessary. Mix in the sour cream. Make sure the batter is uniform but do not over-mix.






6. Make sure your oven has cooled to 325°F (160 deg C) before proceeding and then set the cheesecake pan in a large roasting pan. Pour the batter on top of the crust. Pour the boiling water into the large roasting pan to come about 1 inch up the side of the cake pan. Bake until the cake is just set, 1 hour (the cake should not look liquidy at all but will wobble just a bit when the pan is nudged; it will continue to cook as it cools).



7. Let the cheesecake sit in the turned-off oven with the door ajar for about half an hour, then place the roasting tray on a wire rack and let the cheesecake further cool down in the water bath for an additional half an hour until the water is just warm. Remove the springform pan from the water bath and discard the foil. If necessary, run a thin-bladed knife around the edge of the cake to make sure it's not sticking to the sides (which can cause cracks as it cools), then cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to cool for at least 8 hours or overnight.


8. To serve: Remove the sides of the springform pan. Serve the cheesecake right from the base of the pan; or, to transfer it to a serving platter, run a long, thin spatula between the crust and the pan bottom, and then use two large spatulas to carefully transfer the cheesecake to a serving dish. Slice with a very sharp knife, wiping the knife clean between slices. Serve with strawberry sauce (recipe below), if you like.


For the Strawberry Sauce:

Ingredients:

400gram strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

1. Keep 100 grams of the strawberries aside for later
2. In a medium saucepan, combine 300gram sliced strawberries, sugar and vanilla. Place over medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. The strawberries will release juice without any mashing required. Do NOT add any water. 
3. Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes or until sauce is thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, add in the remaining sliced strawberries and cool to room temperature. 
4. Refrigerate until needed. 

Keep in mind that the sauce will thicken up slightly as it cools and even more after refrigeration.



Notes:
  • Always buy full-fat cream cheese and sour cream. Cheesecake is not the place to skimp on calories by using the light versions of ingredients!
  • You can omit the lemon juice and lemon zest in the filling if you are not a fan of citrus notes in your cheesecake (I personally love it)
  • You can add a pinch of cinnamon powder to the graham cracker crust for additional flavour
  • Cooling the cheesecake after baking in the roasting pan is very important. If you don't have patience, you will end up with a cracked cheesecake
  • You HAVE to chill the cheesecake for at least 8 hours. Overnight will be ideal. 
  • Making Ahead: The cheesecake can be made and stored in the springform pan in the fridge, tightly covered with plastic wrap, up to two days ahead of time. The cheesecake may also be frozen for up to 3 months
  • To freeze: place the cake in the freezer briefly, unwrapped, to firm it up. Then double-wrap it tightly with aluminum foil or plastic freezer wrap, or place it in heavy-duty freezer bag
  • If fresh strawberries are not in season, you can use frozen berries instead. Just let them thaw and chop them up before measuring
  • You can use an assortment of berries to make the sauce - strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries

Cheers,
Megha

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