Sunday, 12 February 2012

New York Cheesecake

I'll get the sad truth out of the way first. This is not a recipe I have come up with, or even adapted. It is from Good Food magazine and I wouldn't dream of tweaking it even a little, as much as I love to fiddle around with recipes. It doesn't need flourishes, it's perfect as it is. The recipe is from Angela Nilson's Ultimate series, which is about her search to make the best version of a chosen dish. Obviously, perfection is subjective but every dish I have made from the series has become my ultimate version too, and are mentally catalogued in my head as failsafe recipes to be repeated whenever possible.

I looked up the recipe online recently, and came across a new version of it by the same author. She, or someone who is in charge at the Good Food magazine felt that it wasn't enough for it to be the ultimate cheesecake, it had to be a health food too. I used to be a regular reader of the magazine several years ago, but my interest petered out as the recipes became less about pleasurable cooking and eating and more about fitting each dish into the allowed levels of fat, sodium and calories. Yes, eating healthily is important, and I wouldn't advocate rich meals everyday. It's important to look after your body. But if I want a light pudding I'll eat fruit, perfect as it is,  instead of a shadow of a recipe.

Well, I could be wrong. A quick glance at the reviews tells me that the lighter version is popular, perhaps even preferable. Really I should make a version, if only out of academic interest. But the thought of making this when I could be having the original version seems such a waste.The point is missing. The only flavourings in New York Cheesecake are gentle hints of lemon and vanilla, so texture is key. How can you get the same unctuousness, the same mouth filling richness when you are removing the elements that make it so, i.e. the fat? Making the new version will save you 204 calories, but you'll lose out on the full fat experience. Over time, those extra calories won't count for anything. But if it bothers you,why not just do a few extra lengths in the swimming pool?

I could just post a link to the recipe, but I fear one day the page will be taken down and all we'll have left is a recipe for Cheesecake Lite. So just as much for me as you, I'll reproduce it here in my own words.
It's important you let the cream cheese, eggs and 200ml of the sour cream come to room temperature before you start, so take them put of the fridge about 2 hours before hand. Yesterday I made it for the first time without a freestanding mixer, as directed in the recipe. An electric hand whisk was my alternative, I've never made it using man power alone. It takes a lot of beating and whisking, so if you don't own either of these, first of all see if someone will lend you one. If not, make it with a friend so you can share the labour. If you cook with people around, someone will claim they want to help, so give them something to do.

For the base:
140g digestive biscuits
85g unsalted butter
1 tbsp caster sugar

For the filling:
900g full fat cream cheese
250g caster sugar
3 tbsp plain flour
pinch salt
zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
284ml  tub sour cream

For the topping:
142 ml sour cream
1 tbsp caster sugar
2 tsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line and grease a 23cm springform cake tin.

Crush the digestive biscuits to crumbs. You can use a food processor, or if you don't have one/ can't be bothered with the washing up, put the biscuits in a bowl and bash with the end of a rolling pin- it takes surprisingly little effort. Mix in the sugar. Melt the butter and mix into the biscuit crumbs. Press the mix over the base of the tin evenly. Bake for 10 minutes and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Turn the heat of the oven to 200C. Beat the cream cheese, either with the paddle attachment of a freestanding mixer, or with a wooden spoon. If you ignored the instruction to let it come to room temperature, you'll be regretting it now, especially if doing it by hand. Beat until it is creamy, about 2 minutes if using a mixer. Gradually beat in the sugar, then the salt and flour.

Switch the paddle attachment to the whisk, if using a mixer. If you are using a hand whisk, electric or otherwise, start using it now. Add the vanilla, lemon zest and juice, whisking in. Add the eggs and yolk one at a time, whisking after each addition. Remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl, do it twice after you add each egg. Beat in 200ml of the sour cream, and reserve the rest for the topping. When it is ready, the batter should be smooth, light and creamy.

Put the cake tin on a baking sheet. Pour the cheesecake mixture in, smoothing the top with a knife. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 110C and bake for a further 25 minutes. Turn the oven off, and leave the cheesecake in there for 2 hours. If you like a creamier texture, open the oven door. The surface may crack a little, but you are topping it later so don't worry about it.

Combine the reserved sour cream plus the 142ml tub with the sugar and lemon juice. Spread on top of the cheesecake evenly. Cover with foil, and allow to set in the fridge for at least 8 hours or overnight. Before you serve, run a knife round the edges of the cheesecake to loosen any parts stuck to the tin. Slide the base of the tin away from the crust.

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