Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lemon Cheesecake

It is a testament to the phrase "practice makes perfect" that I was able to make a cheesecake without planning it all out ahead of time. So much of cooking is screwing it up for years until you finally get a feel for a dish. The trick for me was learning which cooking method I liked best, and trusting everything I'd read saying a cheesecake continues to set even after removing it from the oven.

At the last minute, Dad became available for Father's Day lunch. We needed chicken for the Thai Chicken Wraps I planned to make for lunch, so Jason and I headed to the grocery store. It was there I pondered what to make for dessert. Something with lemons was the obvious choice, but I'd already made him a Lemon Meringue Pie for his birthday, so that was out. I could do a cake, but cake never tastes as good days later, and there would certainly be leftovers since it was only the four of us eating lunch. Then it dawned on me: Lemon Cheesecake. We'd already planned to stay in for movie night (Midnight in Paris), so timing wouldn't be an issue. And cheesecake has the amazing ability to freeze perfectly so that when we didn't finish it, we could return from Alaska and eat frozen Lemon Cheesecake!

Lemon Cheesecake
Kelley Gondring

Preheat oven 500º

Combine in a medium bowl:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup sugar

Thoroughly mix so that all ingredients are well incorporated. Pour mixture into the springform pan. Spread crumbs evenly across the bottom, using your fingers to firmly pack. Place in refrigerator.

In an electric mixing bowl, add:
2 eight ounce packages cream cheese, softened
2 eight ounce packages reduced fat cream cheese, softened

Using the paddle attachment, mix at moderate speed for thirty seconds.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and slowly add:
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup whipping cream

Mix 1 1/2 minutes so that the ingredients are smooth and creamy. Half way through, scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Over beating the batter will result in it rising too much and then falling when it cools, so set a timer if necessary.

One at a time add:
4 large egg yolks*
Beat until yolk is incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and repeat.

*Funny story. We had exactly four eggs, which was perfect. No obnoxious extra trip to the store. There I am, separating the yolks from the whites over the sink. Normally, I save the whites and freeze them, but I have two entire containers of eggs whites in the freezer, so I decided to let these go. Bad idea. I was separating the second egg when both the yolk and white slid from the shell and down the drain. The lesson here? Don't separate yolks and whites over the sink, no matter how many years of practice you have. All that said, I risked using just the three yolks and it worked out fine.

Using a low speed, mix in:
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
zest from two lemons

until just incorporated.

Pour batter into the spring-form pan over top of the graham cracker crumb crust. Cover with a piece of aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 200º and bake for one hour.

Turn off the oven and use a wooden spoon to hold the oven door ajar (yes, the center of the cheesecake should still be jiggly in the middle). Let the cheesecake sit for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before refrigerating.

Refrigerate at least 12 hours before serving.

Decorate with whipped cream and lemon zest.

Eat up and wish your old man a "Happy Father's Day!"

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