Photograph by Tara O’Brady
From Yahoo Food’s Cookbook of the Week: Seven Spoons by Tara O’ Brady
An Uncomplicated Cheesecake
A cheesecake’s preparation is rife with dangers. Too-cold ingredients, over-beaten batters, temperature changes during and after baking, and insufficient resting time can cause cracks, pocked and spotted tops, and clammy centers.
To keep out of such harm’s way, start with truly room temperature ingredients for the filling (the ones for the topping should be cold). Beat the cheese until absolutely, completely smooth, with repeated and attentive scraping down of the bowl and beaters. Only mix the eggs until incorporated, don’t let them gain volume, then bang the bowl against the counter to release any trapped air. Pour the custard into a partly baked shell and then send it to the oven, doubly wrapped in foil but without a water bath. No multiple cooking temperatures, just a long, low bake, and a slow cooling-down process.
The finish is sublimely velvety, a cake that maintains the dairy’s lactic tang and rightness. It’s a cake that makes friends.
Makes a 9-inch (23 cm) cheesecake
5 ounces (140 g) digestive biscuits, crushed in a food processor (see Note)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 pounds (910 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
1⅓ cups (270 g) granulated sugar
Pinch of fine-grain sea salt
4 eggs, at room temperature
⅓ cup (80 ml) sour cream (not nonfat), at room temperature
⅓ cup (80 ml) heavy cream, at room temperature
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
⅔ cup (160 ml) sour cream (not nonfat), cold
⅔ cup (160 ml) heavy cream, cold
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
NOTE: Find digestive biscuits wherever British foods are sold, or use the same weight of graham crackers if digestives can’t be found. I often swap a Mediterranean-style, full-fat yogurt for the sour cream in both the cake and the topping. Since brands vary wildly on consistency, I’m reluctant to promote the replacement as foolproof, but I mention it as a possibility.
Preheat an oven to 325°F (160°C) with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Wrap a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan with a double layer of aluminum foil, shiny side out.
To make the crust, use a fork to combine the crushed digestive biscuits, sugar, and butter in a bowl. Press the crumb mixture across the bottom of the prepared pan, then place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until barely toasted, 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
While the crust cools, prepare the filling. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed until fluffy and smooth, 4 minutes or so. Stop the machine, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and beat for 1 minute more. Turn the speed to medium-low and gradually add the granulated sugar and salt. Continue beating until the mixture is creamy and free of lumps, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, 3 to 5 minutes more. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the bowl and beater after each egg. Add the sour cream, heavy cream, and vanilla, and beat for 2 minutes. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and knock against the counter a few times to release any trapped air; let the filling stand for a couple of minutes to give any bubbles a chance to rise to the surface.
Pour the filling into the cooled crust, then run the tip of a thin knife between the filling and the edge of the pan, to a depth of about ½ inch (1.3 cm). Bake without opening the oven door until the cheesecake is firm at the edges and still has a lazy wave at the center if jiggled, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn off the oven, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the cheesecake rest for 15 minutes. Then transfer the cheesecake to a wire rack to cool to room temperature. Remove the foil, then refrigerate the cheesecake for at least 4 hours. It can then be covered with plastic wrap and stored for up to 3 days.
To make the topping, in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the sour cream, heavy cream, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla to soft peaks. Spread the cream over the cold cheesecake; return to the fridge to set for 90 minutes.
To serve, run a thin offset spatula between the cake and sides of the pan and remove the sides. Slip an offset spatula beneath the bottom crust and slide onto a serving plate. Let stand for20 minutes, then slice with a hot, wet knife.
Reprinted with permission from Seven Spoons by Tara O’Brady (Ten Speed Press).
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