I've been meaning to post more recipes on the Journal this year, so when our good friend Marc's birthday arrived and we heard he always has cheesecake on his birthday, we had to surprise him with my favorite cheesecake recipe. So here you go, we finally recorded it!
I've been experimenting with this recipe for over 6 years now. I don't like my desserts too sweet, so this isn't your average sickly sweet treat, but a more balanced cheesecake that I like to imagine is closer to the recipe I'd find in my idealized version of the South. Back in college, it was probably the first cake I made after a 2-year stint of veganism. Kind of amazing now that I think of it, because after so many years without it I remember taking quite a bit of time to find milk/dairy appealing, but I guess I never lost my love of cheesecake!
Many like to say they aren't bakers, just not good at it, but I think with just a few starting points you'll find you have the basic tools to experiment on your own. I tend to seek out great foundational recipes to build off of and experiment with, many of which come from David Lebovitz. If you aren't already familiar, he's an amazing pastry chef who bridges the best of the American and French culinary worlds with a long history at Chez Panisse in Berkeley and a current residence in Paris.
The foundation of this particular recipe originates from his Marscapone Cheesecake included in the book Ripe for Dessert. My additions include a small amount of lemon, a substitute for gingersnap as the crust, and a light Black Currant Glaze.
Note: The preparation time for this recipe is about 30 minutes, the bake time totals around 90 minutes, and the cake needs to cool for an absolute minimum of 3 hours before serving, preferably 6-8 hours. Necessary tools include a 9" Springform Pan and a microplane for zesting the Lemon.
16-oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/4 cups raw sugar 1 tsp pure vanilla
5 large eggs, room temperature
16-oz mascarpone, room temperature (substitute: sour cream)
1 Meyer Lemon, zested
1/2 Meyer Lemon, squeezed
2 cups crushed Anna's Gingersnap Cookies
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup 'Scandinavian Delights' Black Currant Jam (substitute: a natural Blackberry Jam)
1/2 Meyer Lemon, squeezed
1 tbsp Agave Syrup or to taste (substitute: simple syrup)
The crust comes first, so pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (we will lower this later for the actual cake). Our crust is made using Anna's Gingersnap cookies, these can be found in most major groceries and even convenient stores. They're a classic Swedish company and cookies that I've loved since childhood. To grind the cookies, I generally take a large ziplock bag and put about 1 and a half packages of the cookies inside. Crush using a rolling pin to a medium/fine texture. This should give you around 2 cups of crumbs. In a medium bowl, mix the crumbs with the butter until all are incorporated. Add a little more butter if any dry spots are found as you want to make sure the crust sticks together well.
Once mixed, make sure you are using a buttered 9" Springform pan. Parchment paper helps on the bottom, but isn't as necessary with this crust. Pour all the crust into the pan and using a large spoon, spread it evenly along the bottom and up the sides. You'll want it about 1/4" thick in most areas. The thickest part will be where the bottom connects to the sides, you can pile it a little thicker there in the corners to create a smooth, curved transition.
Bake for 10 minutes.
While the crust bakes, you can begin mixing the filling. First, we mix the cream cheese and sugar. Everything should be at room temperature so that they incorporate easier. On this first step, I use an immersion blender on low (also know as a stick blender) to get things started. You don't want to overdo the mixing or else the cake with have too much air and crack or produce bubbles. I actually did overmix this time as I was in a hurry, so you will see a little example of what that causes at the end here.
Once blended, add the vanilla and each egg one at a time. Again, don't overdo it, just hand fold the mixture with a spatula or spoon until each ingredient is incorporated.
Once the eggs are in, add your Marscapone if available, or honestly, sour cream does a great job as well. If you can't find or don't want to make an extra trip to a specialty store for the marscapone, sour cream will not disappoint.
Lastly, add the lemon! We *must* use a microplane to zest the lemon. If you attempt to use a regular grater you will dig too deep in the skin and get a less than pleasant blend of tastes. You only want to scrape the top yellow surface to reveal the white below while scraping as little of the white as possible. I tend to move around the lemon, zesting each area only once until I'm back where I started. After zesting, cut the same lemon in half, juice one half into the batter and save the other half for the glaze. Mix until incorporated.
Below, you will see the bubbles that I've created from overmixing. If you encounter this by accident, try gently tap the mixing bowl on the counter to let some of the extra air to escape and the bubbles to pop before baking.
Now that your crust should be done, if not already, lower the oven temperature to 325 Fahrenheit. While the oven cools, pour your filling on top of the crust and prepare to a waterbath for the cheesecake to bake inside. This helps it slowly and evenly so you don't have cracked sides or an underbaked center. To make the waterbath, find a large pot or baking pan that's at least 2 inches wider than the Springform on all sides and has walls at least 2 inches high. Wrap the bottom/sides of the Springform pan in one large piece of aluminum foil so that no water can leak inside. Place the Springform pan inside and fill the outside area of the larger pan with enough warm water to reach halfway up the sides of the Springform.
Bake for 55 minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, turn the oven off and let the cake rest inside for another 20-30 minutes. It is ready to cool once the center is set with a solid surface on top but still jiggles when moved.
Carefully remove from the oven and waterbath and allow it to cool for at least 20 minutes before covering and cooling the refrigerator. If you must, it's usually fine to eat after 3 hours, but it's safest to cool for at least 6-8 hours.
Here you will see the small bubbles/cracks that mine had from overmixing. It's not the end of the world and won't affect taste on this one, but gently mixing and using the waterbath will help eliminate these.
Once it's cool, gently use a butter knife to release any edges that are sticking the pan and then unlock the side of the Springform. If you've used parchment paper on the bottom, this will help you to carefully slide the cake onto another dish.
Finally you can apply your glaze mixture. The Black Currant Jam is one I discovered while living in Stockholm. It's so amazing, I was addicted to toast after that stay, but you can substitute a Blackberry or Blueberry Jam if you prefer. The brand is Scandinavian Delights when in the US, in Sweden the same brand is called "Den Gamle Fabrik" in "Svart Vinbär". You can either drizzle it over, or if you want to try a design, you can put the glaze in a ziplock bag, cut a tiny corner off, and use the bag as an application tool to create your design.