New York! New York!

Dense New York Cheesecake with Dark Morello Cherries
Whenever Mr. B and I go out, we're both keen to see what's on the dessert menu, but when it comes to actually ordering something, we're both pretty picky. It's not that we don't like sweets--we do--or that we can't appreciate a good chocolate cake or apple pie--we can--it's just that years ago, when we were 'regulars' at a restaurant close to our house, we were spoiled by real New York Cheese Cake.

In fact, the owner of the restaurant was such of fan of the real deal, that he had the cheesecakes flown in from New York's famed Carnegie Deli. The cheesecakes that Zagat said, were "the classic cheesecakes by which all others should be judged."

New York cheesecake is dense and rich, thick and golden; it stands tall in a buttery shortbread crust; there are no graham crackers in this recipe. Sometimes served with a fruit topping, in my opinion, this cheesecake is best eaten plain where every bit of rich, creamy, lightly sweetened heaven can slowly melt on the palate.

This is the cheesecake that I first made at 18 and that I've perfected all of these years later. I've used it to court Mr. B, to impress dinner guests,and to wrest favors from family members. While most purists will go to great lengths to avoid any cracks in the exterior, I like them--their caverns provide textural interest and for Mr. B, the little crevices are the perfect nooks where extra topping can pool.

This recipe comes straight from the pages of the Rombauers's Joy of Cooking (still one of the best cookbooks out there) and begins with the most captivating lines of any cooking narrative, "Do not be afraid of the extreme oven temperature..."

from The Joy of Cooking: 75th Anniversary Edition

Shortbread Crust
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Mix together flour, sugar and salt.
2. Using a pastry blender, or your fingers, mix in the softened butter.
3. Make a well in the center and add egg yolk, lemon juice, and vanilla; incorporate into the flour until dough forms.
4. Spray a Springform pan with nonstick cooking spray and gently, pat 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the pan and prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork; refrigerate for 30 minutes.
5. Wrap remaining dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
6. Remove Springform pan with dough from the fridge and bake in a 400 degree oven until golden brown (about 12-15 minutes); let cool then pat remaining dough up the sides of pan, making sure to connect the dough to the bottom crust.
7. Brush the bottom and sides with one well-beaten egg white; set aside and make batter.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

2 1/2 pounds of softened cream cheese
1 3/4 cup of sugar
3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup of heavy cream

1. Beat the cream cheese until smooth.
2. Beat in the sugar and flour.
3. Add the lemon peel and vanillan.
4. Beat in the eggs one at a time until incorporated, then beat in the egg yolks one at a time.
5. Stir in the heavy cream.
6. Pour batter into crust and gentle lift pan and thump against counter to disperse any air bubbles.
7. Bake in a 500 degree oven for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 200 degrees and bake for one hour.
8. Turn oven off and prop open door with the handle of a wooden spoon and let the cake cool in the oven for 30 minutes.
9. Remove cake to a wire rack and cool completely in the pan before unmolding.
10. Wrap cake and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving.


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