This post is not even remotely about quilts. But it’s my blog, and hey, I’m guessing that just as when I’ve posted about cats or babies, I think there’s a decent amount of overlapping interest.
Every year since 2000, at his request, I have made Dan a different flavor of cheesecake for his birthday. Although I had baked cheesecakes before, this annual project has given me a great deal of experience. Some years’ cheesecakes have been better than others, but I haven’t had any complete disasters; even the amazing imploding Brownie Bottom cheesecake still tasted good, as Rhonda can attest.
So when Alyssa asked for my cheesecake recipe, she gave me the motivation I needed to collate information I had scrawled across multiple pieces of ingredient-splashed paper, combining crossouts on recipe printouts with handwritten notes and some little tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years and putting it all into one document. This doesn’t represent every cheesecake variation I’ve made; some, like the aforementioned Brownie Bottom deviate from the pattern; some, like the Pistachio and the Key Lime cheesecakes require different base recipes altogether; and the White Russian cheesecake (where’s the money, Lebowski?) was so complicated that I need to lie down just thinking about it. But you can pretty much make your own Cheesecake Factory display case at home with just this one recipe and its variations, and look pretty impressive doing it. Enjoy!
Master Recipe for Cheesecake
4- 8 oz. packages of cream cheese
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups graham cracker (or other cookie) crumbs
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
Adjust one oven rack to middle position, with another below it. Preheat to 325 degrees, with a pan of water on the lower rack.
1. Bring all ingredients to room temperature. This makes for fewer lumps in the batter.
2. Crust: mix crumbs and sugar in a large bowl; add melted butter and mix to combine. Dump mixture into a 8″ springform pan and press with fingers across the bottom and 1/3-1/2 of the way up the sides. Take care not to let crust get too thick where it turns the corner to go up the sides. The crust does not need to be prebaked.
3. With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add sugar and beat at medium speed until fully combined, scraping down sides with a rubber spatula throughout. Add eggs, one at a time, continuing to scrape sides regularly, then vanilla, then sour cream.
4. Pour batter into springform pan over crumb crust and place on the middle rack of the oven. The oven should be very humid when opened and there should still be plenty of water in the pan on the lower rack. Bake until cake perimeter is set but center still jiggles, usually about 45-50 min. Turn off oven and leave oven door slightly open by a few inches, leaving the cheesecake in the oven for another 30 min.
5. Remove pan from oven and set on a wire rack to cool fully to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, 2-3 hours. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan to release cheesecake, then undo spring and remove side piece of the pan. Slice with a wet knife, rinsing between slices, and serve.
Chocolate cheesecake: Use chocolate cookies for crust. Melt 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips over low heat. When combining sugar with cream cheese, also add 1/3 cup baking cocoa. Add melted chocolate chips after adding sour cream.
Chocolate mint cheesecake: Same as chocolate, but substitute 11/2 teaspoon peppermint extract for the 2 tsp vanilla.
Marble cheesecake: Same as chocolate, except only melt 3/4 cups chocolate chips and do not add cocoa or chocolate until remaining batter is combined. Divide plain batter into two bowls, and add 1/4 cup cocoa and melted chocolate chips to one. Pour plain batter into springform pan, then add chocolate batter and swirl with a knife before baking.
Pumpkin cheesecake: Use gingersnaps for crust. Reduce to 3 packages of cream cheese and add 1 29-ounce can of 100% pure pumpkin along with 2 tsps. ground ginger, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon and 1/4 tsp. each ground nutmeg and allspice to recipe, substituting brown sugar for granulated and adding 1 additional egg.
Peanut butter cheesecake: Use vanilla wafers mixed with chopped peanuts for crust. Reduce to 3 packages of cream cheese and add 3/4 cup peanut butter and 2 cups melted peanut butter baking chips.
Peanut butter cup cheesecake: Use chocolate cookies for crust. Make peanut butter cheesecake, then when cool, top with 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips melted and combined with 1/4 cup heavy cream. Garnish with mini peanut butter cups.
Almond Joy: Use chocolate cookies for crust, with or without chopped toasted almond pieces. Substitute 11/4 teaspoons almond extract for the 2 tsp vanilla, and add 1/2 cup cream of coconut and 2/3 cup finely shredded coconut to the batter. When cool, top with 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips melted and combined with 1/4 cup heavy cream. Garnish with chopped toasted almonds and shredded coconut.
Liqueur-flavored cheesecakes: This recipe is wonderful for flavoring with 1/4 cup of any of the following (leave out the vanilla extract): Bailey’s Irish Cream; Amaretto; Kahlua; Godiva chocolate liqueur; Grand Marnier (orange); Chambord (raspberry.) Any of these works with either the plain master recipe or with the chocolate version… (yum!)
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