Sunday, October 24, 2010

Birthday Cheesecake


A dear friend recently had a birthday, and I determined that I would make her a cake.

My first thought was "cupcakes!"  And then I realized that cupcakes aren't really special anymore.  Pretty, trendy "cupcakeries" have sprouted up everywhere (and I mean everywhere - they even travel by truck), making the treats ubiquitous, and too common.  I'm ready for the cupcake era to be over (same goes for frozen yogurt).

So I turned in the opposite direction - to classic, old-fashioned, vintage cheesecake.  A cake with a crust of crushed graham crackers and melted butter, and a filling made from 2 1/2 pounds of cream cheese, 7 eggs, and 1 1/2 cups of sugar.  If that's not a celebratory food, I don't know what is.

The recipe for the crust and filling are courtesy of Ina Garten.  The topping/decoration, which is done before putting the cheesecake in the oven, is my contribution.  I took the incredible raspberry liqueur from Alameda, CA's St. George's Spirits (technically Aqua Perfecta Framboise Liqueur) and drizzled it in concentric circles on top of the cake.  With a butter knife, I drew lines from the center to the edge of the pan, making quarters.  Then I drew lines back towards the center, halving each of the quarters.  (Be sure to wipe the knife often so you don't mess up the pattern.  And don't cut deeper than you need to.)  Jamie Oliver does a nice job describing this technique in his White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake recipe - just another reason to be a fan of the man behind Food Revolution (check out his Ted Prize speech) and Jamie's Home Cooking Skills.

Barefoot Contessa Family Style (2002)

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (10 crackers)
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 whole extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the crust, combine the graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter until moistened. Pour into a 9-inch springform pan. With your hands, press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and about 1-inch up the sides. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.

To make the filling, cream the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and add the eggs and egg yolks, 2 at a time, mixing well. Scrape down the bowl and beater, as necessary. With the mixer on low, add the sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly and pour into the cooled crust.  If desired, drizzle a topping on the cake and create a pattern as described above.

Put the springform pan on a sheet pan (to catch any leaks).  Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 225 degrees F and bake for another 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and open the door wide. The cake will not be completely set in the center. Allow the cake to sit in the oven with the door open for 30 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and allow it to sit at room temperature for another 2 to 3 hours, until completely cooled. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the cake from the springform pan by carefully running a hot knife around the outside of the cake. Leave the cake on the bottom of the springform pan for serving.

Top with raspberries and refrigerate until ready to serve.

When I started business school, I had nonchalantly declared that I would, of course, be cooking and posting more frequently. The writing part has only been semi-fulfilled.  But the pleasant surprise is that fun food activities have become a regular part of the MBA experience.  From making Tortilla Espanola with Chorizo last weekend for my class ("cohort"), to running a "donuts on a string" eating competition yesterday at the Haas Cal football tailgate, to visiting Chez Panisse Cafe for lunch with the Haas Culinary Club, to planning a Macaroni & Cheese Feast (everyone brings their own variation) for next weekend, there have been few dull moments in my culinary life.


Alex Chou said...

my bday is 3/31!

i don't know how you have time to do all that! my blog has been dead for months

Lisa said...

My god! That's beautiful!