Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Cheesecake... my specialty.

My mom has her cornbread, my aunt Evelyn has her broccoli & potato casserole, my aunt Rita had her pecan pie, and I...well, I have cheesecake.

It all started when I was a kid.. when I was around 7 or 8, I remember my mom buying a turtle cheesecake to go with our christmas dinner. It was the first time I had ever had cheesecake that didn't come out of a box and it was marvelous. So, for years we had this cheesecake every christmas. We looked forward to it, almost as much as our presents!

A few years ago, I was watching the food network (as I often do) and caught an episode of Tyler's Ultimate about Cheesecakes. I printed the recipe and made my first cheesecake and it was so easy and it was amazing! I mean, like the perfect cheesecake. Light and moist (I don't like dry cheescakes), creamy and mild. It was a hit and since then, I've made the recipe at least 20 times. It's foolproof. I've overcooked it, I've undercooked it and it still always tastes incredible. My mom has made the recipe and just dumped all the ingredients in at once instead of following the directions and it was still delicious. I've even made a low carb version with a pecan crust and splenda. Delicious. Now, I always make it with splenda instead of sugar. Why add the extra calories when it tastes great without!

So, without further ado... here is the recipe. It's quick, easy, cheap, and fantastic!

Ultimate Cheesecake
Recipe Courtesy of Tyler Florence

2 cups finely ground graham crackers
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 stick of unsalted butter, melted

1 pound of cream cheese, 2 (8 oz) blocks, softened
3 eggs
1 cup sugar (I use a cup of splenda)
1 pint sour cream
1 lemon, zested
1 dash of vanilla extract (I actually measure 1 tsp)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and put on some water to boil because the cheesecake cooks in a water bath.

For the crust, in a mixnig bowl, combine the ingredients with a fork until evenly moistened. Lightly coat the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan with non-stick cooking spray. Then cover the outside of the pan with lots of layers of foil tightly, to keep the water bath from soaking into the cheesecake.

Pour the crumbs into the pan and, using the bottom of a measuring cup or the smooth bottom of a glass, press the crumbs down into the base and up the sides of the pan to your desired crust thickness. (I usually bring it almost all the way up the sides). Refrigerate for 5 minutes.

For the filling, In the bowl of an electric mixer (I use a food processor), beat the cream cheese on low speed for 1 minute until creamy and free of lumps. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and continue to beat slowly until combined. Gradually add the sugar and beat until creamy, for 1 to 2 minutes.

Add sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Periodically scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beaters. The batter should be well-mixed but not overbeaten. Pour the filling into the crust-lined pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Place the cake pan in a large roasting pan. Pour the boiling water into the raosting pan until the water is abuot hafway up the sides of the cheesecake pan. Bake for 45 minutes. The cheesecake should still jiggle (it will firm up after chilling), so be careful not to overcook. Let cook in pan for 30 minutes. Chill in the refrigerator, loosely covered, for at least 4 hours.

We usually serve with a side of strawberries that have been cut and soaked with splenda. The original recipe seen here has an awesome lemon blueberry topping that I serve on the side sometimes, too.