Dorie Greenspan’s Cheesecake
So yesterday was my best friend’s birthday. We first met a little less than 3 years ago, when we were both transfer students into the university that we’ll be graduating from in a little less than two weeks. I was lucky in that aspect—most of the other people in our transfer group were what I’ll call less than kindred spirits. But Abbey, she’s a good one. I mean, she lets me make her perhaps the fattiest, most calorically-dense treat for her birthday AND she lets me capitalize on it by taking photos of it and putting it up here to show it off.
But in all seriousness, she is one of the best friends I could ask for. Although we’ve lived in the same house together for the past two years, very soon we’ll both be off—her, to travel the world and me … to figure out how to travel the world. So I suppose that this birthday celebration of hers, and mine next week, are all wrapped up in the same end-of-the-year whirlwind of trying to come to grips with all the bittersweet feelings that come with any really big ending (and beginning). It’s a strange grab-bag of emotions.
Anyway, so a big celebration calls for a big celebration treat. I’m pretty sure this is one of her favorite desserts, and it’s also one of mine. And, come to think of it, I think it’s pretty high up there on everyone’s favorite dessert list. And if it’s not, it at least should be. It’s a universal good. I’m willing to say it’s better than cake, and better than any kind of birthday cake you can think up (I think it beats last year’s, but I guess I’d have to leave that ultimate judgement up to my friend).
I decided to make Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for tall, creamy cheesecake, mostly because how can one not trust Dorie on these matters? But, I’m not going to lie, the pictures on this site’s creation of the recipe is what really sold me. One grocery trip and a combination of cream cheese, butter, sour cream, eggs, and heavy cream later, I too had my own creation of the recipe. I really liked it, and my friend loves it, so it was a complete success. But, with that being said, I don’t know if it’s my ideal cheesecake. It is creamy, airy, and smooth. It has a delicious flavor, and it feels dangerously light enough to want to eat a quarter of the thing in one sitting. Which is all really good, but I think I’d prefer the type of cheesecake that is insanely dense, and extremely thick. I’m thinking it might be more along the lines of this one, by Smitten Kitchen? Anyone ever try that one?
Also, a couple more notes regarding this recipe: I think if I were to do it again, I would either make the crust one layer on the bottom, without pressing it up along the sides, or I’d make it thinner so that it can go completely up to the top of the sides of the cheesecake. For some reason, I think either of those options would look more elegant. Also, in case you haven’t noticed, that weird little swooshy design along the sides of the crust are due to my running-the-knife-along-the-sides skills when trying to loosen the cheesecake from the springform pan. It was completely accidental, but I think it actually looks pretty cool. It’s what my friend Abbey would call a “happy mistake” (she went to a Waldorf school as a child, if that means anything to you). Also! I didn’t have a roasting pan big enough to hold the springform pan in for a water bath or bain-marie, so I just placed a big pan full of water on the rack below the cheesecake while it was in the oven—I hope this somehow served as a substitute, but I have a feeling this cheesecake would have been even better if it were able to have a proper water bath.
With those extensive qualifications, I think it’s important to note that it is a really, really good cheesecake. It looks dreamy (or at least I think so), and it tastes like it too. It doesn’t feature any other flavors but vanilla, and I think the creamy, smooth filling with the tangy (and addicting) sour cream topping makes for a taste that’s really satisfying, and pure. I think it’s a classic cheesecake.
PS: Song pick of the week is Wolf Parade’s I’ll Believe in Anything. It is goooood. (I kind of really like this thing I’ve gotten into, where I share a song if I feel like it. I’ve been reading a lot of Hungry and Frozen lately and she always shares what music is inspiring her at the time she’s writing the post and I really like the vibes it gives. Am I transgressing my boundaries by telling you what to listen to, on top of what to eat? Maybe, but I enjoy it! So there!
One Year Ago: Strawberry Cream Cake
Graham Cracker Crust
1 3/4 cups (I believe something like 210 grams) graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons butter, melted
2 pounds (4 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sour cream or heavy cream, or a combination of the two
Sour Cream Topping
2 cups sour cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan; wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil. Set aside.
To make the crust, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and salt. Pour over the melted butter and, using your hands, mix it together until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Turn the mixture out into the prepared springform pan and, using your fingers or the edge of something hard like a measuring cup, pat the mixture into an even layer along the bottom of the pan (and up the sides a little bit too, if you’d like). Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until the crust begins to get ever-so-slightly brown and fragrant. Once the crust is removed, lower the oven to 325 degrees F. Set the crust aside to cool while you prepare the cheesecake filling.
To prepare the filling, first prepare a big kettle-full of water for boiling. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the room-tempurature cream cheese at medium speed until it’s soft, smooth and lightened, about 3 or 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt, and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the mixture is even more lightened! Beat in the vanilla, followed by the eggs, one by one, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl as you go and beating for a full minute between each egg addition. The batter should be “well-aerated.” On a low speed, add in the sour cream and heavy cream and stir until fully combined. Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula to make sure the mixture is well combined.
Place the foil-wrapped springform pan in a large roasting pan. Scrape the batter into the pan, over the crust. If you have a somewhat standard 9-inch springform pan, the batter should just reach the brim. Place the roasting pan, holding the unbaked cheesecake, in the oven. With the oven door open, carefully pour the boiled water into the roasting pan so that it reaches just halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
Bake the cheesecake in the 325 degree oven for an hour and 30 minutes, until the cheesecake has risen and puffed up above the rim of the pan and has gotten slightly browned at parts (it may even have some little cracks). Turn off the oven and prop the oven door open. Let the cheesecake rest in the cooling oven for another hour—this prevents any major cracks on the cheesecake, I think.
After an hour, carefully pull the roasting pan out of the oven, making sure not to slosh any water onto the precious cheesecake! Carefully lift the springform pan out of the water bath and let the cheesecake cool on a wire rack until it comes to room temperature.
Once the cake is cool, cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and chill the cake (I know, the waiting! it never ends!) for at least 4 hours, or overnight. When ready to serve, run a butter knife along the edges and carefully open the springform latch and remove the pan sides.
For the sour cream topping, combine the sour cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl until well mixed. Dollop the mixture on top of the chilled cheesecake and smooth it out into an even layer. Store the cheesecake in the fridge, and always serve cold.
Happy Birthday, Abbey! x