Monday, November 2, 2015

My Favorite Cheesecake

I am very picky when it comes to cheesecake.  Very picky.  I think I can trace back my fastidious nature toward cheesecake back to a recipe my mother and I came across in Southern Living when I was about nine or ten years old.  It has been so long ago in fact that my effort to give proper credit to Southern Living for the recipe has come up with zero finds.  Back before we had easy access to copy machines and the internet (or computers for that matter!), we tore pages out of magazines.  I made a hand-written copy of the recipe to carry with me forever and believe it or not it is still the only cheesecake recipe I will use.


My Favorite Cheesecake by Food Therapy
We first started making this recipe when we lived in Auburn, Alabama before Saturday football games.  Like all good SEC families, gameday Saturday began with company and food.  Lots of food.  We began cooking and baking the night before.  We'd have quite the spread laid out by Saturday morning.  Omelets, fresh fruit, sandwiches, salads, cookies, and of course my favorite cheesecake.  I secretly watched our guests eating the cheesecake and listen to them go on and on about how incredible it was.  I'd then sneak over to make sure to grab my piece and set it aside before it all disappeared.

My Favorite Cheesecake by Food Therapy
Over time, the cheesecake became our birthday tradition.  My brother always requested it for his birthday (I think he still does).  My husband later came to know said cheesecake and now makes the same request on his special day.  This past week my son, Aidan, decided that he didn't want a store-bought cake or any other type of cake for his birthday.  He wanted "my" cheesecake.  I felt so special.

My Favorite Cheesecake from Food Therapy

Okay, are you already asking when am I going to tell you what is so darn special about this particular recipe?  Actually, hang on just a bit because I feel the need to tell you first what I don't like about most cheesecakes you get in restaurants.  It's easier to begin there.  

There are two cheesecake camps: overly sweet and creamy or thick and full of waaayyyy too much cream cheese (think lump in your stomach kind of cheesecake).  The overly sweet camp usually finds that sweetness in the crust.  It's not so much in the actual cake as it is in the graham cracker crust.  I've come across crusts so full of sugar mixed in that you can actually see the crystals.  Add to that a little bit of butter and you've already overpowered the actual cheesecake.  Who wants that?  In the lump category, I think Cheesecake Factory.  I won't say I don't ever order cheesecake from the Factory, but, goodness! Who can even finish an entire slice? It's rich. Too rich. Yes, there is such a thing.  And, to be honest with you, there isn't much flavor to it in the long run.  Add in the ridiculous amounts of whipping cream and whatever else the heck you get for your favorite slice and you are done for the night with leftovers waiting for you the next day.
My Favorite Cheesecake by Food Therapy
So, what's so special about this recipe? First, the crust.  There is absolutely nothing special about this crust, which is really what you want in order to enjoy the actual cheesecake.  It's graham crackers.  That's it.  A sleeve a graham crackers ground up to bits in a blender until you have a powder with no lumps.  Simple.  Second,  the cheesecake.  There are actually very few ingredients in this recipe.  Two blocks of cream cheese, sugar, egg yolks, egg whites, lemon juice, and vanilla.  I mean how much more simple can it get.  The hardest part is the length of time you fold the egg whites in.  Yet, doing it perfectly without skimping yields the lightest and creamiest cheesecake you'll taste.  Third, the sour cream topping.  This is actually my favorite part.  After the cheesecake bakes, a topping with sour cream, sugar, and vanilla is added.  You bake for only 10 minutes more.  The topping is thin but it really does add just a tinge of tanginess to the cheesecake that makes it interesting.  It's not just a bland creamy cake on graham crackers.  It's a lemony, tangy cake made of cream cheese and balanced out on a graham cracker crust.

My Favorite Cheesecake was, indeed, a success at the party.  Every boy requested a piece of it over the chocolate cake I also made.  I kept two slices for Gary and Aidan and hid them in the fridge for the next night.  I think we need another special occasion very soon just so that I have a reason to make it again.


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My Favorite Cheesecake
A creamy, lemony cheesecake topped with a sour cream topping on a simple graham cracker crust.
Ingredients
  • 1 sleeve Graham Crackers
  • 2 8 ounce blocks Cream Cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cups Granulated Sugar
  • 4 Eggs, separated
  • 1 lemon Lemon Juice
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla

    For the topping:
  • 1 cup Sour Cream
  • 2 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla
Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9" springform pan by spraying a very light layer of cooking spray.
For the crust:
1. In a blender, add an entire sleeve of graham crackers. Break the crackers into smaller pieces to get it started. Grind the crackers into a powder and make sure you don't leave any large pieces.
2. Spread your graham crackers into the bottom of the springform pan. Press down on the crumbs to make the crust firm and compact. Set aside.
For the cheesecake:
1. In a mixing bowl and using your wire whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Move the egg whites to another bowl and set aside. Rinse out your mixing bowl.2. In the mixing bowl, beat at medium speed the softened cream cheese and the sugar. Beat until smooth and until you can't hear the graininess of the sugar.3. Add in the egg yolks, mixing thoroughly.4. Add in the lemon juice and vanilla. Blend until thoroughly mixed in, scraping down the sides as needed.5. Fold in the beaten egg whites to your cream cheese mixture. Fold for exactly 8 minutes. Your arms will be sore and you'll be ready to give up because 5 minutes in it will look well-mixed. Don't give up. The added time pumps air into the finished product and will yield a fluffier and creamy cheesecake in the end.6. Pour the mixture onto your graham cracker crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
For the topping:1. In a mixing bowl, combine the sour cream, sugar, and vanilla. Beat until mixed well and the sugar has dissolved.2. Pour the topping over the baked cheesecake, spreading evenly. Bake for an additional 10 minutes.3. Cool the cheesecake completely and then refrigerate for 12-24 hours.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8 servings