Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Best Cheesecake (clear throat) for any Birthday

Pagliacci's New York Cheesecake...made and photographed this year in St. Paul

I've made this cheesecake since, I think, 1984.  Almost always for Dave's birthday, but occasionally

for other special occasions.   I dressed it up with chocolate and toffee for Sean's 30th.  I think I even stirred in some pumpkin and topped it with cinnamon/salted crushed pecans one fall.  Dave, however, likes it plain, plein, with nada, nothing, nip, zip, zing, big 0.  Says it needs nothing but a fork.  He's probably right, but I throw a few berries or drizzle chocolate sauce on it for other folks.  I've been known to make a cranberry compote for it for Thanksgiving or a New Year's Day buffet.



Just a note about where this came from, though I didn't think about it for years.  I did vaguely remember a restaurant in Victoria, British Columbia and a bit of the story...but it wasn't until the internet became available that I went back and looked it all up.  Incredible:  the restaurant is still there (though I didn't have time to visit when we were in Victoria last spring) and the soup of the day (today) is Vegetable with Potato... also Split Pea with Ham.  And, you know, if you make something for long enough, it just becomes yours.  Even if you know it's  not.  Dave calls it "Alyce's Cheesecake."  And I've never changed the basic recipe, despite the above special occasion twists and tweaks.
   

How I wish I were a better photographer...but these colors don't lend themselves to food photography anyway.  You get the idea.
 Other people have sort of tagged on to the cheesecake over the years.  If you've lived near one of our 24 houses in July, you might have had some.  Some friends texted this last week to find out if, by chance, we were coming back to Colorado for the 4th...it might have been the cheesecake.

As The Solo Cook, you'll probably be invited to potlucks, dinners, picnics, etc., over the next how-many years. I freely give you permission to make and take YOUR cheesecake because:
  1. It's the best.  They'll love you.
  2. It's so easy to make, it's not funny.  There's no technique involved.
  3. You can't hardly ruin this.
  4. It's great any time of the year.
  5. It's flexible.  Forgiving.  Can be adapted to any flavor cheesecake.
  6. Can be made days and days ahead.
  7. Can be frozen for a month. (Cheesecakes freeze admirably well.)
Let me know if you make it!

You do need a 9" springform pan.  Yes, really, you must have it.
A food processor or an electric mixer (even a hand-held one) is a must unless you're Superman.
If you don't have a food processor for the graham cracker crumbs, you can buy them already crushed or put the crackers in a gallon sealed bag and pound or roll over them with a rolling pin.

Pagliacci's New York Cheesecake                                         

Crust

  • 1 1/4 cups graham wafer crumbs (I prefer vanilla wafer crumbs)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

Filling

                                                           Directions:
First:  Mix crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar and butter and press into a 10" spring form pan. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  1.  Preheat oven to 500º.  Make sure your oven is clean before you start!
  2.  Beat cream cheese with electric mixer in large bowl until very smooth. Blend in lemon juice and vanilla. Sift sugar, flour and salt together and gradually beat into cheese. Beat until creamy, smooth and light, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs and yolks one at a time. Blend in cream. Pour into crust.  Place filled pan on a  baking sheet. 
  3.  Bake 12 minutes.
  4.  Reduce oven temperature to 200º. Continue baking until tester inserted in centre comes out clean. The original recipe said for 45 minutes but I find (having made this at least 30 times in two different ovens) that it takes about 90 minutes. (You can also set the oven at 300 and it's a lot less time.  I think the 200 might have been a typo??)
  5.  Run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan. Cool cake completely and refrigerate at least 24 hours before serving. 


Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,
Alyce

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