Apr 9, 2010

Vanilla Cheesecake


I come to you today with one of my very favorite desserts, cheesecake. It’s one of those desserts that connected with so many memories for me, like the years when my little brother was totally obsessed with it, he had to have it every time we went out to eat, and usually ended up licking the plate when he finished! It’s also the dessert I bake every year for my dad’s birthday. It’s delicious, rich and creamy, and pretty easy!

This is the most basic cheesecake recipe you can work with, but with a couple of touches that kick it up a bit. Firstly, start with really good ingredients, especially the cream cheese. That’s the only way you’re going to get a really fabulous cheesecake. Also, considering making your own graham crackers! It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s totally worth it. I made my own for the first time for this recipe, and it really added a lot of great flavor…

What’s great about cheesecake is you can top it with pretty much anything, fresh fruit, caramel, chocolate shavings, or my favorite, jam. I topped one a traditional cherry and the other with scrumptious orange-elderflower marmalade. Have fun with it!

from Baking Basics and Beyond

This will make one regular sized cheesecake, or about 4 of the small 4 inch ones like I made.


1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted


Three (3) 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla


Heat oven to 350 with oven rack in middle. Lightly grease sides of a 9 inch springform pan.

Crust: Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter in a medium bowl. Press crumbs into bottom and slightly upsides of prepared pan.

Filling: Beat cream cheese in bowl of a heavy duty mixer on medium speed until creamy and free of lumps. Scrape down sides of bowl. Gradually add 1 cup of sugar, scraping sides of bowl occasionally, and beat until smooth.

Reduce mixer speed to low and add eggs, one at a time, scraping sides of bowl after each egg is added. Add vanilla and beat just until smooth. Pour batter into crust and smooth the top.

Bake 38 to 43 minutes or until cake edge is set and center still jiggles. Remove cheesecake from oven.

After removing cheesecake from oven, run a small metal spatula around the edge to help prevent cracks. Cheesecakes need to be cooled slowly. Place them on the top of the oven for about 30 minutes and then let them cool to room temperature before refrigerating. Plan to refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

To serve, release sides of springform pan and place cheesecake on serving plate. Dip knife into warm water and wipe dry before cutting slices. Garnish with topping of your choice!

From Smitten Kitchen
Makes 10 4 x 4.5-inch graham crackers or 48 2-inch squares

This recipe will make way more than you need, but the crackers are so delicious, you won’t mind.


2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (375 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (176 grams) dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon (6 grams) baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt (4 grams)
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces or 100 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 cup (114 grams) mild-flavored honey, such as clover
5 tablespoons (77 grams) milk, full-fat is best
2 tablespoons (27 grams) pure vanilla extract

Topping (optional)
3 tablespoons (43 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) ground cinnamon


Make the dough: Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.
[Alternately, if you don't have a food processor or electric mixer, you can cut the ingredients together with a pastry blender. Just make sure they're very well incorporated.]
In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.

Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap and dust it lightly with flour, then turn the dough out onto it and pat it into a rectangle about 1-inch thick. Wrap it, then chill it until firm, about 2 hours or overnight. Meanwhile, prepare the topping, if using, by combining the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and setting aside.

Roll out the crackers: Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Trim the edges of the rectangle to 4 inches wide. Working with the shorter side of the rectangle parallel to the work surface, cut the strip every 4 1/2 inches to make 4 crackers.

Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the topping. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes in the fridge or 15 to 20 minutes in the freezer. Repeat with the second batch of dough. Finally, gather any scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and re-roll.

Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 350°F.
Decorate the crackers: Mark a vertical line down the middle of each cracker, being careful not to cut through the dough. Using a toothpick or skewer, prick the dough to form two dotted rows about 1/2 inch for each side of the dividing line.

Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.



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