Despite the fact that I’ve been on something of a cheesecake kick in the last couple of years, I’ve never been a big fan of cheesecake. I’ve made Chocolate Chip Cheesecake with Raspberry Sauce, Marbled Cheesecake, Peanut Butter Cheesecake with Ganache, and Mint Chocolate Cheesecake. Although some people raved about the taste of them, I was fine if I didn’t get any. I think it was only the Turtle Cheesecake that could have made me a convert, but there was enough chocolate and caramel to not dwell on the cheesecake much. Still, I often make a cheesecake at Easter and this year was no exception.
I decided I wanted something slightly different but wanted to serve it with fresh fruit so I didn’t want an overpowering flavor. I went with Meyer lemons (Meijer Meyer lemons, as I noted when someone asked where to find them!) It wasn’t until after I had already started mixing my typical cheesecake mixture that I wondered, “What would Dorie do?” so I pulled down my Baking book and, sure enough, she talks about cheesecake, even lemon. She adds sour cream and/or whipping cream to her batter and bakes it differently than I have done in the past (in a hot water bath rather than just a pan of water on the rack beneath it) and for much longer. I decided that I would give this a go. Although I may have been a little hesitant to try new methods on such a big day, I trusted Dorie to not lead me astray.
I think one of the failures people have with making cheesecake is not allowing it to beat long enough. I’ve had several people tell me they still have lumps of cream cheese in their batter and I always encourage beating until smooth and creamy. I was pleased to note that Dorie recommends beating the cheese for 4 min and another 4 min after the addition of the sugar, as well as a full minute after the addition of each egg. Talk about smooth and well aerated!
For the baking, I wrapped the base of the springform pan with two layers of Al foil and then placed it inside my 13 inch cast iron skillet and poured boiling water into the skillet until it reached 1/2 – 2/3 up the side of the springform pan. Dorie has you bake the cheesecake in this manner for 1 1/2 hours and then leave it in the bath for another hour with the oven turned off and the door propped open with a wooden spoon. By the time I finally opened the oven door, there was little to no water left in the water bath, so I’m not sure how much benefit it actually had from that. My greatest disappointment was in how brown the top was, not at all like the creamy white cheesecake pictured in the book. I think in the future I would cover the cheesecake with a loose foil tent to prevent browning. Since I wanted to serve it with fresh fruit, I just used that and some whipped cream garnish to masque the brown top. (The sides were creamy white, I didn’t cut anything off — the lines you see on the sides below are from running a hot knife around the sides to slip it from the springform pan.) But the texture! Ooooh, man, did this cheesecake have perfect texture! This could convert me to being a cheesecake lover.
Meyer Lemon Cheesecake with Fresh Fruit (most of the directions come from Baking, pp. 235-237)
Graham Cracker Crust:
1 3/4 c. graham cracker crumbs
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 c. melted butter
Stir together ingredients. Press into the bottom and slightly up the sides of a 10-inch springform pan. Bake at 350 F. for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool while mixing the cheesecake.
4.5 8-oz packages of cream cheese, softened
1 1/3 c. vanilla sugar
1/2 t. salt
2 t. vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
zest and juice of Meyer lemon
1 c. whipping cream
In a larger mixing bowl, beat cream cheese at medium speed until soft and creamy (about 4 min). Add the sugar and salt and continue to beat for another 4 minutes or until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for a full minute after each addition. Add the zest and juice of lemon. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the whipping cream.
Cover the base of the springform pan with two layers of aluminum foil. Place the pan inside a larger pan. Pour the batter into the springform pan. It should reach nearly to the rim of the pan. Place the pans in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the outer pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, at which point the top should be browned and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven and prop the oven door open with a wooden soon. Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour.
After 1 hour, carefully pull the setup out of the oven, lifte the spring form pan out of the outer pan — be careful, there may be some hot water in the aluminum foil — and remove the foil. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.
When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, overnight is better.
I decorated mine with fresh fruit and sweetened whipped cream about 12 hours after it was baked and about 12 hours before it was served.