Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Cheesecakes Galore

I love cakes, angel cakes, chocolate cakes, tipsy cakes and cupcakes, yet, cheesecakes hold a certain magic a marriage of sweet and salty, a love story on its own.
In the last week I have been experimenting with some different versions of cheesecakes. There is of course my mother’s recipe, the one that invokes childhood memories, helping mom in the kitchen after school, then eating the pie while still soft and gooey, I had problems waiting for it to firm. =) But, that seemed too easy, I needed to try something a bit more innovative, at least for me!

The first I tried is a strawberry swirl cheesecake, decorate it with berries on top and you have a cake worthy of any occasion.
Swirl Cake (Picture 1)

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 (10 ounce) packages frozen sweetened strawberries, thawed
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 eggs
1 tablespoon water

1. Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter. Press onto the bottom of an ungreased 9-in. spring form pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. In a blender or food processor, combine strawberries and cornstarch; cover and process until smooth. Pour into a saucepan; bring to a boil. Boil and stir for 2 minutes. Set aside 1/3 cup strawberry sauce; cool. Cover and refrigerate remaining sauce for serving.
3. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in milk. Add lemon juice; mix well. Add eggs; beat on low just until combined. Pour half of the cream cheese mixture over crust. Drop half of the reserved strawberry mixture by 1/2 teaspoonfuls onto cream cheese layer. Carefully spoon remaining cream cheese mixture over sauce. Drop remaining strawberry sauce by 1/2 teaspoonfuls on top. With a knife, cut through top layer only to swirl strawberry sauce.
4. Bake at 300 degrees F for 45-50 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight. Remove side of pan.
The other cake I found on the LA Times Food Section (truly the only reason, I buy the paper!)

Recipe: Tall and creamy cheesecake (Picture 2)
(I substituted some ingredients from my own pantry!!)
Butter for greasing the pan
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (substituted chocolate chips)
1 1/3 cups sugar plus 3 tablespoons, divided
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups mascarpone cheese, at room temperature (sour cream)
2 cups blackberries (dried cranberries)
1. Make the crust: Butter a 9-inch springform pan with sides at least 2 3/4 -inches high, and wrap the outside of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, walnuts, 3 tablespoons sugar and a pinch of salt. Pour in the melted butter and stir together, using your fingers or a fork, until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. Place the crust mixture into the springform pan and use your fingers to pat an even layer (about one-fourth-inch thick) of crumbs over the bottom of the pan and about halfway up the sides. Place the pan in the freezer while you heat the oven.
3. Center a rack in the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the prepared springform pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Set the crust aside to cool on a rack while you prepare the filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.
4. Using a stand mixer or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until soft and creamy, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the remaining sugar and one-half teaspoon salt and continue to beat until the cream cheese is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Run a spatula along the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is combined. Beat in the vanilla, then add the eggs one at a time, beating a full minute between each addition -- you want a well-aerated batter. Reduce the mixer to low and beat in the mascarpone. Run a spatula through the batter again to make sure everything is evenly incorporated.
5. Place the foil-lined springform pan in a roasting pan. Pour half of the batter into the springform pan. Gently drop the blackberries over the batter, then spoon the remaining batter over the berries and smooth out the top. Make sure that the batter comes no higher than the top of the pan; you might have just a little batter left over.
6. Place the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
7. Bake the cheesecake for 1 1/2 hours, until the top is browned (and perhaps cracked). Turn off the oven and prop the door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to sit in the water bath for an additional hour.
8. Remove the roasting pan from the oven, and remove the springform pan from its water bath. Carefully remove the foil from the springform pan, and cool the cheesecake to room temperature on a rack. Cover the top of the cooled cake lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
9. To remove the sides of the springform pan: Run a blunt knife around the sides of the pan, and then warm the sides of the pan lightly with a hair dryer before unmolding. To slice, run a long, thin knife under hot water then lightly wipe dry.

The final cake (Picture 3) I did was just a simple variation of the later. I simply substituted the sour cream for half ricotta and half mascarpone cheese. Delicious

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