Sunday, October 14, 2012
A Seriously Rich (NY) Cheesecake
Luxuriously smooth. Creamy. Dense. Sweet with a little tang. This is the New York Cheesecake that's really world famous. It's pure in that there are no fancy flavours or ingredients added (not that there is anything wrong with a chocolate Oreo cheesecake or a strawberry-stuffed cheesecake). No, the New York Cheesecake just has lots of cheese (cream cheese, not ricotta), lots of eggs, some cream and sugar. The cake sits on a thin crust and is baked until the cheese batter is set.
The New York Cheesecake was said to have been created by Arnold Reuben, who ran the Turf Restaurant in New York City. He apparently tasted a cheese pie at someone's home, loved it so much, went back and experimented a whole lot until he created a cheesecake made from cream cheese (cheesecakes pre-Reuben apparently used cottage cheese). Now according to an article in Saveur magazine, Reuben's recipe was fodder for his competitor, restaurateur Leo Linderman who lured Reuben's pastry chef away to his eatery — Lindy's — and together they created what we know today as the iconic New York Cheesecake.
No matter. A big thanks goes out to the two gentlemen (and the anonymous pastry chef) for this masterpiece. I love this cake. So dense and creamy and not too sweet and a little tangy. Oh yum.
I followed the recipe for the Lindy's Cheesecake which appeared in Saveur. I followed the recipe but I changed the measurements a little here and there. I've made baked cream cheese cakes before but this one was unique in several ways.
1. The crust. No biscuits are used in this cake crust. It's more of a pastry crust using flour, butter, salt, lemon zest and sugar. The recipe requires 1 cup flour, 120g butter (cold and cubed), 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp lemon zest, 1 egg yolk, 1/4 tsp salt and 1 vanilla bean (cut, seeds scraped out). I ended up using a little more flour (maybe 2-3 tbsp more) which made it easier to handle. I also left out the vanilla bean and instead added just a little more zest. The quantity of dough you end up with may seem too little to fill the bottom of your 9 inch springform pan but don't worry: the crust is SUPPOSED to be THIN.
2. The heat. The cake is initially baked on very high heat. The recipe calls for the oven to be set at 500F first which translates to 260C. That's about the highest heat my oven can go up to. I was a little hesitant but I followed the recipe nonetheless. You only bake it on this high heat for about 15 mins or until the top begins to brown. After that, you drastically reduce the heat to 90C (200F) and bake for an hour.
My Experience: In 13 mins, which was when I checked on the cake, the top of my cake had not just "begun" to brown, it had completely browned. So the tip is to know your oven and work around its quirks. Mine heats up fast from the top so I should have kept a closer watch on the cake and turned the heat down at 11 or 12 mins. No matter the taste of the cake didn't suffer, it just looked tanned. Like me. Yeah, I know, that was lame.
3. The baking time. The recipe says the cake should be taken out of the oven after it has just set: about an hour and fifteen minutes total baking time (including the 15 mins on high heat). After an hour and fifteen minutes the middle of my cake was still wet. Not utterly watery but it hadn't set. So I ended up baking mine for 15-20 mins more. Ideally the cake should still be a little wobbly inside; it will set as it cools and later chills. But mine was a little too wet in the centre. After the extra 15 or so mins, it was just nice. Still stuck to the tester (it is a creamy cake after all) but wit was not runny-wet.
4. Long time to set. You'd think that once the cake has cooled out of the oven you can eat it, right? Nope this baby needs to be chilled. For AT LEAST 8 hours, preferably overnight. I didn't read the recipe through to the end and so I started making it at 3pm for a dinner party I was hosting at night. so, the cake came out after 5pm. It took an hour and a half to completely cool on the counter and so I could only chill it at about 7pm. Needless to say, we didn't eat the cake last night. Thank goodness I had some pound cake I'd baked the day before to serve for dessert. Oh well. Lesson to learn: ALWAYS read through the recipe.
5. The cake is good enough to be eaten on its own but I made a simple strawberry sauce to go with it. Just quarter some strawberries, heat them on low heat with some water and sugar until the fruits get soft and the sauce thickens. Mash the fruits or leave them in pieces, to your preference. (For about 1 cup cut strawberries, I used 2 tbsp sugar and about 1/3 cup water)
(Adapted from Saveur)
For the crust
1 cup flour (I used about 1 cup + 3 tbsp)
120g cold butter, cubed
1 tsp lemon zest (I added another tsp)
1 egg yolk
1/4 tsp salt
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped for use (I omitted this)
1115g cream cheese, softened at room temp (I used 1000g cos that's all I had)
11/4 cups sugar
3 tbsp flour
3 tbsp orange and lemon zest, equal amounts (I only used lemon)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 whole eggs + 2 egg yolks
1/4 cup heavy cream
Make the filling first. Whisk together the flour, zest and salt in a bowl. Add the sugar, vanilla (if using) and butter and using your fingers mix together (as you would when making a pie crust) to form a dough. Chill for at least 30 mins.
Preheat the oven to 260C. In your mixer, beat the cream cheese till smooth. Add the sugar, flour, zest and vanilla and continue beating on high speed till smooth. Reduce speed to medium and add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition till incorporated. Remove from mixer and stir in the cream. Mix well to combine.
Grease a 9-inch springform pan.
Take the dough for the crust out of the fridge. Press the dough onto the base of your 9inch springform pan, allowing the crust to come up to the sides a little.
Place the pan on a baking sheet (the butter from the crust may seep out) and pour the batter into the pan.
Bake on high heat for about 12-15 mins till the top of the cake starts to brown. Reduce the heat to 90C and bake for 60-80 mins or till cake has set.
Remove from oven to cook on the counter. Once cool, chill for at least 8 hours or overnight.