Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Decidedly Non-Vegan Cheesecake

*Optional title: Simple, Easy, So Good Cheesecake

I've been known to make a cheesecake now and then. Maybe once or twice a year. Since I have been doing that now for 25 years I have made quite a few. My first taste of the dessert came from a Mill Valley restaurant called Ali Baba's in the 1970s when I was a little girl. My parents and their friends would go there especially for the decadent sour cream cheesecake they offered. It was an indulgence that was made special by singling it out and celebrating it with good friends. 

My experimentations with cheesecake have run the gamut from savory to sweet and simple to complex. Crusts have included walnuts, pecans, pistachios, ginger snaps, and parmesan. Fillings have used sweet potatoes and smoked salmon, candied ginger, lemon zest, yogurt, ricotta, and cottage cheese. Some have been baked in a water bath and others haven't been baked at all. Some used multiple packages of cream cheese along with ricotta and seemed to weigh 10 pounds at completion! Some I've only made once and others are favorites that I return to.

The one I want to share today is a classic and very simple sour cream cheesecake recipe that brings to mind that first cheesecake I ever tasted. It isn't overly sweet or over the top. It is simple and divine. For obvious reasons cheesecake can only be enjoyed with impunity on an occasional basis. I've scaled this one down to where it makes a thin pie in a shallow 9 inch pie pan and only uses one 8 oz. package of cream cheese. It will serve 8 if you are having company and is not too big to make for the family on a special occasion (like the first snow of the year or someone losing their first tooth! :) )

Classic Sour Cream Cheesecake
Adapted from the original Joy of Cooking

1 cup graham cracker crumbs (8 full crackers)
3 T. powdered sugar
4.5 T. melted butter

2 medium or 1 extra large egg
1 8 ounce package of full fat cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 t. vanilla or lemon juice
1/2 t. salt

1 cup sour cream
1 T. sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
sprinkle of salt

Let the cream cheese come to room temperature before you begin (~2 hrs.). First make the crust. I use a Cuisinart to make quick work of the graham crackers but they could be crushed with a rolling pin in a plastic bag. Add melted butter and sugar to the graham cracker crumbs and stir well to moisten. Press mixture into the bottom of a 9 inch pie pan coming up the sides a little. (Optional: I then give it a quick spray with cooking spray covering the exposed pan so the cheesecake comes away easily. Also, if it is not a non-stick pan you may want to spray the bottom before you press the crust in.) Place in refrigerator to chill (15 or more minutes). 

Beat softened cream cheese in mixer then add hand-beaten eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt. It is okay if it is a bit lumpy. The softer the cream cheese the less lumpy it will be. Pour into chilled crust. Bake for 18-20 minutes at 375 degrees. Let cool to room temperature. Sprinkle a bit of cinnamon over the top if you like. When you are ready, pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Stir the sour cream, sugar, vanilla, and pinch of salt together and spread over the cooled pie. Place in hot oven for just 5 minutes to glaze the sour cream topping. Pull from oven and cool. Can be eaten at room temperature or chilled in refrigerator and then brought back close to room temp later.

Enjoy thoroughly!


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