Friday, July 01, 2005

Best Cheesecake

Best Cheesecake

I don’t have a large repertoire of dessert recipes – I seldom eat them – but every time I make this cheesecake, I’m rewarded with “oohs” and “aahs” and people have talked about it for weeks afterwards.

I’m not certain where this recipe came from, but I recall a wonderful cheesecake served by a friend one sunny summer afternoon long ago. About six or seven of us mothers gathered on her lawn and, while our preschoolers romped in the grass and splashed in a shallow wading pool, we drank coffee poured from an antique Russian silver samovar and ate a marvellous cheesecake with fresh strawberries. Ever calorie conscious, each of us would take only one small sliver at a time, but by the end of the afternoon, nothing remained but a few crumbs on the platter. I suspect this is the recipe for that same cake. In any case, it’s come to be the cheesecake by which I judge all others.

Seasonal fresh fruits or berries make great accompaniments to the cheesecake. The last time I served it, I decorated the top with sliced kiwi and whole strawberries.

For the crust

1 1/2 cups graham wafer crumbs

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup sugar

For the filling

3 8-ounce packages regular cream cheese (not light or whipped), softened

4 large eggs

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the topping

2 cups sour cream (not light)

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Use 1 tablespoon of the softened butter to grease a 9-inch springform pan that is at least 3 inches deep.

In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the crumbs, the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter and the 1/3 cup sugar. Press the crumb mixture firmly and evenly onto the bottom of the pan and about 1 inch up the sides.

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the cup of sugar and vanilla extract until just combined.

Pour the filling into the crust and bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the pan placed on a rack for 5 minutes. Do not turn off the oven.

Meanwhile, make the sour cream topping by stirring together the sour cream, tablespoon of sugar and vanilla extract. Drop large spoonfuls of topping on the cake and spread them gently and evenly to form a smooth coating. Bake the cake for 10 minutes longer. Put the cake, still in its pan, back on the rack and let it cool completely. When cool, cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours, preferably overnight.

To serve, remove the sides of the springform pan and place the cake on a large plate. Let the cake stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving. Accompany each serving with fresh fruit and/or berries.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

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