Here they are, the innards of my cheesecake laid out for you to scrutinize. The layers are clearly visible, my new go-to crust of shortbread cookie dough over which sits a smooth and luscious lemony cheesecake. Then there are the raspberries, thickened into a sweet sludge singing of fresh fruit. It all works very well, every element playing its part in the symphony of joy happening in your mouth.
It took time for me to let go of the graham crust so often seen in cheesecakes and now that I have moved on, there is no going back. I love the sturdiness a cookie dough provides, allowing easy cutting and lifting, no crumbly detritus scattered on every plate. This cake cuts like a dream, with clean, crisp edges and nice delineations between the layers, each segment standing on its own merit and merging into a delectable whole. Also, the shortbread base can carry so many flavour possibilites, from toasted coconut to lemon, vanilla, chocolate or hazelnut, a lovely cookie foundation from which your cake rises up and gets noticed. Every ounce of your being is urging you to do it!
Makes one 10-inch cake, serving 12-14 people
Crust: 3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces; 1+3/4 cup all-purpose flour; 1/4 cup granulated sugar; 1/4 tsp. salt; 1 tsp. grated lemon zest; 1 egg, slightly beaten.
Filling: 1+1/2 pound cream cheese at room temperature; 1+1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided; 1 cup sour cream; 5 large eggs, at room temperature, separated; 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour; 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract; 2 tsp. grated orange zest; 1 tsp. grated lemon zest; 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice.
Topping: 1/2 - 1 cup granulated sugar, depending on the sweetness of the raspberries; 2 tbsp. cornstarch; 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice; 2 tsp. grated lemon zest; 1 pound raspberries.
Using a food processor or pastry cutter, process or cut the butter with the flour, sugar, salt and zest until mealy. Add egg and mix just until mixture begins to come together. Divide dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Roll out one piece of dough into a 10-inch circle. Place it onto the bottom of a buttered 10-inch springform pan and chill for 20 minutes. Roll out the remaining pastry into a strip 3-inches wide and line the sides of the pan with it, overlapping the bottom crust slightly. Trim the pastry just to the top of the pan. Chill while preparing the filling and topping. Reduce oven temperature to 350 F.
Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, sour cream and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add egg yolks, flour, vanilla, zests and lemon juice and beat until very smooth. Beat the egg whites with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar until soft peaks form. Fold into cheese mixture and turn into the prepared crust. Bake for 15 minutes then reduce oven setting to 225 F and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the cake is no longer shiny. Chill for at least 8 hours or overnight before slicing and serving.
For the topping, combine sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Stir in the lemon juice and zest. Mix until smooth and gently stir in the fruit. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the fruit releases some juice. Increase the temperature to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens and begins to boil. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly but being careful not to crush the fruit. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if needed. Cool slightly before pouring over the chilled cheesecake. Chill thoroughly before removing the cake from the pan or slicing. Store refrigerated in a closed container for up to 4 days.
Tips from me to you:
- It really is important to have the cream cheese and eggs at room temperature to avoid lumps and achieve maximum creaminess in your final product.
- I modified the crust technique by just pressing the shortbread dough onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. I also pre-baked it for 7 minutes at 350 F to make sure it crisped up nicely. You can see from my golden edged bottom crust that this was a good idea. Haven't tested this the other way, Wanda's way.
- True confession: I did not separate my eggs and everything worked out just fine, though Wanda's technique probably yields a fluffier result. I don't mind my cheesecake a bit dense, but if it is fluffiness you seek, separate your eggs.
- I find that light cream cheese bakes up beautifully and has better texture than regular cream cheese. The regular stuff feels somewhat sticky and heavy to me.
- Blueberries could also work well as a topping, using the same technique and measurements. If your topping feels too loose, mix another tablespoon of cornstarch with a tablespoon of cold water and add to the cooking fruit to thicken it up a bit more. My topping held together almost like a solid layer of pure fruit, which was nice, but it is perfectly OK to have a topping that is somewhat looser, oozing down gently over your slices of cake.
- And, finally, you can freeze this cake!
This may, truly, be the cheesecake of your dreams. It will satisfy a hunkering for a thick, gooey, sinfully rich, soul-satisfying dessert like nothing else I can think of. More inspiration for decadence can be found here: