The perfect cheesecake (with sour cherry purée)

Source: Anna Olson’s “Sugar” (online at FoodNetwork.ca; skip the sugared lemon zest and pansies)

Last weekend, I made a carrot cake, so I found myself buying cream cheese. (A repeat of the carrot cake from the cake party.) At the store, I had the choice between the regular 250g package of cream cheese, or a massive 1.5kg block. I opted for the massive block, because I also had something else in mind.

Cheesecake.

I hadn’t made a cheesecake in at least a couple years, so I was definitely overdue for one. The whole process got me thinking back to a very significant time in my life, about 4 years ago: my hunt for the perfect cheesecake.

The perfect cheesecake should strike the right balance of firmness, density, moisture, richness and sweetness. To a certain extent, this comes down to personal preference; some people will like their cheesecake slightly softer or sweeter.

So over the course of a few months, I tested several cheesecake recipes. Some with heavy cream, some with sour cream, and others just cream cheese. Different number of eggs. Some with a touch of flour. It was hard work eating all that cheesecake!

In the end, I settled on a cheesecake by Anna Olson, host of the show “Sugar” on Food Network Canada. Incidentally, she calls the recipe “Perfect Cheesecake”. Indeed it was.

It uses only cream cheese (no cream or sour cream). I found that recipes with sour cream were too moist for me; I prefer a slightly dryer cheesecake. Just cream cheese, along with sugar, eggs, and a touch of flour. Along with vanilla, lemon zest and a bit of salt for flavouring. That’s all it takes for the perfect cheesecake.

This recipe calls for the cheesecake to be baked in a bain-marie. I securely wrap my springform pan with aluminum foil, ensuring that there are no creases near the bottom, or water will find its way into the cheesecake. I bake the cake in a rimmed baking sheet. It’s not deep, but it holds enough water to do the trick. The bain-marie helps prevent the cake from cracking as it sets (I’ve never had this recipe crack).

The recipe also calls for the cheesecake to cook with the oven cracked open slightly. I always skip this step; I think it’s a waste of electricity and keeping the door closed will not harm the outcome of the cake.

Give this recipe a try next time you’re in the market for a cheesecake. I guarantee you’ll be pleased with the result. Whether plain, or topped with a fruit purée, it’s a showstopper.

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