Friday, January 7, 2011

Test Kitchen Thursday - Lemon Dream Cheesecake

Lemon Dream Cheesecake

Also known as my DH's Birthday Cake!

Please don't let cheesecakes scare you - they are really quite simple (they scared me at first).  Plus, if you want a recipe that won't crack this one is it - never once had a crack on top.  

This is my husband's favorite cheesecake (sorry, but in honor of his birthday I must tell a story).  He loves this particular recipe so much he refuses to eat commercial cheesecake anymore - even really good cheesecake.  I started making cheesecakes for him when we first started dating.  I asked him what his traditional birthday cake was (thinking how easy a nice little layer cake would be).  His answer was his aunt's cheesecake.  I took this to mean a home baked over the top cheesecake (snicker).  So, scared out of my mind to make a cheesecake but completely determined to make it for my sweetie I purchased all the ingredients and made the New York style cheesecake on the graham cracker crumb box.  It was delicious and oh how my boyfriend raved about the cheesecake (he totally ignored the little crack across the top - carefully covered with cherry pie filling).  I thought he was just being nice because how could I compare to his aunt (who I was told was a tremendous cook)?  Years and a few birthday cheesecakes later I found out his aunt's cheesecake was the Jello box mix with cherry pie filling (no offense to Jello - I love Jello but really that's not a baked cheesecake).  Obviously I didn't have to try as hard to impress as I thought and he probably proposed just for my cheesecake skills :)

OK - on with the recipe (sidenote - this is an ISF 2nd Place Overall Cheesecake Division winner circa 2008 - so others think it's pretty good too):
Tips and tricks can be found below.
Makes 12 servings

1 ½ C  finely ground shortbread cookies (or vanilla wafers)
2 T       white sugar
2 T       unsalted butter, melted
¼ t       lemon extract

1 ¼ lb  cream cheese, softened
¾ C     white sugar
1 C      sour cream
3 T       all-purpose flour
3          eggs
½ C     lemon juice
1 t        vanilla extract

½ pint  heavy whipping cream
2 T       confectioner’s sugar
½ t       vanilla extract

In food processor combine cookie crumbs, sugar, butter and lemon extract.  Mix well.  Pat the mixture into the bottom and ¾ inch up the side of a buttered 9” springform pan.

Bake the crust in a 375 degree F oven for 8 minutes.

Transfer pan to a rack and cool.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth, beat in the eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition.  Beat in the sour cream, flour, lemon juice and vanilla.  Beat until the mixture is smooth – do not over beat.

Pour the filling over the crust.  Bake the cheesecake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, reduce the temperature to 250 degrees F and bake for 50 to 55 minutes longer, or until center is barely set.  Let the cheesecake cool in the oven with door slightly cracked.  Move to a rack to cool thoroughly then cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.  Remove side of pan and place in covered cake stand and return to refrigerator.  Best eaten 24 hours after baking.

Garnish with homemade whipped topping. 
Combine whipping cream and sugar in mixing bowl.  Whip to soft peak stage.  Add vanilla, then continue to whip until stiff peaks form.  Do not overbeat.

When building the crust it really helps to crush and blend everything in a food processor.  Than evenly spread in your pan.

Carefully take a glass with a nice bottom rim and smooth bottom and sides.  Even out the sides and run your finger across the top to get a nice even (height) crust all the way around.

Pour the batter in.  The beating of the batter is where you will make or break the cheesecake.  At the beginning when beating sugar and cream cheese - whip it good to get it smooth.  When adding eggs beat well (until smooth) after each addition.  If you don't have the nice scraper attachment on your mixer be sure to scrape the bowl down each time.

On the final addition of ingredients - DO NOT overbeat - just beat until combined then stop!

I don't get a dime to say this but I can't stress enough good vanilla and PURE extracts of any kind are key to wonderful taste!  I'm pretty frugal but one place I splurge on my baking supplies are the extracts and flavorings.

The key to the color of this cheesecake are the eggs.  Because I use my own chicken eggs produced by my lovely girls I have a very yellow cheesecake.  If you make it with regular store bought eggs it will be almost white.  So if you like the lemon yellow color for your lemon cheesecake use eggs from your own hens or a local grower.

Couldn't resist this last photo of Grant asking where the goop went.  Poor little guy this is one product that won't be eaten for an entire day.  It is good to let a cheesecake rest - minimum of 12 hours I try to bake a day or more in advance of eating.  

Please note - this is my own original recipe so share the site with friends but please link to my blog.

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