Here I am sitting on the plane after a whirlwind 24-hour visit to New York.
Now as I was in the city for just a day I had to get myself some of the things that I’ve missed living in Florida. Of course I had a giant pretzel, a dirty water hot dog, a bagel and a real piece of cheesecake.
New York Style Cheesecakes are creamy, and smooth, and rich, and dense, and absolutely delicious. There are two popular cheesecakes in America today, the ones made with cream cheese and the ones made with ricotta. In the "The Dictionary of American Food & Drink" it says that Americans have come to know cheesecakes made with cream cheese as "New York" (or ''Jewish'), and ones made with ricotta "Italian."
It is also interesting to note that both types have their roots in immigrant New York City neighborhoods, both start with either a pastry or graham cracker crust, and both use the standard eggs and sugar in their filling. The only real difference being that one uses cream cheese and the other ricotta and that the "Italian" cheesecake sometimes contains candied fruit.
We cannot talk about cheesecakes without mentioning the pitfalls, mainly the questions of how do we prevent cracking and when are cheesecakes done?
First, let's talk about cracks on the surface of a baked cheesecake, as this is a common problem and is caused either by over beating the batter and/or by too much moisture being lost as the cheesecake bakes (over baking). In order to prevent cracks make sure you beat the ingredients at low speed as, unlike a butter cake, you do not want to incorporate a lot of air into the batter, you only want to beat the ingredients until they are nice and smooth.
As far as the over baking of cheesecakes goes, this is a common problem as it is difficult to know when a cheesecake is done. The thing to remember is that you want the cheesecake to be firm but, if you shake the pan gently, it should still wobble a little, and the center will still look a little wet.
For even though the center may not look fully baked, once it cools it will firm up and be the correct consistency. Cheesecakes are cakes that should not to be eaten straight away as they need to cool and then be refrigerated for several hours, preferably overnight, so the flavors have time to blend and the texture becomes nice and firm.
The great thing about cheesecake is that it stores very well and can also be frozen. To freeze, place the cooled cheesecake on a baking pan and freeze, uncovered, until firm. Remove the cheesecake from the freezer, wrap it in heavy duty aluminum foil and place in a freezer bag. Seal and return to freezer. It can be frozen for several months. Thaw the uncovered cheesecake in the refrigerator overnight.
NEW YORK STYLE CHEESECAKE
Makes one - 9 inch (23 cm) cheesecake
Grease, or spray with Pam, a 9 inch springform pan. Place the springform pan on a larger baking pan to catch any leakage while the cheesecake is baking. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in center of oven.
2 cups (200 grams) of graham wafer crumbs or finely crushed vanilla wafers or gingersnaps (process whole cookies in a food processor until they are crumbs)
¼ cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
½ cup (114 grams) unsalted butter, melted
In a medium sized bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and about 1 inch (2.54 cm) up the sides of the springform pan. Cover and refrigerate while you make the filling.
32 ounces (1 kg) (4 - 8 ounces packages) cream cheese, room temperature (use full fat, not reduced or fat free cream cheese)
1 cup granulated white sugar
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
5 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cupheavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In bowl of your electric mixer place the cream cheese, sugar, and flour. Beat on medium speed until smooth (about 2 minutes), scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well (about 30 seconds) after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the whipping cream, lemon zest, vanilla extract and beat until incorporated. Remove the crust from the refrigerator and pour in the filling. Place the cheesecake pan on a larger baking pan and place in the oven.
Bake for 15 minutes and then lower the oven temperature to 250 degrees F and continue to bake for about another 1 1/2 hours or until firm and only the center of the cheesecake looks a little wet and wobbly. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the sour cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Spread the topping over the warm cheesecake and return to oven to bake for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully run a knife or spatula around the inside edge of pan to loosen the cheesecake (helps prevent the surface from cracking as it cools).
Let cool before covering with plastic wrap and refrigerating. This cheesecake tastes best after being refrigerated for at least a day.
Serve with fresh fruit or fruit sauces.
YOU KNOW YOU'RE FROM NEW YORK CITY WHEN...
You think Central Park is "nature."
You're paying $1,200 for a studio the size of a walk-in closet and you think it's a "steal."
You've been to New Jersey twice and got hopelessly lost both times.
You pay more each month to park your car than most people in the U.S. pay in rent.
You go to dinner at 9 and head out to the clubs when most Americans are heading to bed.
You have 27 different menus next to your telephone.
You're suspicious of strangers who are actually nice to you.
You take a taxi to get to your health club to exercise.
Your idea of personal space is no one actually standing on your toes.
$50 worth of groceries fit in one paper bag.
Your doorman is Russian, your grocer is Korean, your deli man is Israeli, your building super is Italian, your laundry guy is Chinese, your favorite bartender is Irish, your favorite diner owner is Greek, the watch seller on your corner is Senegalese, your last cabbie was Pakistani, your newsstand guy is Indian and your favorite falafel guy is Egyptian.
You say "the city" and expect everyone to know that it means Manhattan.
You secretly envy cabbies for their driving skills.
Hookers and the homeless are invisible.
The subway makes sense.
The subway should never be called anything prissy, like the Metro.
You believe that being able to swear at people in their own language makes you multi-lingual.
You think $7.00 to cross a bridge is a fair price.
Your door has more than three locks.
Your favorite movie has DeNiro in it.
You consider eye contact an act of overt aggression.
You call an 8' x 10' plot of patchy grass a yard. You complain about having to mow it.
You consider Westchester "Upstate."
You run when you see a flashing "Do Not Walk" sign at the intersection.