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Making Great Cheesecake

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Stephen Kobe via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
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Since a lot of us are still coping with the pandemic by baking at home, we thought we'd give you a new project to work on. Ever since its invention in ancient Greece, cheesecake has never lost its allure. It has gone through endless permutations over the centuries, but today we have seemingly settled on a couple fairly standard approaches. Chef Jerry Pellegrino loves a good cheesecake and he assures us this is something we can do at home.  Here is a recipe from Jerry to help you make a perfect cheesecake. 

 

Classic Cheesecake Recipe

Ingredients

GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST

1 and 1/2 cups (150g) graham cracker crumbs (about 10 full sheet graham crackers)

5 Tablespoons (70g) unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar

CHEESECAKE

four 8-ounce blocks full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup full-fat sour cream, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (optional, but recommended)

3 large eggs, at room temperature

Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Using a food processor, pulse the graham crackers into crumbs. Pour into a medium bowl and stir in sugar and melted butter until combined. Mixture will be sandy. Press firmly into the bottom and slightly up the sides of a 9-inch or 10-inch springform pan. No need to grease the pan first. Pre-bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and place the hot pan on a large piece of aluminum foil. The foil will wrap around the pan for the water bath in step 4. Allow crust to slightly cool as you prepare the filling.

 

Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, and granulated sugar together on low speed in a large bowl until the mixture is smooth and creamy, do not over mix!

 

Add the sour cream, vanilla extract, and lemon juice then beat until fully combined. On low speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until just blended. After the final egg is incorporated into the batter, stop mixing. To help prevent the cheesecake from deflating and cracking as it cools, avoid over-mixing the batter as best you can.

 

Prepare the simple water bath. Boil a pot of water. You need 1 inch of water in your roasting pan for the water bath, so make sure you boil enough. I use an entire kettle of hot water. As the water is heating up, wrap the aluminum foil around the springform pan. I’ll often add a second layer of foil just in case! Pour the cheesecake batter on top of the crust. Use a rubber spatula or spoon to smooth it into an even layer.

Place the pan inside of a large roasting pan. Carefully pour the hot water inside of the pan and place in the oven. (Or you can place the roasting pan in the oven first, then pour the hot water in. Whichever is easier for you.) Bake cheesecake for 55-70 minutes or until the center is almost set. When it’s done, the center of the cheesecake will slightly wobble if you gently shake the pan. Turn the oven off and open the oven door slightly. Let the cheesecake sit in the oven in the water bath as it cools down for 1 hour.

Remove from the oven and water bath, then cool cheesecake completely uncovered at room temperature. Then cover and refrigerate the cheesecake for at least 4 hours or overnight.

 

Use a knife to loosen the chilled cheesecake from the rim of the springform pan, then remove the rim.

 

Using a clean sharp knife, cut into slices for serving. For neat slices, wipe the knife clean and dip into warm water between each slice.

 

Serve cheesecake with desired toppings. Cover and store leftover cheesecake in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

 

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.