New York Cheesecake

My husband and I had our 14th wedding anniversary in October and I found myself a bit surprised by it. Not because I still feel (or look!) like I’m in my 20s or that the years have whirled past so quickly, but because of the love we still share. I’m surprised that after all he’s seen of me – the meltdowns, the post baby body, the way I leave hair ties everywhere – that I am still loved. I really can’t explain it. Shouldn’t I have been traded in for a newer model? Yet, I find myself so thankful for all the little ways that love manifests itself in our daily lives. Love that pulls me in and comforts, protects, listens, and cares.

Still, fear lurks around the corner. Fear that the love will dwindle. Fear that who I am and who he is someday won’t fit together as snugly as it does today. This fear can hinder me and make me more closed off, to communicate less clearly and honestly. Every time I give in to the fear, I feel distant, almost like a self fulfilling prophecy. Then, I realize that this is a battle of the mind and heart. Love takes courage and honesty. I think this is when I truly feel the deep, soul fulfilling love in our marriage, when I am accepted and loved through the hard conversations. So, I thought it was time to face another fear: cheesecake. Water baths, jiggly filling, cracks, and funny springform pans. It all made me want to run and hide.

Now, most people I’m sure can just ignore cheesecake and move on to something a bit more comfortable, but my husband is not a huge dessert fan (gasp!) but the one cake that he does love is cheesecake. He requests it for every birthday. He’s a bit of a purist, and believes such add ins as pumpkin or chocolate over power cheesecakes delicate flavor, and I tend to agree. We stick to New York Cheesecake with its creamy and delicate texture and bit of crunch from the graham cracker crust. One year I decided to go for it and guess what? It was a disaster! Burnt and eggy, and just all wrong, we ate what we could and then decided to always buy one forever and always.

But you know how sometimes as much as you fear another failure, you just have to give it another whirl? Well, that’s how I felt about cheesecake. I just couldn’t let it go.

I bought all the ingredients, read articles, found a new recipe and even borrowed a pan from a friend. I was all set to go. Yet, I sat. For weeks. I really didn’t want to fail. Fear had me again. Finally, I decided it was now or never, so I jumped in.  You know what? It was the best cheesecake we had ever eaten! Not a failure! Success! I was stunned. Not a crack or a chalky custard. Smooth, creamy, and flavored just right. Fear did not prevail and that birthday cake will now come from my kitchen.

Ready to try your hand at it? Cheesecake success is just around the corner.

New York Cheesecake

I love a mile-high graham cracker crust for cheesecake and I think you will too. I followed Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for Creamy Cheesecake and slightly adapted it by adding citrus zest.

Graham Cracker Crust

  • 3 cups graham crackers (about 1 box), ground fine in a food processor
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick or 4 ounces or 113 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Cheesecake Filling:

  • 32 oz Original Philadelphia Cream Cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup full fat sour cream
  • 1/4 + 1/3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp citrus zest (I used orange and lemon)

Directions:

Put a large pot of water on the stove to simmer. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using heavy aluminum foil, tear two long pieces of foil and set in an X shape. Set a 9 inch springform pan in the center. Starting with one piece of foil, fold the foil up and press against the sides. Repeat with second piece of foil. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and salt. Pour the melted butter over the dry ingredients and stir together until ingredients are well combined. The crumbs with hold their shape for a second when pressed together and will crumble slightly. It will look like wet sand. Press the graham crust around the edges and up to the top of the pan and continue on bottom of the pan. Use a measuring cup to gently press the crust until it is packed enough not to move when touched. Do your best to make the crust even in thickness. Bake for 10-12 minutes. The crust will be slightly golden around the edges when finished. Cool on a cooling rack while making the filling.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. In the bowl of the mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese until light and creamy, about 4 minutes on level 4 on a KitchenAid mixer. Keep the mixer running and add the sugar, salt, and vanilla and mix for another 4 minutes on medium speed. Lower the speed and mix the eggs in one at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Scrape after each additional egg. Once all the eggs have been added, increase the speed to medium and beat for another 30 seconds. Reduce the speed again and mix in sour cream and whipping cream until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Mix in citrus zest and scrape to make sure the batter is uniform in consistency. Pour batter into springform pan and level out with a spatula.

Place the springform pan inside a large roasting pan fitted with a rack. Place in oven. Carefully dip a liquid measuring cup into the simmering pot of water and slowly pour into the roasting pan, being careful to not get any water inside the springform pan. The water should reach about 1/3 way up the sides of the pan. Take a deep breath and congratulate yourself!

Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until the cheesecake has a bit of a jiggle to it. Check it after an hour. Turn down the oven to 300 degrees if the cheesecake starts to puff or get brown spots. Now turn off the oven and prop open the door and let the cheesecake rest for another hour.

Take the roasting pan out of the oven and gently lift out the springform pan and remove the foil. There may be so water inside the foil so don’t be surprised. Set cheesecake on a cooling rack and let cool for 4 hours. Once cool, wrap in saran wrap and foil and chill in the refrigerator.

The next day, run a small spatula around the sides of the pan to make sure the crust is not attached to the pan and gently remove the sides of the springform pan. Using a warm chef’s knife, slice the cake into pieces and serve. Refrigerate any leftovers covered in plastic wrap or foil (or both!) for 3-4 days or freeze wrapped in saran wrap and foil and sealed in a ziplock bag.

Buttercream Conundrum

Hey there, how’s your week going? I have had cake on the brain and am on the hunt for the most perfect classic celebration cake. With this blog being called “Sifted” I feel like its ok to focus mainly on cakes for a couple posts, right? Cake to me is the dessert that beats all desserts. A layer cake is what we call for whenever there is a big event to celebrate. A Birthday, wedding, graduation, or a new baby and a thick slice of cake will announce to the world that this day is special. But alas, my perfect cake alludes me.

I have been working on making Italian Meringue Buttercream. This is the type of buttercream that many pastry chefs make. It is a bit like making candy, you heat sugar and water to a soft ball stage and pour it into perfectly whipped egg whites to create a sweet and silky meringue. Then the meringue is added to butter and whipped.  With so many moving parts, its hard to identify exactly what I have done wrong. So far, my buttercream is more like sweetened whipped butter and not pillowy light melt in your mouth buttercream.

So yesterday, I decided to head to a local bakery and order their biggest piece of chocolate cake topped with Chocolate Italian Buttercream. It was absolutely divine! I’ve posted a picture (of part!) of the cake for you to drool over.

IMG_0993
Chocolate cake from Coyle’s Bakeshop

I talked to the pastry chef and she said to try whipping the buttercream longer and see if that helps. I felt so encouraged afterward to keep at it and give it another try. I’ll keep you posted!

Hope¬† you all have a great weekend and let me know what you’ve been working on. It’s fun to hear about everyone’s projects, baking or otherwise.

xoxo,

Rachel

Caramel Cake and a Turning Point

In high school, my favorite class was home economics, well that or the pottery portion of art class. Both were messy and the end results were a bit questionable – but I enjoyed it all the same. I was particularly fascinated by the baking portion of home ec. Follow a recipe to a T and end up with a cake as fancy sounding as chiffon. We were shown how to properly measure flour (scoop and level) so as not to have a tablespoon extra. I am one of those people who enjoys rules. I enjoy knowing that if I do A, B, and C that I will end up with perfect results (with practice of course). This mindset works well with baking, but not so much with life right?

IMG_0957There really aren’t any rules. I thought I wanted to work and be in a structured environment, but I surprised myself and realized that no, I actually need freedom and flexibility. I have passions and interests that I want to pursue and to be able to do that I have to give myself time and space. I’ve spent so much time over the years being pulled along by convenience and ease, but not passion. So this time I quit. I want to spend my days doing what I love. So lets go with that shall we? Lets see where it goes, what winding path is ahead. I don’t have to have it all planned out but can take it one day at a time.

Each year, when the weather turns crisp and cool and the leaves start changing color, I get a little giddy. I love the change of seasons. Apples, pumpkins, rosy cheeks, and caramel. This being the first week of fall, I thought this recipe sounded like the perfect treat to eat while sipping my afternoon tea. After his first bite, my 5 year old asked “when are you making this again?” My guess would be very soon.

xoxo,

Rachel

Caramel Cake (Karmel Cake)

This cake comes from the author of the notorious “Cake Bible”. This recipe is out of “Heavenly Cakes” by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Rose suggests using a warmed knife to cut the cake since it has a slightly sticky top from all that wonderful caramel and I would totally agree.

Serves 8

Ingredients for Caramel

  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups milk (preferably whole if you have it around), divided
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Ingredients for Batter

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour, sifted
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Coarse salt for serving if desired

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place the rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven. Butter the bottom of a 9×2 inch round cake pan. Cover with a round of parchment and then spray with baking spray and then flour. Tap the pan to cover the parchment with the flour and then discard the extra flour that is not needed in the pan.

To make the caramel: In a small pan, mix the brown sugar, 3/4 cup milk, and butter on the stove top over medium heat, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and stop stirring. Place an instant read or candy thermometer in the pan and continue to boil until the caramel reaches soft ball stage (238 degrees Fahrenheit). This will take around 10 minutes. Tilt the pan as needed to get an accurate reading. Once the the caramel is done, pour into a medium bowl and then whisk in the rest of the milk. Set aside to cool. If the caramel is too hot then it will melt the butter in the batter, so be patient. I put mine in the fridge to speed the process.

For the batter: In a small bowl, gently whisk together the eggs and vanilla and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Once combined, add the softened butter and cooled caramel. Mix on low until combined and then raise the speed to medium and mix for 1-2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Turn the mixer to medium low and add the egg mixture in two additions, mixing well (30 seconds or so) after each addition. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. The cake will be golden brown on top and a wooden skewer will come out clean. The center of the cake will also spring back with lightly touched. Let cool for 10 minutes and then invert onto a cooling rack that has been sprayed with baking spray. Re-invert so that the cake is right side up and cool completely.

Warm a knife under hot water and then dry on a towel and then cut the cake into slices. Sprinkle with course sea salt right before serving if desired.