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Monday, April 05, 2010

Lemon Cheesecake...possibly the best dessert of all time

Ok, listen up people, this is worth paying attention to, despite the size of the recipe.

This dessert will blow your mind. You would pay $50 for this cheesecake, it is so good. I made it for my husband's family last year for easter, for a shower, then again this year for my family at Easter and each time it turned out pretty darn AWESOME.

So, I thought I'd share. The recipe comes from Cook's Illustrated, the home of so many fantastic things, but I tweaked it in a few spots. You can make the curd days in advance, and the crust the day before if you don't mind it being slightly less crisp. I also prepared the lemon sugar the day before too, right after grinding up the animal cookies into crumbs, avoiding washing the food processor more then once. The cheesecake itself comes together in like 15 minutes, so if you do the prep the day before it won't take much time, aside from baking time, cooling time, and then chilling in the fridge.

All that being said, here goes:
Cookie Crumb Crust
6 oz. Nabisco Barnum's Animal Crackers
4 TB. sugar
4 TB. butter, melted

1 & 1/4 cups sugar
1 TB. grated lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 & 1/2 lbs. cream cheese (3 eight oz. packages), softened to room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp. good vanilla extract
1/4 heaping tsp. table salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

Lemon Curd
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup sugar
2 TB unsalted butter, diced and then kept cold
1 TB. heavy cream
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. table salt

For the Crust: Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and preheat to 325 degrees. In food processor, grind cookies to fine crumbs, add sugar and pulse to incorporate. Add warm melted butter in a slow, steady stream while pulsing; pulse until mixture is evenly moistened and resembles wet sand. Transfer mixture to a 9 inch springform pan. Using the bottom of a cup, press firmly and evenly into pan bottom, keeping sides as clean as possible. Bake until fragrant and golden brown, 15-18 minutes. Cool about 30 minutes. When cool, wrap the outside of the pan with two 18 inch square pieces of tin foil. Set springform pan in a large roasting pan.

For the Filling: While the crust is cooling, process 1/4 cup sugar and the lemon zest in food processor until sugar is yellow and zest is broken down, about 15 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed. Add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and pulse until incorporated. Transfer lemon sugar to small bowl. At this point it can be refrigerated until you need it.

In a standing mixer, beat cream cheese until soft and broken up. Add lemon sugar in a slow, steady stream, increase speed to medium and continue to beat until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes, scraping bowl down as necessary. Reduce speed to medium low and add eggs 2 at a time, beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping bowl again as needed. Add lemon juice, vanilla and salt and mix until just incorporated, about 10 seconds. Add heavy cream and do the the same thing, just until mixed in. Give batter a final scrape, stir with spatula and pour into prepared springform pan.

Set the roasting pan with cheesecake in it on your oven rack, fill a tea pot with hot tap water and then pour it into the roasting pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake. Bake until center jiggles slightly, sides just start to puff, surface is no longer shiny and an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of the cheesecake reads 150 degrees, about 55-60 minutes.

Turn off the oven and prop open the door. Allow cake to cool in it's waterbath for 60 minutes. Transfer the springform pan to a rack and cool to room temperature, about two hours. Run a sharp paring knife around the sides of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Leave the sides of the pan on to store it.

For the Lemon Curd: While cheesecake bakes, or days in advance, heat the lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat until hot but not boiling. whisk eggs and yolk in a bowl, gradually add sugar. Whisking constantly, SLOWLY pour hot lemon juice into eggs, dribbles at a time. The key is not to do this too fast, or you will overcook the eggs, ending up with delicious lemony scrambled eggs. Then return mixture to saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture registers 170 degrees on an instant read thermometer and is thick enough to cling to the spoon, about 3 minutes. IMMEDIATELY remove pan from heat and stir in cold butter until incorporated, then stir in cream, vanilla and salt. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

To finish the cake: When cheesecake is cool, scrape lemon curd onto it while still in the springform pan, spreading curd evenly. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours. To serve, remove sides of springform pan and cut cake into wedges. Serves 12-16 people.


Anita Johnson said...

I would like a piece right now, thank you! I think you should enter the "i heart faces" contest right now. Check out their site, you might have to scroll down a few posts. You can check out my entry too on my blog...what a joke! See you next week! I love how that sounds....

Katie said...

umm... can we say Lemon Curd. I am definitely going to try this! I have been obsessed with lemon curd since the sour cream cake. Thank you for sharing.

Mindy said...

FYI - Trader Joe's makes a fabulous lemon curd if you're in a time crunch

Katie said...

Hey Jenni!
I made your lemon cheesecake this weekend for a potluck at church! It was MARVELOUS!! However - a tad bit of water sneaked into my springform pan whilst it was in its water bath - any secrets on that?? SO GOOD, though! Thanks for sharing!! :) xoxo - KGB

Jen said...

Oh SHOOT Katie!!! I think that it depends mostly on your's happened to over people I'm sure. The foil sure isn't water tight. I sprang for the nice pan from Williams Sonoma and have never had a problem, I forget who makes it, some german company? Hope the crust wasn't a mess! Miss you.