Exactly one year ago, I published a post where I documented one of my very first experiences with deep frying. I made a batch of classic, old-fashioned yeast doughnuts, fried them up, dipped them in a chocolate glaze, and then covered them in rainbow sprinkles. I called them Birthday Chocolate Glazed Doughnuts, and they were published for my little sister's birthday, as per her request. Today, my little sister is definitely no longer that little, as she's turned 18 (holy crap, she's an adult too now...I suddenly feel so much older...). To continue with this sudden "tradition" of dedicating a birthday post for her, she requested nothing less than mini everything bagels, to be photographed in an assortment of styles, ranging from a mini bacon egg and cheese sandwich, to being sandwiched with homemade strawberry cream cheese. Now, I'll give her that this would have been such a fun project to work on, and the photos could have looked really awesome with all the different ways I could have used the mini bagels, but really...mini everything bagels? Homemade strawberry cream cheese? Multiple photo sets and sandwiches?
Ain't nobody got time for that. I certainly don't, at least.
This is not to say that I won't ever make mini everything bagels and photograph them in different applications. Not at all. I love everything bagels, in all sizes, and I do love a good photo challenge, so these will definitely grace the blog at some point, just not when I'm trying to be an efficient baker and bake up a decent sized batch of recipes to bring back with me to school. I explained this to her, and she reluctantly agreed, instead suggesting that I make her a NY style cheesecake, as seen on Smitten Kitchen, but with a strawberry sauce instead of cherries. Even though I'm not a huge fan of cheesecake, I agreed, as this seemed like a much more reasonable request. I knew exactly which cheesecake recipe she was referring to, as it was one that we had both been eyeing for at least two years. Yes, two years. It took me two whole years to finally agree to make this recipe for my sister, and while it may have initially started out as only a way to appease her for not making her bagels, I'll be the first to say that this recipe may have changed my mind about cheesecake. Maybe not about cheesecake in general, but I'm now going to be willing to eat NY style cheesecake a bit more often. This recipe was life-changing, if we want to be dramatic. If we want to be a bit more down to earth, this recipe was just really damn good, and was able to make me, a non-cheesecake loving person, consider taking a second slice.
There's a few things to note about this cheesecake. It's massive. It's huge. It's NYC style. In cheesecake terms, this translates to a cheesecake that requires 5 (FIVE) 8-oz bars of cream cheese, and 7 (SEVEN) eggs in total. Yep. That sounds slightly obscene, but it's worth it for this recipe...but shhh!!! Don't tell anyone the amount of cream cheese and egg that is found in this recipe. They'll just think you're crazy. When I told my mom that I was planning to make this specific cheesecake, she stared at me for a moment, and, in a very serious tone, asked me if I was going crazy.
"Just because it's your sister's birthday doesn't mean that you need to make a giant cheesecake for four people. That's probably like 1000 calories per slice."
Shhh mom, shhh. Of course I had to make a special cheesecake for my sister's birthday! It was my obligation as an older sister and food blogger, after all. My mom's initial reservations may have stuck with me though, because as I was making the cheesecake, I kept having the same thoughts. I saw the five bars of cream cheese sitting in my mixer, and I just thought, "omg..." and then, when I saw that my 10-inch springform pan was legitimately completely full after pouring in the cheesecake filling, I said, out loud, "OMG, this is actually ridiculous, what am I doing right now?"
And then I stuck the cheesecake in the oven, and baked it. And I'm SO glad I did.
This cheesecake was, as I've said before, seriously perfect. It was wonderfully creamy without being overly sweet and too dense. The cheesecake uses a combination of orange and lemon zest, which caused some division in my house. My mom and my sister thought there was a bit too much citrus flavor, whereas my dad, my boyfriend, and I didn't mind the citrus flavor at all. I've given the amounts of zest below as written in the original recipe, but definitely feel free to adjust the amount of zest you use based on your preferences. In the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, Deb gives a very detailed account of her baking experience as far as oven temperatures are concerned, and I definitely kept her suggestions in mind as I baked my cheesecake. I've included some tips below, but if you want a more extensive list of oven suggestions, just take a glance at her site. All technical matters aside, this cheesecake was a sure winner; even my mom thought so, despite her initial concerns! The only problem we have now is that we have about 2/3 of a massive cheesecake just chilling in my fridge, and we're not exactly sure how we're going to manage eating all that's left, but I'm sure we'll figure something out!
This is seriously a cheesecake worth trying out, especially if you're not a cheesecake person like me. Everyone in my family loved it, and it brought a big smile to my sister's face. Happy Birthday to my sister, and everyone else celebrating a birthday today!
New York Style Cheesecake
recipe from Smitten Kitchen
For the Graham Cracker Crust
8 oz finely ground graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar, scant
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Cheesecake Filling
5 8-oz packages cream cheese (I recommend using Philadelphia brand when making cheesecake), at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon orange zest
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Strawberry Topping
10 oz frozen strawberries, thawed, quartered (use fresh if they're in season!)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup water
Begin by preparing the crust for the cheesecake. In a medium sized bowl, stir together all the ingredients for the crust. Pour the graham cracker mixture into a greased 10-inch springform pan (the original recipe uses a 9-1/2 inch pan, but I couldn't find mine, so I used a 10-inch pan which also worked just fine), and press the crumbs evenly on the bottom and sides of the pan. One trick I like to use when filling springform pans with a crumb crust is to use a drinking glass to ensure that all the graham cracker crumbs are pressed into an even layer. Stick the prepared springform pan in the freezer so that it can set while you prepare the cheesecake filling.
To prepare the filling, begin by preheating the oven to 475 degrees F ***. In the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the all of the cream cheese together for a few minutes, just to get it nice and creamy. Add in the sugar, flour, and citrus zests, and mix until smooth. Add the vanilla extract, and then the eggs, and the yolks, one at a time, beating on low speed until each addition is completely incorporated. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula in between additions in order to avoid any bits of unmixed cream cheese in the filling.
Place the prepared springform pan in a shallow baking pan or cookie sheet. Pour the filling over the crust (the springform pan will be completely full), and bake the cheesecake, while its still on the baking pan, in the oven for 15 minutes, or until it begins to puff slightly. Keep an eye on your cheesecake, as you dont want the top to brown too quickly! If you catch your cheesecake browning too quickly, make a simple foil tent to help stop the cheesecake from continuing to brown. After 15 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees F, and continue to bake the cheesecake until the center is mostly firm, but the center still jiggles a bit when the pan is gently shaken, about another hour.
Run a knife around the top edge of the cheesecake to loosen it slightly, and then place the cheesecake (still in the closed springform pan) onto a wire rack, and allow it to cool completely to room temperature. Once the cheesecake has cooled to room temperature, pace the cheesecake in the refrigerator, loosely covered, for at least 6 hours.
While the cheesecake is cooling, prepare the strawberry topping. In a medium saucepan, place the frozen strawberries, lemon juice, and sugar. In a small bowl, combine the water and corn starch, mixing until incorporated, and then add to the saucepan with the strawberries. Bring all the ingredients to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture is boiling, allow it to continue to cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Remove the strawberry topping from the heat, and allow it to cool completely. Once cooled to room temperature, it can be stored in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Once the cheesecake has chilled completely, remove the sides of the springform pan and transfer the cheesecake to a serving plate. Pour the strawberry topping over the top of the chilled cheesecake, and spread it evenly. Cut the cheesecake into wedges, and enjoy!
***The cheesecake in the original recipe from Gourmet Magazine instructs to bake the cheesecake at a whopping 550 degrees F (yeah, I got nervous reading that too). In Deb's version of the recipe, she suggests starting out the baking time at 475 degrees F if you are using a Teflon-coated pan, due to their temperature limit. I followed her suggestion, and simply added an additional three minutes to the first baking time, to make up for the lower oven temperature. I then lowered the oven temperature to 200 degrees and baked the cheesecake for an hour, as she writes in the S.K. version of the recipe.