May 30, 2012

cheesecake: listen to your mother (and Mark Bittman)

When it comes to cheesecake, I'm a purist.  I'm also a little snobby.  Cheesecake should be creamy and deceivingly light in spite of the hefty fat content.  It need not be laden with gelatinous fruit topping or filled with chocolate chips to be successful.  Not that I don't love the occasional caramel-chocolate-peanut butter explosion cheesecake.  I mean, any cheesecake is better than no cheesecake.  Except no-bake cheesecake, 'no' being the operative word.  Don't do it.

Until recently, I've solely used my mom's cheesecake recipe - and with 100% success.  It's simple - the ingredients all go into one mixing bowl & you dump them into the prepared crust.  It bakes, it cools, and then it's ready.

I love that about cheesecake.  It's just...easy. 

So why on earth would I choose to try a cheesecake that's a bit more complicated?  Well, because Mark Bittman said it was good, and though my loyalty is to mom, I've also had a 100% success rate with his recipes.  My husband & I received a copy of "How to Cook Everything" as a wedding gift, and it's easily my most used (and most food stained) cookbook. 

As far as skill level, making this cheesecake is really not a difficult process, but it's definitely more involved than the aforementioned one-bowl method.  Even so, it's worth the extra dirty bowls & whatnot. 

What won me over about it is the light, creamy texture achieved from whipping the egg whites separately.  The fresh lemon zest and the sour cream topping offer a double whammy of pleasing tartness that is so delicious and perfectly balances the sweetness.  I followed his recipe exactly, with the exception of using real vanilla bean instead of extract. 

I can't wait to make this one again.  I think, however, that I'll use a friend's recent recipe as inspiration and use ground pistachios in the graham cracker crust and replace the lemon zest with lime. 

I like to think of this one as a special occasion cheesecake.  The fancy dress party of cheesecakes.  But when I want the snuggly, comfy pants version of cheesecake - the one that makes me feel at home - I'm going back to mom's standby.


  1. wow, i love the height you got on that bad boy - that's some serious good-looking' cheesecake. of course, i love that it's citrus, + i'm intrigued by the sour cream topping. all in all, it sounds fabulous. let me know how it turns out if you try the pistachio-graham crust - i absolutely loved it on my lime bars!

  2. Cheesecake is on the list of things I will never bother to make. I don't even have a springform pan. So, uh, be sure to let me know when need a recipe tester for that pistachio crust. kthx.

  3. yum. Cheesecake and recipe look heavenly. I love cheesecake - have baked my share, have loved all of them except for a nonfat concoction that was just plain icky. My favorites are definitely the cream cheese + variations - as well as a traditional (thank you grandma) Italian Easter Pie with ricotta - love that one... the history, ritual, textures and taste. And I agree - the comfy pants version is probably the best :)

  4. I guess everyone's a cheesecake snob to some degree. I prefer NY style, e.g., Junior's or Lindy's. But back in the 70's Woman's Day had a recipe insert titled "Best of the Best," and a NY style cheesecake with separately beaten whites and yolks was included. I loved it. Hubby hated it. He will only eat the firm NY style. I've got tons of cheesecake recipes that I've tried and rated on my blogspot, Judy's Kitchen. Love your blog and your recipes and will be coming back often.