As a cookbook author and professional recipe developer, my inclination when creating a recipe is to be creative, to try new flavor combinations and, occasionally, new techniques. New twists on old classics, thinking outside the box, blah, blah, blah. But there’s a
reason that some dessert recipes are considered classics, and why they remain so popular: they’re really good. And sometimes, only a classic will do. This past week I’ve been craving cheesecake, and I don’t mean blueberry, mocha, blackberry swirl or double chocolate
cheesecake. I mean plain old vanilla cheesecake, creamy and rich, just like Mom used to make (or somebody’s Mom made, anyhow). So, that’s exactly what I made: a simple, rich, vanilla cheesecake flavored with vanilla bean seeds. As for accompaniments, well, I did
add a couple (just couldn’t help myself). The saucy Red Berry Topping and Strawberry Whipped Cream turn this classic into something extraordinary. They are, of course, optional.
Classic Vanilla Cheesecake
Makes one 8-inch round cheesecake
Graham Cracker Crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tablespoon (12 g) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons (42 g) unsalted butter, melted
1 ¼ lbs (567 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean pod, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Red Berry Topping:
1 pint fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
1 6-ounce container fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons (25 g) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or water
Strawberry Whipped Cream:
¾ cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons (37 g) superfine granulated sugar
¼ cup pureed strawberries (from Red Berry Topping)
Make the crust:
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Wrap the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan with a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil (the heavy-duty foil is a larger size than regular aluminum and will protect the crust from water seeping in and making it soggy). In a bowl, combine the crumbs, sugar and melted butter until well blended. Pat the crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan. Bake for about 8 minutes, until just beginning to brown in spots. Cool completely on a wire rack. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
Make the cheesecake filling:
2. Place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix at medium speed until very creamy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the sugar, mixing until blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary to make the batter homogenous. Add the cream and vanilla bean seeds and continue to beat at medium speed for another 5 minutes. Scrape the batter into the cooled crust and place the pan in a roasting pan. Pour hot water into the roasting pan so that it comes about 1 inch up the sides of the pan. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes, until the center is set and the top of the cheesecake is just beginning to turn very light golden brown. Cool the cake completely in its pan set on a wire rack.
3. Chill the cake for at least 2 hours before serving.
Make the Red Berry Topping:
4. Place one-third of the strawberries in the bowl of a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Set aside ¼ cup of the puree to use in the Strawberry Whipped Cream. Quarter the remaining strawberries and combine them with puree, orange liqueur and raspberries.
Make the Strawberry Whipped Cream:
5. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the cream, reserved strawberry puree and sugar and whip at high speed until medium-firm peaks form. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
6. Serve a slice of the cheesecake with a dollop of the Strawberry Whipped Cream and the Red Berry Topping.