Friday, July 17, 2009

Key Lime Cheesecake

Years ago I worked as a pastry chef at Club Med in Port St. Lucie, Florida, and I became an expert in making Key Lime Pie. The guests at Club Med (a.k.a. "Club Dead Above the Waistline" or "Club Bed") couldn't get enough of the stuff. They shoveled it down for lunch and dinner and any other time they could get their hands on it. The supreme irony here is that it's probably one of the easiest desserts to make. A can of sweetened condensed milk, some limes, a few eggs, and Bob's your uncle! Well, in homage to my days at Club Med, here's a cheesecake that features the flavors of Key Lime Pie, and is just as simple to prepare. I like to garnish this cake with some lime zest powder. To make it, just grate some zest with a rasp and place it in a microwave-safe container with a flat bottom. Microwave it uncovered at 10-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until it is dry (just over a minute, usually). Then simply process the dried zest in a spice grinder. This technique can be used with any type of citrus zest.
Key Lime Cheesecake
Makes 12 to 14 servings
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Key Lime Filling:
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons lime zest
1/4 cup Key lime or Persian (common) lime juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Make the crust:
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut an 18-inch square of heavy-duty aluminum foil and wrap the foil around the outside of a 9-inch springform pan.
2. Combine the crust ingredients in a bowl until well blended. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and pat it evenly over the bottom. Bake the crust for 8 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool completely. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
Make the filling:
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium-low speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the condensed milk and mix until blended, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the lime zest, lime juice and vanilla and mix until blended.
4. Pour the filling into the cooled crust and place the pan in a roasting pan or large baking pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come 1 inch up the sides of the springform pan. Bake the cheesecake in the water bath for 50 to 55, just until set.
5. Remove the cake pan from the water and place it on a wire rack to cool completely.
6. Refrigerate the cake for at least 4 hours before serving. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of lime zest powder.