A History of Cheesecake

    My earliest memories of cheesecake go back to before my youngest aunt was married. It was well known in our family that whenever we had a get-together, she could make her famous cheesecake - and nothing else ;) But over the years, my Aunt actually became a very good cook, and a health nut to boot, so it's been a while since I've sampled one of her full-fat wonders. Auntie, if you read this, can you make one of those cheesecakes again? I miss them.

    Without my aunt to guide me in the cheesecake-making process, I watched my mother as she embraced the revelation of the 90s - use ricotta! This is how I created my current recipe for cheesecake, using a compilation of mom's recipe, a friend's suggestion, and my own noggin' - let me know what you think :)

    Just so y'all know, this was not a planned baking shindig. Three days ago cream cheese was on sale so we bought 2 packages. One week ago, my mom brought over 5 limes. A week ago, my friends and I had a baking night, and we had a couple tablespoons of butter left over. Couple with a little ricotta, some eggs, and a few other things that are always around the apartment, and you have a refreshing July 4th dessert sure to please anyone!
    I had the idea to make a key lime cheesecake because, basically, I was too lazy to make a custard for a key lime pie. And because I had all the above schtuff. Here's what you do - couldn't be easier.
    Gather Your Tasties:
    • 2 packages 1/3 fat cream cheese
    • 1/3 c cornstarch
    • 3 eggs
    • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup lime juice, or 3 limes juiced
    • zest of 2 limes
    • 8 oz ricotta cheese
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 2 cups Nilla wafers
    • 3 Tbs butter
    • Tad cinnamon

    Make the Crust

    • Melt the butter
    • Crush the wafers
    • Mix the two, then add a dash of cinnamon

    Press this mixture into the bottom of a cheesecake pan. I usually just do a bottom crust and don't press the crumbs up the side of the pan. My mom taught me this - partially because it cuts down on calories, partially because my mom doesn't particularly like crust. I, for one, LOVE crust - so I put it up the sides.

    Bake this at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes until it's a golden brown color. Let this cool while you make the filling.

    Make the Tasty Filling

    The crucial step here is that the cream cheese be room temperature when you mix this, otherwise you get those dreaded chunks of cream cheese speckled throughout the mixture. I have come to terms with my personal downfall of impatience, so I just shove the cream cheese in the microwave and nuke it. 30 seconds usually does the trick.

                • Mix the cream cheese and ricotta, then the sugar
                • Add the vanilla and eggs
                • Add the cornstarch
                • Pour in the lime juice and zest

                Pour the filling into the crust and set on a baking sheet so if there IS a crack in your crust, the filling doesn't ooze out onto the floor of your oven. Bake this at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and crack the oven door - let the cheesecake stand in the open-doored oven for another hour before setting it in the fridge overnight.

                Tips from the Chef

                Use 1/3 fat cream cheese. This is kinda crucial because you aren't going to miss the fat if you aren't looking for it. However, if you use the NONfat cream cheese, just don't bother making this recipe because this particular type of cream cheese is narsty! Like, almost sour tasting. Please, please, don't use it.

                A lot of people say that if your cheesecake cracks on top, it's a sign you did something wrong. To avoide this, you can use a bain-marie and more like steam/bake the cheesecake. But I like the cracks - it proves you made something from scratch. And it gives you an excuse to do the following:

                Sour Cream Topping

                Mix 1/3 cup to 1 cup sour cream with about 3-4 Tbs milk, 1 Tbs lime juice, and 1 Tbs confx sugar and pour over the top of your crackly-topped cheesecake.

                But for my cheesecake, I arranged lime slices over the top, sprinkled them with a little sugar, and set a torch to them to caramelize. Then I piped whipped cream around the outside.

                Enjoy all :)


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