I love eating a well-made cheesecake. The problem with cheesecakes is that
homemade versions can "dry out" in the oven. And homemade, store-bought and
restaurant versions can be cloyingly sweet. I looked around for a recipe I
could start off with, and then modified it a bit so I could satisfy myself.
My recipe doesn't dry out, has a smooth and creamy texture for the
cheesecake, a refreshing combination of tastes and textures, some
surprising ingredients, and best of all, is near-impossible to mess up
because all of the ingredients can be eaten uncooked. The recipe below
looks like it's complex, but it really isn't. Okay, it is.
Too lazy to make my own.
- Frozen pie crust - Safeway brand is vegetarian
First two ingredients are mandatory. Rest are up to you.
- Cream cheese - 8 oz package
- Condensed milk - 14 oz can
- Sour cream - 2 tbsp
- Nutmeg - 1/2 tsp fresh grated
- Lemon zest - 1 large lemon's worth
- Lemon juice - 1/2 - 3/4 large lemon's worth
All of the spices are optional. Vary the amounts to your taste.
- Cranberries - 8 oz bag
- Dried cranberries - 1/2 cup
- Brown sugar - 2 tbsp
- Salt - dash
- Bay leaf - 1 large, dried
- Cinnamon powder - 1 tsp
- Clove powder or fresh-ground - 1/2 tsp
- Ginger fresh-ground - 2 tsp
- Black pepper fresh-ground - 1/4 tsp
- Orange zest - 1 navel orange
- Orange juice - 1/4 navel orange
Double the butter if you're feeling generous. Leave all else the same.
- Walnuts - 1/2 cup
- Brown sugar - 1 tbsp
- Flour, all-purpose or wheat - 1 tbsp
- Butter - 1 oz or 2 tbsp
- Preparation is key to this recipe. You have enough time. Just assemble
everything per the directions below. There's only one small flurry of
activity when you have to assemble everything.
- Start with the cheesecake, at least 8 hours before you want to eat.
Unpack the cream cheese into a mixing bowl and let it soften for 2-3 hours.
While it is softening, add the nutmeg and lemon zest to the cheese.
- While that's softening, combine all of the cranberry topping
ingredients in another mixing bowl. Mix it well. Let it too sit for 2-3
hours. Doing so softens the cranberries a bit.
- Take another bowl (third one, count 'em), and mix the sugar and flour
for the walnut crumble. Use a spoon to mix them up well.
- Assuming those 2-3 hours have passed, let's start the flurry of
activity. You'll need two pie pans. If you bought that frozen one, it comes
in an aluminium pan. To that, I bring out my trusty ceramic one. Fill the
ceramic half with water.
- Put the frozen pie crust in the oven, and fire up the oven to 400
degrees. We're going to use the pre-heating time to cook the crust a bit.
- Take out your electric beater and beat the cream cheese (plus nutmeg
plus lemon zest). Beat out any chunks. Add the condensed milk, beating as
you go along until the mixture is smooth. Add the sour cream for a
creamier texture, beating as you go along. Then, drizzle the lemon juice,
beating as you go along until you have a smooth, lemony, creamy mixture.
- By this time the oven has pre-heated, so turn it down to 375 and take
out that pie crust. Place that pie crust (in its aluminium pan) into the
water bath created by the ceramic pan. This is a pretty key step if you
don't want your cheesecake to dry out.
- Pour the lemony cream mixture into the crust. With a spatula, spread
it in the crust. Push it to the edges but don't overflow the crust. Keep a
shallow well in the middle.
- Into that well, pour in the cranberry mix, bay leaves and all. Spread
the cranberry topping evenly over the cheesecake. Carefully put this
assembly into the oven, water bath and all, for 25 mins.
- While it's baking, return to the walnut mixture. Cut the butter into
small chunks and add it to the flour-sugar mix. Mix it around until the
butter chunks are covered in the mix. Add the walnuts and coat them in the
- When the 25 mins are up, get the half-baked cheesecake out of the
oven, and spread the walnut mixture over that, as evenly as possible.
Back into the oven for another 25 mins.
- When this second round of baking is done, get the cheesecake out and
cool over a wire rack for about an hour. When it's comfortable to the
touch, cover it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
- Serve chilled. If you get a bay leaf in your serving, lick it clean
and chuck it. Really, this cheesecake is the entire package. No need for
ice cream or whipped cream or anything.