A Gift of Cheesecake Part 2

To be sure, this recipe has been copied many times on the webs by bloggers and cooks who have fallen head-over-heels in love with this cake. The recipe has been published several times in actual cookbooks by the owners of the establishment as well, so it’s no real secret. No harm in publishing what is already common knowledge, I suppose.

So it’s Christmas time and I want to give gifts. I almost ran out of ideas until I decided that I would give presents that I could make. The more I look around, the more I notice people are reverting back to crafting, selling and gifting items of their own design, whether it be out of some rejection or objection to modern technology, or out of necessity. I like to cook and since I chose to make dinner for Thanksgiving and not Christmas, I decided to make my cheesecakes that spread vast amounts of cheer. The cheesecake I want to give is the Junior’s recipe. Full disclosure, I sleep with a copy Junior’s Cheesecake Cookbook under my pillow. Not really. I could make a joke about having sweet dreams, but I’d hate myself afterwards.

…too late

To be sure, this recipe has been copied dozens of times and I am no different. However, I have yet to see a recipe that accommodates mass production. “Sure, you can juggle geese. But can you juggle geese while gargling Gershwin?” I needed to do this to meet the numbers I wanted. I wrote nothing down and chose instead to plan this as I went along. I think it took a little longer than I would have liked to, the space I had to work with was limited (tiny kitchen) and things had to be improvised. The end result is pretty darn close to what I wanted regardless.

A lot of work? Yes. Worth it? Totally.

Perhaps it was because it was a shortened shopping season, perhaps it was because December 25th was in the middle of the week this year, perhaps it was because we have all of us faced bigger challenges this year than we ever have before, perhaps it was because I opted out of catering to the in-laws this year because of lack of funds, but there was a palatable sense of, “let’s just get this over with” as presents were handed out. The children were first and they’re always happy with everything. The parents were next followed by the grandparents, the aunts and then the great-grandparents. After everything was unwrapped and all the “thank yous” were expressed, it was my turn. I produced a box. And inside that box were several smaller boxes; white cardboard boxes that you would get a bakery all wrapped up in red ribbon. And inside those boxes were petite packages of goodness. The only other people that knew what everyone was getting was my family and none of them said a word. What followed was magical; grown ups who have turned rigid by age and time suddenly reverted back to being children. Children opening presents on Christmas Morning. The way it should be. Even the crankiest amongst them squealed like a young boy finding a bicycle under the tree.

I hope that hand-crafting your own gifts never goes out of style. It’s something that I believe that is sorely forgotten about these days. Sure, there’s a little investment in time and money involved, but trust me, it’s insignificant compared to the smiles that you’ll get, the moment they’ll always remember and the crippling debt that you won’t be paying in January. Sure, scoff all you want at the things that were made by the hand of someone who loves you. I guarantee you, once you realize that what you got was a one-of-a-kind item, it’ll make that PS4 pale in comparison.

…Not that I…y’know…have anything against….getting a PS4 *coughcough*hint.

  • White Bakery Boxes & Cake Rounds While I highly recommend going to your local restaurant supplier, I do realize that not everywhere has them in their town. In that case, Amazon might be able to help you or many assorted online suppliers would be glad to fill that capacity. Oh, and don’t forget ribbon too.
  • Small Spring Form Pans Daytona is known for it’s Flea and Farmer’s Market. The pans I got were from a couple of ladies who love to see me coming. Again, while I realize that not everywhere can accommodate, there are several vendors online that would be glad to be of service. The dimensions of mine are 4 1/2″ by 1 1/2″. Anything in that neighborhood would be fine. I recommend getting at least 4 pans.
  • Roasting Pans One large, one not so large. Not the size you roast turkeys in, the ones you might bake a lasagna in.You can use cookie sheets if you have them, they just need to have walls tall enough on one of them so you can utilize it for a water bath. (For those who don’t know what that is, keep reading). It would probably be a good idea if they weren’t beat up (well loved) as well. Non-stick is best.
  • Stand Mixer Goes without saying. 
  • Hand Mixer You could get away with just using a stand mixer, but I strongly recommend utilizing an electric hand mixer along with the stand mixer if you have them available. A further explanation to follow.
  • Piping Bags with Attachments 

You’ll also need cooling racks, parchment paper, silicone spatulas…y’know….the usual.

    Okay, here’s where where taking notes might have come in handy. If I recalled correctly, I had to TRIPLE the recipe for the crust but leave the recipe for the cheesecake unchanged. The recipe for the crust is the original multiplied by 3.
    Sponge Cake Crust
    Proof of trial and error: check out the lopsided one on top

    – 1 Cup sifted cake flour
    – 2 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
    – 1/8 teaspoon salt (heavy pinch)
    – 6 extra-large eggs, separated
    – 1 Cup sugar
    – 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    – 6 drops pure lemon extract
    – 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    – 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

    1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter the bottom and sides of the roasting pans. (Note: don’t use the butter used for melting, a Tablespoon or so would be all you need to do this.)
    2. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together.
    3. Beat the egg yolks in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high for 3 minutes (time it!). With the mixer running, slowly add 6 Tablespoons of the sugar and beat until thick, light yellow ribbons form, about 5 minutes more. Beat in the extracts.
    4. Sift the flour mixture over the batter and stir it in by hand, just until no white flecks appear. Now, blend in the melted butter and prepare to give yourself a workout. This part hurts.
    5. Now, here’s where using a stand mixture in conjunction with using a hand mixer comes in handy. Originally, they intended for you to follow steps 1-4, empty out the mixture into another bowl (?) and thoroughly clean the beaters and the bowl, dry them and use them again for the following steps. Which I would follow completely, if I were only using one mixer. What I like to do is when I separate the eggs, I put the whites in the provided bowl of the stand mixer and the yolks in a separate stainless steel bowl to be used for mixing the other way. This method will insure the fat and the protein will stay separate. It’s also quicker. Yes, there’s more of a clean up, but trust me on this, it’s the better way to go. Put the cream of tartar in the bowl of the egg whites. Using the whisk attachment of your stand mixer, beat on high until frothy. Gradually add the remaining sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form (the whites will stand up and look glossy, not dry.) Fold about one-third of the whites into the batter, then the remaining whites. Seeing white specks? Don’t worry, they’re like those specks in pancake batter. They’ll disappear when baking.
    6. Gently spread out the batter on the bottom of your pans. The batter will have the consistency of  bread dough; slightly elastic and sticky. Don’t worry, take a silicon or rubber spatula and spread as best you can from corner to corner. You’ll need to cover the pans with about 1/2″ of batter. A decent cheat to use would be if you don’t see the bottom of the pan, you’re in pretty good shape. Bake until set and golden (not wet or sticky), about 10 minutes. Touch the cake gently in the center. If it springs back, it’s done. Watch carefully and don’t let the top brown. Leave the crust in the pans and place on wire racks to cool for about 45 minutes to an hour (when the pans are coolish to the touch).
    7. When the pans are cool to the touch, roll out some parchment paper to cover the wire racks. Gently coax out the cake from the bottom of the pans. A trick I use is to just turn the pans upside down and let gravity take over. Sometimes they’ll pop right out. If not, grab a spatula. You’ll need to keep them in one piece, so take your time. After de-panning, allow them to cool a little longer.  
    8. When cool enough, pick up the cakes by the paper and transfer to a flat surface. Grab your spring form pans and arrange them on top of the cakes. Press down in a slight twisting motion like you were using (say it with me now) cookie cutters. Separate with pieces of parchment paper and stack on a plate. You can refrigerate over night. Uncovered if you want (they’ll stay moist for that long). There is going to be an “Angel’s share” in the process. I find that saving them and serving them later with a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce keeps the kids happy.

    Original New York Cheesecake

    – Four 8-Ounce packages Philly cream cheese
       (full fat) at room temperature
    – 1 2/3 Cups sugar
    – 1/4 Cup cornstarch
    – 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
    – 2 extra-large eggs
    – 3/4 Cup heavy or whipping cream

      1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, Generously butter the bottom and sides of your spring form pans and wrap the outside of them in aluminum foil. Place your sponge cakes in the bottom of your pans. Depending on how many pans you have, you’ll repeat this process a couple of times.
      2. Put one package of the cream cheese, 1/3 Cup of the sugar and the cornstarch in the bowl of your stand mixer and mix with the paddle attachment on low until creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl several times. Blend in the remaining cream cheese, one package at a time, scraping down the bowl after each one.
      3. Now, at this point they say to increase the mixer speed to medium. I’ve done this before with mixed results. First, they tell you to increase the speed to medium and then later on, they tell you to not over-mix. If you increase the speed to medium, the batter will liquify too quickly. If the batter is too liquidy, it won’t bake right. I can’t keep count of how many times that I cut into this to have a pudding-like center. Your goal is to keep this closer to a custard consistency. I recommend keeping your mixer on a low speed. Beat in the remaining sugar, then the vanilla. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after adding each one. Beat in the cream just until completely blended. Gently scoop batter into the pans. Don’t fill completely to the top, the batter needs room to expand.
      4. Place your cakes in a large, shallow pan containing hot water that comes up to about halfway up the springforms. Bake until the edges are light, golden brown and the top is slightly golden tan, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Remove the cheesecakes from the water bath, transfer to a wire rack and let cool for a few hours. Leave the cake in the pans but remove the foil and place in the freezer overnight.
      5. When ready to remove, take the cakes out of the freezer and gently rub the bottom and sides of the springform with a cloth that’s been run under hot water. Place individual cakes on separate cake rounds and refrigerate until ready to finish. 
      Fault lines? Don’t worry. They will sink when they cool.

      The Garnish

      – 2 Cups heavy whipping cream
      – 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
      – 2 Tablespoons sugar
      – 1 pint strawberries (optional)

      1. Prior to making your whipped cream, take your mixing bowl and your beaters and chill them in your freezer or refrigerator for at least 1 hour (overnight is best).
      2. Remove bowl and beaters from chill chest. Hook up your beaters and promptly pour heavy cream and vanilla extract into the chilled bowl. Slowly add sugar while beating on high speed until stiff peaks form (if you can flip the bowl upside down and nothing comes out, it’s ready).
      3. Load up your piping bag with your cream. Use the star attachment. 
      4. Remove your cakes from the freezer or refrigerator and pipe the whipped cream along the bottom and top edge of your cakes. Slice and fan out a fresh strawberry for the top if desired.

      Box up and chill immediately. The challenge at this point will be to keep these chilled until ready to gift. I recommend freezing your cakes BEFORE you are ready to pipe the whipped cream. That way if you are

      Frozen and ready to get dressed

      lacking room to keep these chilly, they’ll be able to stay out at room temperature for a length of time. My friends in the Northeast don’t usually have this problem during the Holidays. Just stick the boxes out in the garage until you’re ready. Down here in Florida, well, you might have to indulge in dessert before dinner. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.

      Don’t be jelly of my piping skills


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