Yesterday was unprecedented: A display of talent, wits, brute strength and perseverance. My first cheesecake! [What did you think I was referring to?]
The inaugural attempt turned out better than I could have hoped. The world of home bakers seems so iffy about cheesecakes. Will it set? Will it collapse? Will it crack? At the risk of sounding haughty… it wasn’t that difficult. I’m sorry. Beginner’s luck? Honestly though, it was far from cheesecake perfection. Much to learn. And many kitchen gadgets to acquire…
I do not have a stand mixer or hand mixer, so the ‘beating’ process was ridiculous slow, long, painful. Okay, it was ridiculous. A food processor would have worked as well; I do have one. It’s Barbie-sized and – unless I felt like redecorating – too small for the task. If you’re in the same ill-equipped boat, be prepared for a sore arm. I recommend taking the cream cheese out of the refrigerator well in advance to let it really soften. And I mean, really soften.
For your patience, I grant you this recipe, in honor of my favorite person
Twice Maple Cheesecake [makes one 7" cheesecake]
I recommend using homemade graham crackers for the crust, but store-bought is just as well. Unless your walnuts are very fresh, the skins will be somewhat tannic. Once toasted and allowed to cool, simply rub off as much of the skin as possible.
For the base:
4-6 grahams depending on the size, to equal 1/2 c crumbs
1/4 c walnuts, toasted and skins removed
1 T butter, melted
1/2 T maple syrup
+ + +
For the filling:
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, at room temperature
3 T sugar
2 t cornstarch
1/2 c maple syrup, plus more for drizzling on top
1 egg + 1 egg white, at room temperature
1/2 t lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Add graham crackers and toasted, skinned walnuts to food processor and blitz to a fine crumb. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture comes together. Pour into an ungreased springform pan and, with damp hands, press to cover the entire bottom. [If there is a bit extra, you can create a little rim around the edge.] Bake the base until golden brown on edges, 8-12 minutes [mine took the full 12]. Cool. Turn oven down to 325° F.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment [or hand mixer, food pro or a wooden spoon and elbow grease], beat the cream cheese, sugar, corn starch and maple syrup until smooth. Add the one whole egg, lemon juice and cinnamon, and beat again until incorporated.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg white until stiff peaks form. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg white into the filling mixture – do not overwork. Pour over the cooled base. Place the springform pan onto a baking sheet [in case the unthinkable should happen] and bake on the center rack for 45-60 minutes. The outside should be set, and the inside mostly set with only a slight wobble. If the cheesecake needs longer, continue baking for another 10-20 minutes, checking every five [mine took about 65 min]. Let cool completely.
If serving immediately : Run a knife along the outside of the cheesecake, then unclip the springform pan and unmold from the edges. Place on a serving plate – no need to remove the springform bottom. Drizzle a bit of maple syrup over top and use a pastry brush or clean fingers to spread evenly, creating a nice glaze.
If serving at a later time : Cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill cheesecake in the refrigerator, still in its pan. When the time comes, follow the same directions as above.