It's cheesecake season! Actually, I got a little over zealous about wanting to make cheesecake during Christmas and our local grocery store often runs a "10 for 10" sell. 10 items for $10. Cream cheese happen to be one of those items so I ended up with 10 - 8 ounce packages of cream cheese. Fast forward to January and there sat all this cream cheese.
Staring at me...Taunting me...
It was like a nightmare scene from Charlie and the Chocolate factory. Little Oompa Lumpas dancing in my refrigerator holding up 8 ounce packages of cream cheese singing a limerick about my procrastination....
"What do you get with a ton of cream cheese,
Where do you go when creativity leaves?"
Oh sorry, I drifted off again. Ok, I'm back. Whew.
Lucky for me cream cheese last about 5 months in the refrigerator but time was definitely running out. Then came inspiration in the form of a book. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Junior's Cheesecakes (I had never heard of them) they apparently make REALLY good cheesecakes. So much so that they wrote a book about it Junior's Cheesecake Cookbook: 50 To-Die-For Recipes for New York-Style Cheesecake.
I began flipping through what appeared to be just about the best collection of tasty cheesecakes in one volume. I was overwhelmed. First off, I am a cheesecake virgin. At least the cooked variety. I had mixed up some unbaked cheesecakes in the past and always thought that cheesecake was made in a pie pan and refrigerated little did I know those crazy northerners were up there baking them! So anyhow, the big decision was to decide which cheesecake to make first. I figured I should probably start at the beginning of the cheesecake world and just make an Original New York Style Cheesecake with a Junior's twist.
Junior's special way of making a cheesecake is to have a genoise style cake on the bottom as a crust instead of a graham cracker style crust. This actually does make a big difference. The cake at the bottom adds a sweet finish to the airy cheesecake.
So without further ado I give you Junior's New York Style Cheesecake:
Junior's Sponge cake crust
The ingredients (9 inch cake crust):
1/3 cup sifted cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
2 extra-large eggs, separated (yolk and whites)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- butter the sides and bottoms of a 9 inch spring-form pan, wrap the outside with aluminum foil extending all the way to the top.
- sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together
- beat the egg yolks in with an electric mixer for about 3 minutes. With the mixer still running, slowly add 2 tablespoons of the sugar and beat until thick light yellow ribbons form, about 5 minutes more. Beat in the extracts
- Sift the flour mixture over the batter and stir it in by hand, just until no more white flecks appear. Now, blend in the melted butter.
- Thoroughly was the mixing bowl and attachment. IF ANY FAT REMAINS ANYWHERE IN THE BOWL THE WHITES WILL NOT WHIP! Put the egg whites and cream of tartar into the bowl and beat with the mixer on high until frothy. Gradually add the remaining sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Fold about one-third of the whites into the batter, then the remaining whites. Don't worry if you still see a few white specks, as they'll disappear during baking.
- Gently spread out the batter over the bottom of the pan, and bake just 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 pan and place on a wire rack to cool. Leave the oven on while you prepare the batter.
Bake the cheesecake crust in the same spring-form pan you're using for the cheesecake. Watch the crust closely; since it's so thin, it needs only 10 - 12 minutes to bake.
Lewis Notes on Junior's Sponge Cake Crust
- Junior's way is to leave the entire cake on top of the bottom part of the spring form pan. This means you are without a 9 inch spring form pan until either all the cake is gone or is finally eaten up to a point where you can safely transfer it. My way is to put a layer of parchment paper around the bottom so I can slip the cake off and get my pan back!
- Make sure you cook the crust long enough! I was a little paranoid about over cooking as the book emphasized this point many times and I think I may have undercooked it. It still came out great just ensure it is completely cooked.
The ingredients (9 inch cake):
1 recipe 9-inch Junior's Sponge Cake Crust (above)
Four 8-ounce packages cream cheese (use only 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
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch spring-form pan. Wrap the outside with aluminum foil, covering the bottom and extending all the way up the sides. Make and bake the cake crust and leave it in the pan. Keep the oven on.
- Put one package of the cream cheese, 1/3 cup of sugar, and the cornstarch in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low until creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the blow several times. Blend in the remaining cream cheese, one package at a time, scraping down the bowl after each one.
- Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat in the remaining 1 1/3 cups 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. Be careful not to over mix! Gently spoon the batter over the crust.
- Place the cake in a large shallow pan containing hot water that comes about 1 inch up the sides of the spring form. Bake until the edges are light golden brown and the top is slightly golden tan, about 1 1/4 hours. Remove the cheese-cake from the water bath, transfer to a wire rack, and let cool for 2 hours. Then, leave the cake in the pan, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until completely cold, preferably overnight or for at least 4 hours.
- To serve, release and remove the sides of the spring form, leaving the cake on the bottom of the pan. Place on a cake plate. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Slice the cold cake with a sharp straight-edge knife, not a serrated one. Cover any leftover cake and refrigerate or wrap and freeze for up to 1 month.
Master Baker Michael Goodman says: "Always bake the cheesecake in a water bath, as we do here at Junior's. It keeps the heat in the oven moist and helps the cake bake slowly, gently, and evenly. This helps ensure that your cheesecake comes out of the oven with a smooth top and no large cracks."
Lewis Notes on Junior's Cheesecake
- I used a disposable aluminum turkey roasting pan for the cheesecake water bath and it worked perfect.
- Again, and I say it twice because I am still a little bitter about it, find some way to cover the bottom of the cheesecake prior to making the crust. Next time I will use parchment paper...You've been warned.
I will be honest. You are not going to get the craving for this cheesecake at 4:00 pm and serve it after dinner. This masterpiece takes time but it is time well invested. I believe it took me something to the tune of 2 hours to complete the assembly process. Then the cake has to cool for 2 hours and then at least 4 hours more in the refrigerator. Overnight is suggested but 4 will do. So even if you go for the bare minimum time you are still looking at 8 hours total so make sure you plan ahead for when you will need it.
The final verdict on Junior's Cheesecake: AMAZING!!!! This is the first non-store bought baked cheesecake I have ever had that wasn't in a restaurant. Truly restaurant quality! If you want to feel like you are a master baker then bake this! You will look like you have been making master cheesecakes for years. The only drawback is the attack of request for more :)
Baking the Cheesecake: