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Yid.Dish: In Search of the Perfect Cheesecake

As Shavuot approaches, I’m sure many people are contemplating cheesecake recipes. Chocolate with an Oreo crust; pumpkin with a caramel swirl; lemon or key lime; peanut butter chip; or just pure, unadulterated cheesecake.

It’s not so much the dilemma over recipe that irks me every Shavuot, it’s the huge crack (or 3) down the middle of the cheesecake when all I want is a smooth, beautiful top I don’t have to cover with fruit to hide the imperfections.

After doing some reading on the chemistry of baking cheesecake (and lots of failed experiments [in appearance, not taste 🙂 ]), I found the perfect technique for making a smooth, creamy cheesecake. It freaked me out the first time I did it, but it was the most amazing cheesecake I’ve ever made.

There are two key elements:

Bring all ingredients to room temperature to avoid the need to overmix.

Allow the cheesecake to bake, then cool for 5-6 hours in the oven, no peeking allowed!

Yup. Bake, and then turn the oven off and walk away. Don’t open the oven to peek. You won’t see what the cheesecake looks like for many hours. Freaky, right?

But it really works–the slow cooling of the oven allows the cheesecake to cool very slowly to avoid cracking.

Here’s my favorite recipe, but feel free to try it with your own! The lemon zest really brings a brightness to this dish, but you can use lime or orange zest if you prefer, or just leave it out altogether if you aren’t a citrus fan.

Creamy Lemony Cheesecake

Prep time: 15 minutes

Total time: 7ish hours

Makes: 1 9-inch cheesecake

Ingredients:

2 eggs

1 1/4 cups sugar

2/3 cup sour cream

1 tsp vanilla

1 Tbsp flour

zest of 1 lemon (optional)

24 oz cream cheese

1 graham cracker crust

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Let all ingredients including eggs come to room temperature.

Beat eggs and sugar until well blended, then stir in sour cream, vanilla, flour, and lemon zest. Fold mixture into cream cheese until smooth. Do not overmix.

Pour into graham cracker crust. Bake in oven for 50 minutes, then turn oven off and leave cheesecake for at least 5 hours, and no more than 8. Do not peek or open oven door.

Cool and serve (tip: Dip the knife in hot water before you make each cut to avoid jagged edges).

Note: For we lactards, substitute parve (non-dairy) cream cheese and sour cream.

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