September 4, 2012

Sour Cream Cheesecake

Well, hello again everyone! I hope you all had a fun, relaxing and delicious Labor Day weekend.

I am so happy to be back here! But I also enjoyed my blogging break very much. Boy, did I need it. I had so many little things to catch up on here at home after my cousin returned to Italy. The first thing I caught up on was sleep! While it was fun having my cousin live with us, our routines were shuffled and we were on the go more than we normally are, so by the time he left, Peter and I were spent. It is amazing how a couple good night's sleep can make you feel like a new person. I feel even more rejuvenated after having treated myself to a mini spa day last week, where I got a facial and a much-needed haircut. I also used my blogging break to catch up on more mundane {but necessary} tasks like filing, paying bills, backing up my computer {thank you, Peter!}, organizing my desk, doing laundry and giving the house a deep clean. To make these boring tasks more bearable, I made sure to take "fun breaks"--I watched my favorite food shows, did some blog reading, took my dog on her daily walk, kept up with my Twitter feed, and even took a few power naps {oh, how I love those!}. Few things in life feel better than taking the time for both yourself and your home and I loved every minute. 

I also took time during my break to line up a few new blog posts for this month which I am excited to share with you. The first recipe I want to tell you about is this Sour Cream Cheesecake. You will have to excuse my not-so-well-composed-and-exposed photograph--the only one I took of this incredible dessert. I was in a bit of a hurry when I snapped it because my family and I were all {happily} crammed into a small hospital room celebrating the birth of my cousin and her husband's first baby, Charlotte. And we were eager to dig into the cheesecake. The picture does not do this dessert justice, so please trust me when I tell you that this is one of the best cheesecakes you will ever make and eat.

The recipe for this Sour Cream Cheesecake comes from my mom's 1975 edition of Joy of Cooking. She has been making this for as long as I can remember and there is never, ever any left over. When I was a kid, I turned my nose up at cheesecake and any cream-based desserts. I could not handle the richness on my palate. Thankfully, I grew out of it and these days, if there is cheesecake for dessert, I am all over it. When my mom came to visit us a few weeks ago, she typed up the recipe for this cheesecake and brought me a copy. I initially thought that my newer 2006 {75th anniversary} edition of Joy of Cooking no longer had the recipe, but upon second glance, I realized {much to my delight} that the recipe was still included but had been renamed Cheesecake Cockaigne. I have always been curious about why some recipes throughout JOC have the name "Cockaigne" and some quick internet research revealed that the recipes labeled with this name were a favorite of Marion Rombauer Becker, Irma Rombauer's daughter, who had a country home by this name in Ohio.

You will see in the headnote for this recipe that my mom and I made some adjustments to the recipe to suit our tastes, the most significant of which was using Italian biscotti to make the crust. Let me just say that I think store-bought graham crackers are one of the worst things sold at the grocery store. First, they are laden with ingredients I cannot pronounce. Second, they taste like cardboard. The same goes for vanilla wafers. Not touching those either. 

My mom has used Zwieback toast for her cheesecake crust for years. If you are a parent, you may know what Zwieback toast is--the hard, crunchy toasts made for teething babies to gnaw on. Zwieback toasts make the perfect cheesecake crust because their flavor is neutral--not salty and not sweet, with deep, toasty notes. The problem is, they are crazy hard to find these days. At least in my grocery store. So, my mom and I implemented Plan B and used a high quality brand of Italian biscotti with almonds. They made the perfect crust beause they were not too sweet , had a subtle nutty flavor from the almonds and are crunchy and dry, which means your crust will not be soggy. Pre-baking the crust for about 15 minutes and allowing it to cool completely before adding in the cheesecake filling also helps keep it firm. The crust is my favorite part of cheesecake, so it has to be done right and it has to taste good too.

As for the rest of this cheesecake, it is just as delicious as the crust. The cheesecake layer is silky and melts in your mouth. It is sweetened just enough, but not cloying. The sour cream top layer is a bit unexpected for cheesecake, but trust me when I tell you that it competes for "Best Part of the Cheesecake" with the crust. Sour cream is whisked with vanilla extract and a touch of sugar and then spread out in an even layer over the cooked {and cooled} cheesecake. Then, you pop the cheesecake back into the oven for a scant 5 minutes to get the sour cream to glaze. You will have a true test of patience because once you have finished assembling the cheesecake, it will have to chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of six hours or overnight before you can cut into it. Trust me {once again} when I tell you that it will be well worth the wait.

Sour Cream Cheesecake

Adapted from Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker

Special equipment: 10-inch springform pan

When my mom and I made this together last month, we made some adjustments to the original recipe:

1.  For the crust {labeled Crumb Crust in the cookbook}, we replaced the graham crackers with Italian biscotti and elimenated the cinnamon.

2.  For the cheesecake filling, we reduced the amount of cream cheese from three blocks to two, reduced the amount of sugar from one cup to half cup, reduced the eggs from three to two, and added half teaspoon of salt. It results in slightly less cheesecake filling, but is still substantial since it is rich.

3.  For the sour cream topping, we increased the amount of sour cream from one cup to one and a half cups, reduced the sugar--substantially--from one quarter cup to two Tablespoons, and reduced the vanilla extract from one Tablespoon to half teaspoon. Additionally, once the sour cream topping has been spread onto the cooled cheesecake, my mom pops it back into the oven for about 5 minutes to allow the sour cream topping to develop a shiny glaze. 

For the crust

1 7-ounce box cantuccini {Italian biscotti with almonds} or equivalent weight of full-size biscotti
1/4 cup powdered sugar
6 Tablespoons butter, melted

For the cheesecake filling

2 8-ounce blocks cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature, well-beaten
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the sour cream topping

1 1/2 cups sour cream {not low-fat or non-fat}
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
 

To make the crust

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, add the biscotti and pulse until they turn into fine crumbs. Add in the powdered sugar and melted butter and pulse until all the ingredients are evenly incorporated and the crumbs are moistened. Transfer the crumbs to the springform pan and use a 1/2 cup dry measure to press the crumbs evenly into the pan. Do not allow the crumbs to come up the sides of the pan. Bake the crust for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned and fragrant. Remove from the oven and allow the crust to cool completely.

To make the cheesecake filling

Maintain the oven temperature at 350 degrees.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the cream cheese, eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt. Mix until all the ingredients are evenly incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Transfer the filling into the springform pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the center of the filling just barely jiggles when the pan is tapped. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and allow it to cool completely, about 2 hours.

To make the sour cream topping

Maintain the oven temperature at 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Mix well using a whisk. Using a rubber spatula, pour the topping over the cooled cheesecake and spread it out evenly so that it covers the entire cheesecake. If you have an offset spatula, it will make it easier to spread the topping out more evenly. Place the cheesecake back in the oven for 3-5 minutes to glaze the topping. Remove the cheesecake from the oven, cool it back to room temperature and then refrigerate it for a minimum of 6 hours or overnight. Unmold the cheesecake while it is still cold, but allow it to stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving. The top of the cheesecake can be decorated with any fresh fruit that is in season.

Comments (7)

I always wondered what cockaigne meant! I just found to copies of The Joy of Cooking from 1971 and I was soooo happy. I have the new one, but it was fun to see all of the older recipes. We haven't made this recipe yet, but I definitely want to. It's so pretty!

Posted by Cafe Johnsonia
09/24/12

Wanna come make this for us?!

Posted by carrian
09/05/12

GORGEOUS!!! I love sour cream in cheesecake.

09/05/12

Oh love the idea of this cheesecake!

Posted by Kathryn
09/04/12

It's always nice to take a needed break. So glad you had found the time to relax and catch up! This cheesecake looks amazing!

Posted by Stephanie
09/04/12

What a wonderful dessert for an even more wonderful occasion!

09/04/12

This cheesecake looks and sounds so wonderful. I love when sour cream is used in sweet treats!

09/04/12
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