Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Key Lime Cheesecake

We are making a cheesecake today!

This particular variety is, in fact, a Key Lime Cheesecake, and it is the perfect dessert to celebrate the end of summer.

Key Lime Cheesecake is exactly what it sounds like. It is a classic cheesecake, pumped up with the refreshing taste of lime juice and zest. A graham cracker crust is absolutely essential. And, also, this may or may not be a cheesecake with which I won an office bake-off (spoiler: it is!)

Now, look. I am no master baker. For a long time, cheesecake seemed like one of those dishes that you just leave up to the professionals. I first dipped my toes into the cheesecake world with a pumpkin cheesecake around Thanksgiving a couple of years ago and it went surprisingly well and was also insanely delicious. Fast forward to today, I am no longer totally petrified of cheesecake, thanks to a few key tricks I learned. For a smooth and creamy cheesecake that sets up perfectly, doesn't run all over the oven and doesn't crack down the center, always be sure to do the following:

- Bring ALL ingredients to room temperature, and make sure your cream cheese is very well softened (but not melted). Room temperature ingredients blend together so much better, and things are less likely to seize or congeal.

- If you are making a homemade crust, such as graham cracker, chocolate wafer or ginger snap crusts, be sure to pack it into the bottom of the pan VERY well. I like to use the bottom of a measuring cup. This ensures the crust goes out to and up the edges, and also has no cracks or holes.

- Do not over mix ingredients. Mix until smooth and thoroughly combined, but do not whip at high speed! Whipping the ingredients will introduce air bubbles into the batter, which burst in the oven and ultimately lead to the dreaded crack down the middle.

- After making the filling, tap the bowl on the countertop with some force about 30 times before pouring into the crust. The purpose of this is again to release any lingering air bubbles.

- Double line the outside of your springform pan with aluminum foil. You want to be absolutely sure that no filling will run out and no water from your water bath seeps in. The water bath should come up about halfway to the foil line.

All you need to do is follow these techniques, as well as being sure to follow any written measurements, for a truly irresistible cheesecake. This cheesecake is sooo creamy, yet is still light and refreshing from the citrus. The graham cracker crust is a perfectly sweet compliment to the tart lime juice. If you like whipped cream, feel free to garnish the top with a few squirt of whipped cream! I needed to make sure this particular cake traveled well, so I decorated it simply with a few extra graham cracker crumbs and a lime wedge!

The upcoming holiday weekend is the perfect time for a big baking adventure, and I think you are ready for cheesecake!! Let's get cooking.

Here's what you need for Key Lime Cheesecake* (Print Recipe!)

for the crust
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
pinch of salt

for the filling
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
3 8-ounce blocks of full-fat cream cheese, softened very well
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1/3 cup heavy cream, at room temperature,
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (or bottled key lime juice)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Here's what you do

for the crust
Prepare a 9-inch springform pan by wrapping the bottom and halfway up the sides with a double layer of aluminum foil. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Pour in the melted butter and mix until the mixture resembles wet sand. Dump into the bottom of the prepared pan and press into the bottom and up the sides. Bake for 10 minutes then move to a wire rack to cool. Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees.

for the filling
Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together in a medium bowl until well combined. Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and sprinkle the sugar mixture over the top. Beat together until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl throughout the entire mixing process. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing on low speed until combined. Mix in the sour cream and lime juice. Whisk the vanilla extract into the heavy cream and add to the mixing bowl.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and especially the bottom of the bowl to be sure everything is fully incorporated. Tap the bowl on the countertop with a good amount of force about 30 times to release any air bubbles.

Place the springform pan in a roasting pan and pour in the filling, gently smoothing out the top. Pour in enough hot water to come up halfway to the aluminum foil lining. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes, or until the cheesecake is set but still slightly jiggly in the center. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for one hour, then wrap the whole pan in plastic wrap and move to the fridge; chill overnight.

Just before serving, garnish the cheesecake as desired. Gently run a butter knife around the sides of the pan and release the ring. Slice the cheesecake using a sharp knife. Store any leftovers in the fridge for a day or two.

*Recipe source: Cooking Classy

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