Lemon Cheesecake

A few years ago I started baking cheesecakes in cake pans instead of springform. Not for lack of supplies–I own five springforms–but for how much it simplifies the water bath. No need to wrap the pan in two layers of heavy-duty tin foil.

Line the pan with parchment (when I’m really overachieving I do the sides as well as the bottom) and start with the crust. The one time I sprayed the pan and then the liner with nonstick spray was the one time it came apart a bit on me. The liner stuck to the pan with the addition of the spray.

Refrigerate the cake in the pan covered with nonstick tin foil, then when thoroughly chilled turn out onto a flat surface (a cutting board works well) and invert back onto the serving platter.

Cookie-Crumb Crust
5 ounces Nabisco Barnum’s Animal Crackers or Social Tea Biscuits
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted and kept warm

Filling
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (8 3/4 ounces)
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese , (three 8-ounce packages), cut into rough 1-inch chunks and left to stand at room temperature 30 to 45 minutes
4 large eggs , room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

Topping
1 cup lemon curd

First, so you don’t get animal cracker crumbs in the cheesecake, process 1/4 cup sugar and lemon zest in food processor until sugar is yellow and zest is broken down, about 15 seconds, scraping down bowl if necessary. Add remaining 1 cup sugar, pulse once or twice to combine. Transfer lemon sugar to small bowl.

FOR THE CRUST: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. In food processor, process cookies to fine, even crumbs, about 30 seconds. Add sugar and pulse 2 or 3 times to incorporate. Add warm melted butter in slow, steady stream while pulsing; pulse until mixture is evenly moistened and resembles wet sand, about ten 1-second pulses. Transfer mixture to 9-inch cake pan; using bottom of ramekin or dry measuring cup, press firmly and evenly into pan bottom, and sides. Bake until fragrant and golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 30 minutes. When cool set cake pan in roasting pan.

In standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese on low to break up and soften slightly, about 5 seconds. With machine running, add sugar mixture in slow steady stream; increase speed to medium and continue to beat until mixture is creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Reduce speed to medium-low and add eggs 2 at a time; beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping sides and bottom of bowl well after each addition. Add lemon juice, vanilla, and salt and mix until just incorporated, about 5 seconds; add heavy cream and mix until just incorporated, about 5 seconds longer. Give batter final scrape, stir with rubber spatula, and pour into prepared cake pan; sit cake pan in a roasting pan. Fill roasting pan with enough hot tap water to come halfway up sides of cake pan. Bake one hour. Turn off oven and allow cake to rest in water bath in oven for 1 hour. Transfer cake pan to wire rack; run small paring knife around inside edge of pan to loosen sides of cake and cool cake to room temperature, about 2 hours. Refrigerate overnight.

5. TO FINISH THE CAKE: When cheesecake is cool, carefully turn out onto nonstick tin foil. Invert onto serving plate. scrape lemon curd onto cheesecake; using offset icing spatula, spread curd evenly over top of cheesecake.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

This recipe really lets the pumpkin flavor come through without drowning it in “pumpkin pie spices”. The crust is the only spiced component to the cake.

4.25 oz. gingersnap cookies (about 17 two inch cookies) broken into pieces
2 oz (1/2 c.) pecans
1 T. Sugar
2 pinches salt
.5 t. cinnamon
4 T. melted butter

1 c. pumpkin purée, canned or fresh (run through food processor if stringy)
1 c. sugar
2 c. heavy cream, chilled
1 lb. cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks

24 pecan halves, toasted

Heat the oven to 350 F.

Line a 9″ cake pan with parchment.

In a food processor, process the cookies with the pecans, sugar, salt, and cinnamon until the cookies become fine crumbs, about 20 sec.
Add the butter and pulse about 10 times, just until incorporated.
Press the mixture into the pan, flattening and pressing up the sides with a flat-bottomed, straight-sided drinking glass.

In a small saucepan, combine the pumpkin and sugar.
Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a sputtering simmer, stirring constantly, about 5 min.
Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture has darkened and thickened to the consistency of applesauce, about 5 min.

Using a stand mixer w/ wire whisk, beat pumpkin.
With mixer running, add chilled cream.
Add the softened cream cheese and beat until smooth.
Add the eggs and yolks.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Place cake pan in a roasting pan, add hot tap water to come half way up the cake pan.

Bake the cheesecake at 350 F for 45 minutes.
Turn off the oven without opening the door and let the cheesecake cool for 1 hour.
Transfer the cake to a rack (the center will still be jiggly) and cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.
Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
Garnish with pecans before serving.
Serve with whipped cream.