I've been craving cheesecake for a while now, so it was fortuitous that my first Daring Bakers challenge was to make an entire cheesecake. The recipe provided was very basic, but it encouraged us bakers "to take this basic recipe and play with it. Make it unique."
My friend Amanda took those instructions to heart and made a Maine Deer Tracks cheesecake in honor of the Gifford's ice cream flavor. Head on over to her blog and check it out.
I'm nowhere near as creative, so I made a lemon cheesecake with a raspberry swirl. It was just the right amount of Springy goodness for a drizzly 50°F day in Maine.
The graham cracker crust was, honestly, the most fun I've had in a while. I'm a cheap date.
I love my food processor, and I used it to make crumbs of these crackers in about 15 seconds.
After about a half a box of graham crackers, a stick of melted butter, a bit of sugar (which I accidentally forgot), and a splash of vanilla,
I mixed it all together and pressed it into the disposable casserole dish I bought for the occasion.
(Springform pans are wonderful and all, but the recipe called for a boiling water bath, and watertight they are not.)
Meanwhile, I got out the cream cheese and started letting it warm up to room temperature.
While that was warming, I made a simple raspberry puree by putting a container and a half of raspberries (saving the remainder for garnishing) into the food processor. It was a pain in the ass to strain out all the seeds, so I only got most of them (no one noticed, anyway).
After that, it was time for the cheesecake batter, which included three bricks of cream cheese and a cup of sugar creamed together,
a cup of heavy cream, and a splash of vanilla.
I really wanted the cheesecake to be lemony, so I grated two lemon peels into the batter and added the juice from both lemons, as well.
Then came the hard part. To make the characteristic swirl, I poured the raspberry over the cheesecake batter and awkwardly ran a knife through it to swirl it. I stuck it all in the boiling water bath and baked it in the oven for about 45 minutes.
It wasn't beautiful, but once decorated,
it didn't look half bad. Besides, I've never been good at making things look good. I learned to cook from my grandmother, whose biscuits roughly resembled potatoes left in the sun too long, and my mother, who is known for trying things like the freakish-looking Toad-in-the-Hole (her only spectacular failure, according to my dad).
I took the finished product to a wine reception at the University Club on campus and donated it to the cause. There was much hyperbole to be had, and the person in charge of the event made me wave to a table of middle-aged women devouring my cheesecake.
While it was not as good as people made it out to be, I was quite pleased with the results. The recipe yielded a cheesecake that was perfectly light and fluffy (none of that dense cheesecake that will fill you up with a couple of bites). The extra lemon zest and juice gave it some zing, and the raspberries softened that bite a little.
I am happy to declare my first Daring Bakers challenge a success!