Sunday, October 21, 2007

COCONUT CHEESECAKE, JUNIORS STYLE


I saw this recipe on cookiemadness.net food blog, but it was not coconut. The recipe called for heavy cream and I didn't have any, so I subbed cream of coconut, which I had. As long as I was subbing cream of coconut, I decided to add some coconut flavor to the filling and make a chocolate coconut crust. The original recipe calls for extra-large eggs, and all I had was large, so I used three instead of two.

Before I saw this recipe on Anna's food blog, I had never heard of Juniors cheesecake. A quick search of the internet turned up plenty of recipes for Juniors cheesecake. They have even put out their own cookbook with lots of different variations. Juniors is an Italian restaurant in Brooklyn and it seems the whole world knew about them and their famous cheesecake, except me of course. Anna says when you eat at Juniors, they give you a copy of their cheesecake recipe when you leave. How brilliant is that? How many people do you think are going to make this cheesecake? Probably less than 1%. But what a great way to keep your name and your product in the forefront.

My favorite cheesecake is Lindy's. It probably has fallen out of the public eye because the restaurant closed, like 30 years ago, so there's no one to promote the cheesecake any more. Juniors, on the other hand, is still going strong. That doesn't mean it isn't a good cheesecake. It definitely is. It has that dense, creamy, wet texture that everyone wants in a New York cheesecake. It's excellent cheesecake. In some ways, it's easier to make than Lindy's because of the crust. A graham cracker crust is always easier than a rolled cookie crust. But that's precisely what I like about Lindy's cheesecake -- the crust. That cookie crust is so nice and thin and perfect with the filling. Of course, the real Juniors cheesecake has a spongecake crust on the bottom only. Anna adapted the recipe and made a graham cracker crust and I thought it was a great idea. Maybe I should try making the original recipe, with spongecake crust before I vote on my #1 favorite. They certainly have a loyal following, so they must be doing something right.

Any way, back to the cheesecake. It only has a hint of coconut as you eat it, and that is mainly from the crust. If you are a coconut lover and would like a more pronounced coconut flavor in the filling, then you should increase the coconut extract accordingly. For me, it's fine as is; the vanilla comes through nicely -- I used Watkins Madagascar to get a nice flavor. (When I mentioned this to my sister, she said, "Yuk, Watkins." But as I explained to her, Watkins makes a pure vanilla extract and it's pretty good, and not a bad price at Wal-Mart. I don't buy imitation vanilla, ever, period. But I am starting to explore other vanillas and will probably do some kind of an experiment once I get them.)

Even though I processed the coconut heavily in the food processor, the crust is coconut-chewy. You will have to like coconut-chewy things to like this cheesecake. (You could also use 1-1/2 cups graham crackers and 1/2 cup coconut instead of 1 and 1 to make it less coconut-chewy. )

A word of caution about the foil wrap: don't skimp. I wrapped twice and I thought the cake was well protected. When I unwrapped the cake, there was water in the first layer, which totally surprised me. How did the water get in the bottom, when there were no seams on the sides? No water got into the bottom of the cake, thanks to the second wrap. If I make this again, I think I will do 3 wraps.

Discussion: Can you freeze cream cheese? Yes, but when it thaws it's grainy and you can't recapture the smooth texture. Well, when I unwrapped two blocks of the cream cheese, they must have been in the wrong spot in the fridge because they froze. Sure enough, when they thawed out, they were grainy. They tasted fine. I thought about it -- Ricotta and cottage cheese are both grainy and people make cheesecakes with them. What's the worse that could happen? The cheesecake wouldn't be as smooth as I like. I tried it. No problem. The cheesecake is smooth as butter. Now you know -- and so do I. You don't have to throw out frozen cream cheese. Just make a cheesecake with it.

Coconut Cheesecake, Juniors Style
INGREDIENTS: Crust: 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup coconut
2 Tbsp. cocoa
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
3 Tbsp. butter

Filling: 4 8-oz. packages Neufchatel cheese or regular cream cheese (I used Neufchatel)
1-2/3 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 cup cream of coconut or coconut milk (not lite)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. coconut extract (increase to 1 tsp. for more coconut
flavor, if desired)

DIRECTIONS: Have all ingredients at room temperature before starting. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and generously butter or spray a 9" springform pan with non-stick cooking spray. In workbowl of food processor, combine crust ingredients. Pulse till well combined. Press crumbs onto bottom and 3/4 up sides of pan. Lay out 2-3 sheets of heavy duty foil. Set pan in center of top sheet. One at a time, bring each sheet of foil up and around the side of the pan, pressing tightly into the sides to make bottom waterproof. Here's what it looks like, ready to go into the oven:

Bake crust on center rack for 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Heat about 1-1/2 quarts of water slowly on the stove. It will need to boil by the time you put the cheesecake into the oven.
Make filling: With damp paper towel, wipe out inside of food processor workbowl and combine 8 oz. cream cheese with the sugar, pulsing till smooth. Add remaining cream cheese, one block at a time, pulsing till smooth each time. Be sure there are no lumps before continuing. Add one egg at a time, pulsing till smooth after each addition. Add the cream of coconut or coconut milk and pulse again till smooth. Lastly, add the cornstarch, vanilla and coconut extracts and pulse briefly till combined. Carefully and slowly and gently pour the filling into the now-cooled crust. Set the foil-wrapped pan in a large shallow pan and add an inch of water. Don't add more than an inch or it may be difficult to remove the cheesecake pan. Bake the cheesecake until the center barely jiggles when you shake the pan. It's supposed to take 55 minutes to an hour, but mine took 1 hour 15 minutes. At the end of that time, the cheesecake didn't jiggle and I was worried I had left it in too long, but the texture was perfect.
Cool the cake on a wire rack for 1-2 hours, then refrigerate until it's completely cold -- at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove the sides of the springform pan and serve from pan bottom or transfer to a platter. Before serving, drizzle with chocolate coconut glaze (2 Tbsp. semi-sweet chocolate chips, 1 Tbsp. cream of coconut or coconut milk; in small cup or dish, microwave on high 20 seconds at a time, stirring often. Add more cream or milk as needed till mixture is thin enough to drizzle. Drizzle over cheesecake.)

1 comment:

Anna said...

Glad the cheesecake worked out. I tend to change crusts all the time anyway, so when I tried the recipe, I was more concerned about the filling. I will have to try the Lindy's recipe at some point.