Friday, May 8, 2009
JUNIOR'S CHEESECAKE WITH SHORTBREAD CASHEW CRUST
Junior's cheesecake, had been on my mind, ever since I got creative with my first one. This time, I fully intended to follow the original recipe to a "T"; but, true to my nature, made some changes at the last minute. Instead of the sponge cake base that Junior's is known for, I tried a shortbread-cashew crust, which turned out unbelievably good. Of course, you can use the Keebler shortbread cookies, but they have ingredients listed that I don't want to eat. Real shortbread is considerably more expensive, but the ingredient list is a lot shorter -- just flour, butter, sugar and salt. Since this cheesecake calls for only one flavoring (vanilla), go for the best. I used Nielsen-Massey vanilla paste (Williams Sonoma), and you can see the vanilla bean specks in the cheesecake if you look closely. (By the way, this cheesecake was made almost two months ago. )
Good Morning America posted the recipe for Junior's Famous No. 1 Cheesecake. It's from the cookbook, "Welcome to Junior's! Remembering Brooklyn With Recipes and Memories from Its Favorite Restaurant." The directions implicity state that you should use regular cream cheese, not light. Hrmpph. I hate it when people tell me what I can't do. Sure, it's going to be better if you use full fat cream cheese. But that doesn't mean you can't make a good cheesecake with Neufchatel cheese. Just to prove my point, that's what I did. I reduced the heavy cream by 1/4 cup to allow for the extra liquid in the Neufchatel cheese.
The final verdict is in: The buttery, nutty crust on this cheesecake is the bomb (and the extra fat in it more than makes up for what was saved by using light cream cheese and less heavy cream). The cheesecake is excellent with its mild yet full vanilla flavoring and firm creaminess, and is now in a neck-to-neck race with my all-time favorite, Lindy's. (I see a throwdown coming.)
I hope you're not one of those people that's afraid to make a cheesecake, because they are amazingly forgiving. My son made cheesecakes many times before he realized he was overbaking them. And he thoroughly enjoyed every overbaked cheesecake. He's finally learned how to tell when a cheesecake is done: watch it through the oven window. Watch it puff up around the edges. But don't let it puff up all the way to the center. It should jiggle and look undone when you turn off the heat. See, this is what I love about the Lindy's recipe. It's baked at a high temp, then you turn the oven way down, so the cheesecake cools gradually. It never cracks and it's smooth as butter when you eat it. Most cheesecakes are baked at the wrong temperature, causing cracking.
I was all set to enjoy eating this cheesecake. Before I could indulge, though, my neighbor came to the door asking if she could buy a dessert from me for company she was expecting. What could I do? I gave her the cheesecake. Thankfully, I had made a little 4" cake for Guy and me. So at least I got to taste it, but it was barely a few mouthfuls. Drizzled in butterscotch-caramel sauce that perfectly complemented the vanilla cheesecake and its divine shortbread-cashew crust, I was in heaven, albeit for a very brief moment.
Junior's Cheesecake with Shortbread-Cashew Crust
Cheesecake adapted from GMA recipes and Junior's, NYC
Crust: Judy's Kitchen
Rating: Cheesecake: 9.5 out of 10
Crust: 10 out of 10
CRUST: 1 pkg. (5.3 oz or 150g) Walkers pure butter shortbread (about 1-1/4 cups crushed)
1/3 cup salted cashews
1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. coriander
3 Tbsp. melted Smart Balance 50/50 butter blend
Preheat oven to 350F. In work bowl of food processor, place all ingredients except SB and pulse several times until everything is reduced to crumbs. Drizzle in the melted SB and continue to pulse till mixture is evenly moistened. Press mixture into a 9" springform pan that's been wrapped in two thicknesses of aluminum foil (or, as I did, divide between an 8" springform pan and a 4-1/2" springform pan, also wrapped in foil). Bake about 10 minutes (the small pan will be done in about 8 minutes). Cool thoroughly while preparing cheesecake filling.
CHEESECAKE FILLING: 4 (8-oz) pkgs. cream cheese (I used Neufchatel)
1-2/3 cups sugar
1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract (the best you can afford)
2 extra-large eggs (or 2-1/2 large)
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream (reduce to 1/2 if using Neufchatel)
Wipe out the work bowl with a damp paper towel. Place 1 pkg. of cream cheese and the sugar in the bowl and pulse till well combined. Add the other blocks of cream cheese, one at a time, and pulse well after each addition. Scrape down sides after each. Be sure the mixture is completely smooth, creamy and well mixed. Add the eggs, one at a time, and just pulse briefly after each. Add the cornstarch and cream, pulsing just till combined and smooth with no lumps. Butter the exposed sides of each pan. Spoon about 1 cup of batter into the small pan and spoon the rest into the 8" pan.
Set out a large, shallow pan filled with very hot water and place both pans in the water. Set in the oven and bake the small pan about 30 minutes, and the larger pan about 50 minutes, till the outside edges have puffed up but the centers are still quite jiggly. Transfer to a warm place, free of drafts, to thoroughly cool before transferring to a wire rack in a cooler place. Refrigerate overnight to "cure" the flavors. Serve with caramel sauce and chopped salted cashews. (Recommended: Smucker's Special Recipe Butterscotch-Caramel Sauce).
You may want to check out my other spectacular vanilla cheesecake from Food & Wine Magazine.