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

INGREDIENTS:
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.





21 comments:

Martha said...

I love any and all cheesecakes -- the crust does look yummy!

Barbara Bakes said...

I need to look for the vanilla paste sounds great! The cheesecake looks yummy!

teresa said...

YUMMMY! This looks like heaven!

Debbie said...

I have seen the people from Junior's on Food Nework. I think it was a throwdown with Bobby....your cheesecake looks great. What a fantastic idea for a crust. I have made cheesecake but not often because of the calories. This would be a good one for me to try....Thanks for rating it too Judy!

Pam said...

You had me at shortbread cashew crust. Looks delicious.

Coleen's Recipes said...

What a PERFECT Mothers Day dessert. I love cheesecake.

Lynda said...

I love cheesecake and make one every so often. They really aren't hard to make and they taste heavenly! Yours looks fabulous and I think you have very lucky neighbors!

Donna-FFW said...

LOVE this cheesecake and you rated it so highly.. I must tryit .. and the Lindys. The crust sound absolutely wonderful.

Reeni♥ said...

This looks truly delicious-love the cashew crust. How nice of you to sell your cheesecake! I bet she smelled it cooking!

Kerstin said...

What a unique crust - your cheesecake looks really yummy!

unconfidential cook said...

That crust sounds divine! What a great idea to use the shortbreads.

Sophie said...

MMMMMM...Judy! What a delicious dessert!!
I like that you have added coriander into the crust: that must bring out a lovely flavour!! Yummie!!

Katrina said...

Ooh, the caramel looks so good!

My Carolina Kitchen said...

That is one fine looking cheesecake. I haven't made a cheesecake in a long time - think I'll have to give this one a try. I too like the Nielson-Massey vanilla from Williams Sonoma. Years ago we had Mexican vanilla and it's the best. Wish I had a good source for it. I've never tried a crust with cashews and coriander; know it must make it special.
Sam

biz319 said...

That looks amazing Judy!! Love the crust!

Sophie said...

I really like the sound of it with a shortbread cashew crust :).

Hairball said...

Looks heavenly!

Honestly, I can't remember the last time I made a cheesecake.

Elyse said...

I'm so sad that you had to give the big cheesecake away; although what an honor that your neighbor came knocking in need of fabulous baked goods. I love Junior's. My dad is a New Yorker and he is always talking about cheesecake. I can't wait to make this recipe for him. And the shortbread cashew crust sounds awesome! I love Walker's shortbread!

Barbara said...

The cheesecake sounds delicious. I'm going to post it at our Recipe section at www.walkersus.com so our customers can make this cheesecake at home. You've added a bit of a yumming twist adding the cashews in the crust.

Talita said...

Yummm, Judy! That cheesecake looks so decadent! I have some cream cheese, you know in Brazil cream cheese is a little expensive. =)
So, I copied the recipe and I can't wait to try it.

♥peachkins♥ said...

wow! I love cheesecakes and this looks yummy *drool*