Baked Sunday Mornings: Upstate Cheesecake

I rarely make cheesecake. I've been maintaining this blog for more than ten years and written more than 1,200 posts -- but I can count the number of cheesecakes I've made in the last decade on one hand. It's not that I don't enjoy a good cheesecake. But it's a heavy dessert and not one I'm in the mood for very often. Still, I was happy to try out the the "Upstate Cheesecake" recipe on the Baked Sunday Mornings schedule this week, which comes from Matt Lewis' grandmother.

Just reading through the recipe raised my cholesterol a bit. The filling includes two and a half pounds of cream cheese. Plus a lot of eggs. And some heavy cream. And some sour cream. This is not a health food. But the recipe was pretty straightforward. The crust is a mixture of graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and softened butter pressed into a springform pan. I thought there was an awful lot of crust mixture but I used it all, pressing a thick layer of crust all the way to the top of the pan.

I chilled the crust while I made the filling, which is a mixture of softened cream cheese, sugar, flour, lemon zest, lemon juice, eggs, egg yolks, and cream. I tried to beat the filling as little as possible because the recipe warns that excessive beating will add too much air to the mixture. My filling came all the way to the top of the crust and I had to carefully slide the pan into the oven to make sure the filling didn't slosh over the side.
You're supposed to put the cheesecake into an oven that's been pre-heated to 500 degrees, but my oven only goes up to 450 (the dial says it goes up to 500, but the thermostat has been off by 50 degrees since we bought our house more than 10 years ago). I baked it at 450 for ten minutes and then turned the oven down to 350 degrees. I ended up baking the cheesecake for 70 minutes at 350, which is slightly longer than specified in the recipe, but I didn't want it to be underdone. I'm glad that I put my springform pan on top of a baking sheet before putting it in the oven, because quite a bit of butter leaked out from the crust through the bottom seam of the pan during baking.

My cheesecake rose quite a bit in the oven and like a souffle, it cracked dramatically around the edges. The top also became quite dark. When I pulled it out of the oven and tried to spread on the sour cream topping, I did the best I could considering that there was a huge crack forming a moat around the perimeter of the top. I baked the cheesecake for another 5 minutes and then let the cheesecake cool in the turned off oven with the door cracked open. I chilled the cooled cheesecake in the fridge overnight.

Despite the enormous cracks that had formed during baking, I thought the slices of cheesecake looked fine after slicing. And I'm glad I gave the cheesecake the extra time in the oven, because it was just barely set. But I was able to slice the cheesecake very thin and cut it into 24 slender slices to take to work (although the slice in the photo above is 1/12 of the cheesecake; I bisected it after taking the picture). I thought this cheesecake was very good. It was creamy and lighted flavored with lemon, and not as heavy as I had expected. If I have one complaint, it's that the crust was soft. I also thought the filling could have used a pinch of salt to help sharpen the flavor. But I enjoyed my thin slice quite a bit, and my tasters were fans too.

Recipe: "Upstate Cheesecake" from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, recipe available here at Baked Sunday Mornings.

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