After another week of making what I consider the ‘best of’ something this month I have to wonder what has come over me. I did not set out to do a ‘Best of’ series but it’s happened nonetheless. Maybe it’s the bit of melancholy I feel in the fall that has me thinking of foods that I love? I really don’t know but think I will plan ahead and devote the last Monday of the month to a recipe from my archives that I’ve always thought the best and include a list of links to others I’ve seen during the month that I have found especially appealing. I so often make something new…this will force me to revisit some old favorites that might be feeling a bit taken for granted.
It’s been fun. I’ve also noticed that each of my best of have such different histories for me. The Smashed Potatoes were a conglomeration of the best way I like to make potatoes happily combined with the newness of adding goat cheese. The Molasses Chocolate Chip Cookies were something totally new that I tried that turned out to be the best doggone chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had. Since this effort was not intentional this month, I didn’t do a best of post when I visited 303 Distillery but I can honestly say it was the best time I’ve ever had on a distillery visit!
So on this last Monday of September, not wanting to disappoint, I’ve included what I consider the BEST cheesecake recipe ever. The original recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Colorado Cache, from the Junior League of Denver. It was given to me as a housewarming gift 25 years ago by my neighbor Pat who was a contributing member. It has never failed me and I’ve many favorites from this book. It has been loved so much so that my first copy, a spiral bound version, had to be replaced. Maybe not known to you, but when I went to the market for ingredients on Saturday, a woman noticed it in my basket and even came up to show me a couple of her favorites!
What makes this cheesecake so special? Well, for one thing, it tastes like cheesecake. Not Snickers or Turtles or Whoppers or any of the multitudes of conglomerations I’ve seen done to cheesecakes. Even seeing photos of some of those make my teeth hurt! I won’t call this a New York cheesecake for I’m not the judge of that but I will say that I love the rich cheese flavor combined with a touch of lemon. Simple, beautiful and simply the best I’ve ever had! Add some strawberries or raspberries and it’s an elegant and special dessert.
One reason I love it even beyond the luxurious taste? See that top after it’s been taken out of the oven? Not one crack in site. No hot water bath either. And then, as if there were a flaw to disguise, a sweetened layer of sour cream is baked on top of the cheesecake which is then topped with a glaze of lemon after it’s cooled a bit and before it’s refrigerated. Perfect with berries. No candy required!
My ONLY revision to this perfect recipe should not be too surprising to those that know me. Wanting to have the top be yellow to reflect the lemon color I pondered what I could add. I have food coloring, sure but then I had a brainstorm. Limoncello! I simply substituted the water in the glaze with Limoncello; it’s optional but it does add just another great lemon tang!
My friend Kim was a flight attendant for Pan Am back in their heyday; she invited some of her cohorts from then to join her and other friends for the premier. I got such a kick out of the Pan Am shrine with uniforms and photos and I’ll soon be doing a post with photos of those and a sample from the menu Kim made that was reminiscent of what they served to passengers then. Before anyone had a clue what the letters TSA stood for…ahh, those really WERE the days! I offered to bring dessert and we thought this cheesecake would fit in fine from that era. The real beauty of it…I think it’s just as current for today!
The majority of my family is in the St. Louis area and that includes my darling niece Eva. I hate that she is so far away and I’ve missed so much of her kids growing up but I’m sure out of deference to that, she had a baby just 2 years ago (sure she did Barb). With my increased use of Facebook came an increased ability to keep in touch and yes, maybe somewhat voyeuristic, a way to see what’s going on. A family of boys is what Eva knew with 3 active youngsters in her charge and then along came Z. I wish I could remember all of the names that child has. Z, Zeezer, Zoe, I know there are more. I think Eva inherited that multiple silly nicknames thing from my Dad. He would name an animal a normal pet name and then the derivations would take off. Our first dog Pansy somehow became Pansworthy and the last dog I think he had was Mandible; forget her real and much cuter name of Mandy.
Anyway…I digress. This story is told and this photo included because Eva saw me post this recipe on Facebook recently and she and Z decided to make it for a friend. I love seeing Mom’s helper. Even more? I love remembering when Z’s mom was my favorite little girl. We were very close when she was little and I would steal her as often as I could…and we had more than one special moment of her helping me in the kitchen. While I wish I had a photo of those moments, it’s amazing how much this photo brought it all back and in such a sweet way. So I hope you think she is cute and all but in truth…this photo is for ME! Pack her up now Eva; her Aunt Barb is waiting!!!
This is a luscious and large cheesecake, enough for 12-16 servings. From the Junior League of Denver’s Colorado Cache cookbook (copyright 1978 and still love it!)
- 2¼ cups graham cracker crumbs (about 25 single crackers, crushed)
- ¼ cup sugar
- 6 tablespoons melted butter
- 3 - 8·ounce packages cream cheese, softened
- 3 eggs
- 1⅓ cups sugar
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
- 1 pint sour cream
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- ½ cup water (I substituted ½ cup Limoncello for the water but it's optional. I also ended up adding just a touch of lemon paste color. )
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Combine cracker crumbs, sugar and butter. Press into bottom and ½" up sides of an 11 to 12 inch springform pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. Cool before adding filling.
- Beat cream cheese with electric mixer at high speed until completely smooth.
- Add eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition.
- Continue to beat, gradually adding 1⅓ cups sugar, then lemon juice and vanilla.
- Stir in lemon rind.
- Pour into cooled crust and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.
- Blend sour cream, sugar and vanilla extract for topping.
- Remove cake from oven. Gently spread sour cream over top of cake. Return to oven and bake about 12 minutes.
- Cool on rack for 30 minutes. Refrigerate until topping is cool but not completely chilled.
- Make glaze by combining sugar and cornstarch, blending in water and lemon juice until smooth. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until thickened. Cook 3 minutes. Chill until cool but not set.
- Spread top of cheesecake with lemon glaze. Chill several hours or overnight. Can also be frozen.