Sunday, November 21, 2010

Recipe: Swirl Cheesecake

The very first time I attempted to make a cheesecake was two years ago right after I told a friend I would make one for her wedding. Maybe I should have made sure I was capable of pulling off such a feat before committing to it. Alas, Martha stepped in to guide me along the journey. I was provided a recipe by the bride, but all the how-to's came from this handy video on Martha Stewart's website. Whenever I'm in doubt, I go straight to Martha. She's helped me out of many a hole.

This lovely cheesecake recipe isn't quite as intricate as that first one I made, which took a week - and three attempts - to perfect. But wasn't it pretty?

The original swirl cheesecake recipe came from the 2009 Martha Stewart Holiday Sweets magazine, but I've made just a few small changes to make it a bit easier and less time consuming.

First, you'll need the following ingredients:

1 cup finely ground graham crackers
2 tablesppons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup seedless fruit jam or jelly
2 pounds cream cheese, softened (4 8oz pkgs)
pinch of salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
boiling water

Preheat oven to 350.

Remove the bottom of your spring form pan and set the ring aside.

Stir together graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl. Press crumb mixture firmly into the bottom of pan. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool. Reduce oven to 325.

With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. (Be sure it is softened before you begin.) Reduce the mixer speed to low and add 1 1/2 cups of sugar in a slow, steady stream. Add the salt and vanilla and mix until ingredients are well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing each until just combined (don't over mix).

At this point, replace the ring on the pan. Wrap the sides and bottom with two large pieces of foil. Then pour the cream cheese mixture over the crust.

This is where I change the original recipe just a touch. Instead of making your own jam*, I save the time and use the real deal. So, in a small, microwave safe bowl or mug, warm the jam for about 45 seconds. I've used blackberry, raspberry, and strawberry jams, and all have turned out wonderfully delish. Just be sure it's seedless or the texture of your finished product won't be nearly as smooth. Using a small spoon, drop the jam on top of the cake. Then, with a skewer or toothpick, swirl the sauce into the filling. Use as much or as little as you would like. I tend to use the entire 1/3 cup plus some.

Now the cake is ready to bake, which isn't as scary as you may think. You'll need a large roasting pan. I don't currently have one, so I use a jelly roll pan, which works well, too. Carefully pour boiling water into the roasting pan until it is about halfway up the sides of the cheesecake or the jelly roll pan is full. It is possible to make the without the roasting pan, but the top may crack, which is what we're avoiding.

Bake until the cake is set but is still slightly wobbly in the center, about 70 minutes. The best way I've found to avoid cracks across the top of a cheesecake is to turn the oven off at this point and open the oven door a bit. Leave the cheesecake in the oven for another 30-60 minutes.

Transfer springform pan to a rack to cool completely. Refrigerate 6 hours or overnight before serving. And before you take the outside of the pan off, carefully run a knife all the way around the edges to avoid sticking.

*If you'd like to make your own fruit mixture for the cake, you'll need about 1 1/2 cups of fruit (cranberries, raspberries, blackberries) and 3 tablespoons sugar. Puree the berries in a food processor. Pass the puree through a fine sieve into a small bowl and discard the solids. Whisk in the sugar. Use this to drop into the cheesecake instead of the jam.


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