Believe it or not cheesecake dates to the Romans in 230 A.D.
Not until the early 1900s did “New York-style” cheesecake — probably the most famous variety — come about.
Such a versatile dessert, cheesecake typically has two layers: a rich, creamy baked custard and a bottom of crushed cookies. It can be made with countless combinations of flavors and just as many toppings.
While cream cheese remains the constant, other ingredients vary from region to region and country to country. New York-style cheesecake uses cream or sour cream and the Pennsylvania Dutch uses farmer’s cheese. Italians use ricotta and the French use Neufchatel cheese.
A fairly easy dessert to make, it can be tricky at the same time. Preventing the cheesecake from cracking represents the greatest challenge.
A number of things can cause cracking. They include simply beating too much air into the custard and using excessive heat in the oven. Some cooks use flour to stabilize the mixture and to help prevent cracks.
Even if it cracks, your cheesecake still will be delicious. Should this happen, you can always mask the crack(s) with a sour cream topping or decorate with whipped cream.
I’ve chosen to make a key lime because it’s a favorite in our house. This recipe will complement any menu that includes a seafood entry.
Key Lime Cheesecake (gluten-free) Serves 8-10
1 8-ounce box of gluten free (S’moreables) graham crackers
1 tablespoon of sugar
5 tablespoons of butter, melted
4 (8-ounce) bricks of cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons of gluten-free flour
1 teaspoon of vanilla
4 eggs at room temperature
9 tablespoons of key lime juice
Zest of 2 limes
Preheat the oven to 325° F and position rack in the middle of the oven. Generously grease the spring-form pan to help prevent the cheesecake from sticking.
In a food processor, pulse the crackers into crumbs, then add the sugar and melted butter. Make sure it is well blended scraping up from the bottom. Press the crumbs on the base and up the sides of a 9-inch spring-form pan and bake at 325° F for 10 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle blade, beat the cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla on medium-low speed until well blended. It will be smooth and creamy. Turning the speed down to low, add the eggs one at a time until each is incorporated. (A key tip: Do not overbeat the mixture, which will create air bubbles that could cause the cake to puff up while baking, only to fall as it cools and crack.) Add the remaining ingredients, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowls.
Once the mixture is blended, pour it into the pan.
Bake the cheesecake for an hour or until the center is almost set. To know if it is at this point, it will jiggle slightly in the center and the outside edges will be well set. The center will continue to cook and set while cooling. Run knife around rim of pan to loosen the cake so that when cooled it will release more easily. Once cool enough to handle, refrigerate for six hours or overnight. Cool completely before removing from the pan. Garnish with whipped cream and thinly sliced limes.