Cheesecake

CHEERS FOR

Celebrating Mother's Day in velvety-smooth style

May 05, 1999|By ELINOR KLIVANS | ELINOR KLIVANS,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

Believe me, one of these cheesecakes with shimmering candied orange peel, spirited coffee brandy or chocolate-covered ginger will fit into your Mother's Day celebration.

I've found that the secret to baking velvety-smooth cheesecakes is to mix them gently, bake them in a water bath and cool them away from drafts. Because cheesecakes are actually baked custards, they appreciate gentle handling. Beating a lot of air into a cheesecake batter causes it to expand during baking, then deflate and form giant crevices across the top as it cools.

Baking cheesecakes in a water bath surrounds them in a gentle heat that eliminates these cracks. Tiny cracks that form along the edge of a cheesecake during baking indicate that it is done. These cracks disappear as the cheesecake cools. Cover the top of a cheesecake loosely with paper towels to protect it from drafts as it cools. The paper towels allow the steam to escape so that moisture doesn't collect on top of the warm, covered cheesecake.

Using soft cream cheese and room-temperature eggs produces a smooth batter with a minimum of mixing. Reduced-fat cream cheese softens more quickly than full-fat cream cheese and combines easily with the other ingredients. I prefer the firmer texture of a cheesecake made with full-fat cream cheese, but one prepared with a low-fat cream cheese tastes just as good.

Cheesecakes actually taste better the day after they're baked when the flavors have had a chance to develop. If a cheesecake is carefully covered with plastic wrap, it can be stored up to a week in the refrigerator. Bring cheesecakes to room temperature before serving them for a desirable soft, creamy texture and enhanced flavor. To cut neat slices, use a large, sharp knife and carefully wipe the knife clean after cutting each piece.

Candied Orange and White Chocolate Cheesecake

Serves 16

CRUST:

1 1/4 cups flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

dash salt

FILLING:

2 pounds cream cheese, softened, 3 to 4 hours at room temperature

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 tablespoons flour

4 large eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 tablespoon orange-flavored liqueur, such as Grand Marnier

1 tablespoon grated orange zest (orange part only)

2 tablespoons whipping cream

6 ounces white chocolate, melted

TOPPING:

2 oranges, use rind only

2/3 cup water

1/3 cup sugar

Butter 9-inch springform pan with sides at least 2 3/4 inches high. Wrap outside of pan with large piece of heavy aluminum foil.

To prepare crust, combine flour, sugar, zest, butter and salt in large bowl of electric mixer and mix on low speed just until small crumbs form. Mixture should not form ball. Press mixture onto bottom and 1/2 inch up side of prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees about 15 minutes until crust is golden.

To prepare filling, mix cream cheese in large bowl of electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Add sugar and mix smooth. Mix in flour. Add eggs, 2 at a time, mixing until batter is smooth. Mix in vanilla, almond extract, liqueur, zest and cream. Stir in melted white chocolate. Pour batter into prepared springform pan.

Place cheesecake in large baking pan with at least 2-inch high sides and place in oven. Pour hot water in large pan to reach 1 inch up sides of springform pan. Bake at 350 degrees about 1 hour until top looks firm when given gentle shake. Remove from water bath. Cover with paper towels and cool thoroughly, about 2 hours. Cheesecake should feel cool to the touch. Cover with plastic wrap and chill thoroughly in refrigerator, at least 6 hours or overnight.

To prepare topping, using vegetable peeler with slight sawing motion, remove orange rind from oranges in large strips. Cut rind into matchstick-size strips. Place strips in small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil. Drain orange strips and rinse with cold water. Combine 2/3 cup water and sugar in small saucepan and simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add orange rind and simmer 10 minutes. Drain and cool orange peel. Or, refrigerate peel in its syrup up to 1 week.

Place border of glazed orange peel around edge of cheesecake. Store in refrigerator up to 7 days. Serve at room temperature.

Coffee-Brandy Cheesecake

Serves 16

CHEESECAKE:

1 Chocolate Crumb Crust (recipe follows)

2 pounds cream cheese, softened 3 to 4 hours at room temperature

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 tablespoons flour

4 large eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons brandy or cognac

4 teaspoons instant coffee granules dissolved in 2 tablespoons whipping cream

TOPPING:

2 cups sour cream

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To prepare cheesecake, prepare Chocolate Crumb Crust and bake in 9-inch springform pan that is wrapped on outside with large piece of heavy aluminum foil. Set aside.

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