Fuss-free cheesecake

COOKING FOR TWO

Dessert: This cheesecake requires no water baths and develops no cracks -- but it still tastes great.

March 31, 2002|By Bev Bennett | Bev Bennett,Special to the Sun

Cheesecakes are such temperamental, demanding desserts that it's easy to lose heart. They call for water baths, long rest periods, no sudden breezes. And if you don't treat them just right -- and sometimes, even if you do -- they crack like fault lines, destroying your vision of perfection. Why bother, you might ask. Why not bake a chocolate cake instead and leave cheesecakes to bakeries?

The taste is the answer. Nothing beats the creamy, fresh flavor of a cheesecake that you've baked. After years of experimenting, I've learned to outwit a cheesecake's worst inclinations by baking the cream-cheese mixture in a pie crust instead of in a springform pan. The cheesecake layer is anchored with a light pastry crust. The dessert has half the cream-cheese filling of a typical cake so it isn't weighted down and doesn't split. It's a beautiful dessert, without the agony.

To make a cheesecake pie, use the crust recipe that follows or save time with a box of refrigerated pre-made crust.

You can leave the cake plain, without worrying about cracks, or you can add a dazzling and delicious topping of sliced fresh strawberries glazed with orange marmalade. If you do add the glaze, bake the pie on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. The berries can bubble over, which would make a messy clean-up.

Distributed by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate International, a division of Tribune Media Services.

Strawberry-Cheesecake Pie

Makes 4 servings

CRUST:

1 1/2 cups flour

dash of salt

1 tablespoon sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold, cut into small pieces

4 to 5 tablespoons ice cold water

FILLING AND TOPPING:

one 8-ounce package cream cheese

5 tablespoons sugar

1 egg

2 teaspoons grated orange peel

1 / 4 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups sliced strawberries

1 / 4 cup orange marmalade,

mixed with 1 teaspoon water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

To prepare crust, in bowl, combine flour, salt and sugar. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough comes together. Gather into a ball. Flatten into a disk and set aside.

To prepare filling, in bowl of electric mixer, beat together cream cheese and sugar. Add egg, orange zest and vanilla and beat until light.

Roll out dough into 13- to 14-inch circle on lightly floured board. Lift dough onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Mound cream cheese mixture in center of dough, leaving 2-inch border. Bring up edges toward center, forming pleats, and leaving about 6 inches in center clear of crust.

Bake pie in oven 35 minutes or until filling is almost set and crust is golden. Remove from oven. Cover center with strawberries in a single layer, if possible.

Heat orange marmalade and water in microwave oven on Medium (50 percent power) 30 seconds or until pourable. Spoon over strawberry slices to glaze. Return tart to oven for 10 minutes. Remove tart and cool to room temperature. Cover and chill several hours before slicing.

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