Cheesecake to the rescue

Entertaining

Creamy dessert shows its versatility in an emergency.

Entertaining

May 26, 2002|By Betty Rosbottom | By Betty Rosbottom,Special to the Sun

One of my great fears is arriving at someone's house for a dinner or a party on the wrong day. On more than one occasion, concerned that we had confused a date, my husband and I have driven around the block watching to see if other guests appear for a dinner party. Never, however, have I worried that I would forget a social event at our own house. But that is exactly what happened to me last week.

Returning from a culinary meeting in California, I flew back across the country and got home jet-lagged on Sunday night.

I spent the next day catching up on my work, but neglected to look at my calendar, where there was a note reminding me that a small group from my investment club was coming to a Tuesday-morning meeting at my home. Our group often meets early in the day before work to discuss the ups and downs of our modest holdings, and we always indulge in some homemade sweet treat served with coffee and tea.

By a stroke of luck, something triggered my memory around 7:30 on the morning of the meeting. Trying not to panic, I looked in the refrigerator to see what might be turned into refreshments. Much to my surprise, I found half of a lemon cheesecake I had made for my spouse to enjoy while I was away.

There was enough left for five servings, and a quick sampling indicated that the dessert still tasted delicious. After begging my husband to clean the kitchen and brew some more coffee, I raced to the market to buy fresh strawberries and blueberries to serve with each slice, and returned home in time to make a pot of tea before the doorbell started to ring.

The cheesecake recipe, created by my talented friend Emily Bell from Columbus, Ohio, is exceptional because only the crust, made with crumbled shortbread cookies, is baked.

The scrumptious filling -- a mixture of cream cheese, lemon curd and freshly grated lemon zest bound with gelatin dissolved in half and half -- is poured into a springform pan with a cookie-crumb crust, then refrigerated until set.

You could offer this cheesecake unadorned or serve it with fresh berries, as I did. It is also attractive napped with blueberry or raspberry sauce. Best of all, this dessert will keep well in the refrigerator for several days just in case you have an entertaining emergency such as mine.

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

No-bake Lemon Cheesecake With Fresh Berries

Makes 8 servings

One 5- to 5.3-ounce package pure butter shortbread cookies (see note)

1 / 4 cup half-and-half

1 packet (2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin

24 ounces regular or reduced-fat (not nonfat) cream cheese, cut into pieces

1 cup purchased lemon curd

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (grated color portion of peel)

1/2 pint blueberries, rinsed and dried

1 pint strawberries, stemmed, cleaned, dried and cut lengthwise

Arrange rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Process shortbread cookies in food processor until finely ground. Press crumbs in even layer on bottom of 8-inch springform pan and about 3 / 4 inch up the sides. Bake 7 to 8 minutes or until crumbs are lightly browned. Remove and cool completely.

Pour half-and-half into small saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over top. Let stand 1 minute, then place saucepan over low heat and whisk constantly until gelatin dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

With electric mixer on medium-high speed, whip cream cheese until fluffy. Add lemon curd and beat until blended completely with cream cheese. Stop mixer and scrape down sides of bowl several times as necessary. Beat in lemon zest. Lower speed and pour in half-and-half mixture and beat just until blended. Pour batter into prepared crust and spread evenly with spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight until completely set.

To serve, bring cheesecake to room temperature for 45 minutes. Mix strawberries with blueberries in bowl. Serve slices of cheesecake garnished with berries.

Note: Be sure to use pure butter shortbread cookies because there will be enough butter in the cookies themselves so that you do not need to add melted butter to the crumbs for the crust. I like Walkers Shortbread Cookies, which are available in many markets.

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