Monday, April 1, 2013

Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake with Gluten Free Crust

No one is perfect, both in life nor the kitchen.  There is always the potential for things to go wrong, even when we think we have done everything right & followed the recipe to the T.  Even when you have extensive culinary training & experience.  Sometimes the recipe is wrong. Sometimes the problem is “operator error.”

Sometimes  the pastry cream is lumpy. Sometimes the cake is a little dry.  Sometimes the pie shell shrinks. Sometimes the cheesecake cracks. 

In my time of baking for fun & for work & teaching, I have learned a great deal of good baking “tricks”. I know a fair amount about food science & why ingredients behave the way they do.  Knowledge is great, but sometimes it makes us (or more specifically me) feel overly confident or prideful.  And there’s nothing like a cracked cheesecake to take you down a peg on the pride ladder.

I had not anticipated doing a blog post about this cheesecake.  I made it this past weekend for an Easter brunch we had with friends.  But, while I was mixing the batter & crushing the cookies for the crust, I suddenly thought perhaps I should do a post about the cheesecake.  I know some good tricks to ensuring the cheesecake doesn’t crack.

  1. Start with ingredients at room temperature to ensure they combine together better. 
  2. Don’t over mix the batter, as over mixing (or even mixing on too high a speed) incorporates unnecessary air.  That air can cause the cheesecake to puff too high in the oven & then crack when it settles. 
  3. Keep your oven at a low temperature
  4. Remove the cheesecake from the oven when the center is still jiggly.  The center should jiggle, not ripple with undercooked batter.  
I followed all the rules. and removed what appeared to be a perfectly baked lemon cheesecake.  It was beautiful! I set it on the cooling rack & went on to other tasks. Several minutes later, I glanced over at the cheesecake. Aaaand, there were several cracks!   I felt a bit humbled about my idea of sharing the perfect cheesecake.

Yes, I am working with a new-to-me oven in our new apartment.  Perhaps the oven temperature is off? Perhaps I baked it just a couple of minutes too long? Two ladies who would be the brunch are pregnant so I took the risk to ensure everything was well baked to keep both them & their babies safe from exposure to food borne illnesses.  

Some kitchen oopsies are hard to mask, but some you can fix.  The lumpy pastry cream can be strained.  The dry cake can be brushed with simple syrup.  The cracked cheesecake top can be covered. Though, the shrunken pie shell may be a little more difficult....

I had already planned to make a blueberry sauce to serve along side the cheesecake. Once the top cracked, I just revised my plan, thickened the sauce a bit more to make it more of a compote & spread it over the top of the cheesecake.  Cracks covered.

By adding the blueberry topping, no one ever has to know about those pesky cracks (unless those friends are also reading this blog).  Many times, I am overly apologetic about the shortcomings of my desserts. I nit-pick & point out all the things that are wrong & apologize profusely for those mistakes.  But honestly, most people don’t know what is wrong with a dessert until you point out the errors. I do like to make things that are both tasty & pretty, but tasty is the more important of the two.  Even a cracked cheesecake will still taste good.  

My hope is that this post will inspire you to several things.  Be humbly confident in your skills, not proud or over apologetic.  Own what you make--unless it truly is really terrible.... then just throw it away.  Learn from your mistakes. Don’t apologize for every little imperfection.  

Lemon Cheesecake with Gluten Free Cookie Crust
yields 1-9" cheesecake with approximately 12 to 16 servings 

8.85 oz Glutino Vanilla Sandwich Cookies (or 1 package minus about 3) 
2 oz Butter, melted 

8.05 oz Sugar
0.4 oz Lemon Zest (roughly 2 lemons) 
0.8 oz Cornstarch
2 lbs Cream Cheese, at room temperature
 2 ea Eggs, large, at room temperature
0.5 oz Lemon Juice
1 tsp Vanilla
8 oz Sour Cream, at room temperature 

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 F.  
  2. Blitz the cookies in the food processor until they become crumbs.  Mix with the melted butter & press into the bottom of a 9” spring form pan.  
  3. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, remove from the oven & set aside to cool slightly.  
  4. Infuse the granulated sugar with the lemon zest, by rubbing the zest into the sugar (using your fingers work best).  Add the cornstarch to the lemon sugar and mix until there are no lumps. 
  5. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the room temperature cream cheese with the lemon sugar/cornstarch mix on low speed until combined. Scrape down the bowl.
  6. Add the room temperature eggs & mix on low speed until just combined. Scrape down the bowl. Add the lemon juice, vanilla and sour cream and once again, mix on low speed until just combined. 
  7. Pour the cheesecake batter into the slightly cooled pre-baked crust.  Place the springform pan onto a sheet pan & slide into the oven.
  8. Bake the cheesecake approximately 1 hr and  5 minutes, or until the middle is still jiggly, but the batter does not ripple underneath the top crust.  
  9. Cool on a wire rack & refrigerate until ready to consume.  

yields enough for 1-9" cheesecake

12 oz frozen blueberries
5.25 oz sugar (3/4 c) 
pinch of salt
2 Tbl Lemon Juice
1Tbl Corn Starch
pinch of nutmeg (optional)
1 Tbl Butter (optional) 

  1.  Heat blueberries, sugar & pinch of salt  over medium heat to release juices. Remove from heat. 
  2. Combine a little of the blueberry juice with the lemon juice & corn starch. Stir to make a slurry & add back into the pot.
  3. Return to stove & heat over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened & the blueberries have started to break down, at least 20 minutes.  
  4. Finish by stirring in the optional pinch of nutmeg & butter.  Remove from the heat & cool completely before pouring over the cheesecake.  Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.  


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