Vanilla Cheesecake with Mixed Berries

(July 5, 2019) The art of entertaining takes much planning and every detail must be considered.

Preparing homemade desserts can be time consuming and add to the level of stress.

As a result, store-bought alternatives have become popular and are totally acceptable.

But there are special occasions where one will want to take the time to make a decadent final course.

Cheesecake is not complicated and can be a delicious option. Just a few tips can ensure success and give one the confidence to give it a try.

Room temperature cream cheese is a must. It blends better with the other ingredients. If the cream cheese is too cold, the consistency will be lumpy and so will your finished cake.

Blending the cheesecake batter is a delicate balance of mixing and timing. You need to mix the batter enough to avoid lumps, but not to the point where the batter will absorb too much air.

The absorption of too much air will cause your cheesecake to rise too rapidly which increases the chances for cracks.

Crowning your cheesecake with a “top coat” also reduces the chances for cracks and at the same time provides a silky, smooth finish. It only takes a few extra minutes and is highly suggested.

There is no getting around it, a springform pan is well worth the money. The removable sides make the task of removing the cheesecake from the pan to the serving plate much easier.

Always double wrap the bottom of your pan in aluminum foil. You will be cooking your cheesecake in a water bath, and the foil is a preventive measure so water does not leak in and cause your crust to get soggy.

Cooking a cheesecake in a water bath is imperative for a successful dish. A water bath is the technique of putting your cake pan in a container of water while baking. The water helps the heat disperse evenly, which again helps avoid cracks.

It is important to allow the cheesecake to cool gradually. After the cheesecake has finished cooking, turn off the stove and keep the oven door closed for a period of time.

Resist the temptation to open the door and peak at your finished product.

When slicing a cheesecake, dip your knife in warm water, dry it off, and proceed to cut the cake. This process will produce sharp lines for a better presentation. Do this with every slice.

Vanilla cheesecake with mixed berries is a stunning finale to any meal.

The following recipe is time consuming but it is also very easy to make. Your family and guests will gobble up every bite. Enjoy!

Vanilla Cheesecake with Mixed Berries

Crust

½ cup unsalted butter

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs

3 tablespoons sugar

pinch of fine (table) salt

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

parchment paper

aluminum foil

9-inch springform pan

1. Melt the butter, covered in a medium microwavable-safe bowl, or on the stovetop in a small pan.

2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper in the bottom of the pan, and grease the sides with some of the melted butter or cooking spray.

3. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, salt and nutmeg in a medium bowl.

4. Add the melted butter to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Place the graham cracker mixture into the springform pan. Using the back of a spoon, smooth out the cracker mixture to form an even crust.

5. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, remove the pan from the oven, and set aside to cool. Once the pan has cooled, double wrap the bottom of your pan in foil.

Filling

2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature

1 ¼ cups granulated sugar

1 ¼ cups sour cream

6 large eggs, slightly beaten

1 ½ tablespoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1. Beat the cream cheese on medium speed with a hand-held mixer until smooth. Add the granulated sugar and beat until fully incorporated. Slowly beat in the sour cream, then eggs, vanilla and lemon zest, scraping the sides of the bowl. Pour the mixture into the cooled crust.

2. Place cheesecake in a roasting pan and fill enough water so it comes about halfway up the side of the springform pan. Carefully place the roasting pan in the oven and cook for 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Top Coat

¾ cup sour cream

½ cup confectioners’ sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1. When the cheesecake is almost done cooking, combine sour cream, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla in a small bowl. Mix until all the lumps have disappeared.

2. As soon as the 1 hour and 10 minutes cooking time is up, remove the cheesecake from the oven and apply the top coat. Using the back of the spoon, spread this topping over the entire surface of the cheesecake. Make sure it touches the edge of the springform pan. This will ensure a perfect crowning for your cheesecake.

3. Place the cheesecake back into the oven for 5 minutes. Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to finish cooking for 1 more hour. Do not open the oven door until the hour is up.

4. Remove cheesecake from the roasting pan, remove tin foil and allow it to rest on a cooling rack. Run a knife around the edges and allow the cheesecake to come to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Berry Topping

2 to 3 cups combined strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.

Presentation

Bring cheesecake to room temperature 30 minutes before serving. Remove the springform ring and place cheesecake on a serving plate. Artistically arrange fruit on the top of the cheesecake or serve individual portions with fruit and a garnish of fresh mint.

* Take the time to arrange the fruit so it looks pleasing to the eye. It would be a pity to get sloppy after all of your efforts.

Secret Ingredient – Beauty. “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”

– Confucius

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