Life is sweet: High Country baking
Living in Summit County is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out the same as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the high country successful. Each recipe has been tested numerous times in my home kitchen in Frisco and, whenever necessary, altered until it works. Vera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day.Cheesecakes need a good lawyer. Home bakers have discriminated against them for years, accusing them of being difficult and time-consuming desserts. If it gets to a court of law, this recipe will be their perfect defense. It is easy to make, comes together quickly, and the finished cake will sit in the refrigerator for a couple days and still be delicious and pretty when served. Under oath, I can say that it has come out perfectly every time I have made it. In the High Country, I think cheesecakes are easier to make than many flour-based cakes. The recipes require no chemical leavening which, unless perfectly adjusted to our altitude, makes flour-based cakes collapse. And, because there are numerous options about how to decorate and present a cheesecake, you can usually camouflage anything that might go wrong.This raspberry-white chocolate cheesecake would make an impressive ending to a Valentine’s Day celebration. Give it a try. Raspberry-White Chocolate CheesecakeYou need an 8-inch springform pan and a hand-held or standing electric mixer to make this.
Ingredients:Crust5 whole chocolate graham crackers (a heaping 1/2 cup) 3 tablespoons sugar4 tablespoons melted butter
Filling5 ounces white chocolate, chopped into small pieces16 ounces cream cheese (two 8 ounce packages) at room temperature1/2 cup granulated sugar2 eggs3/4 teaspoon vanilla2 teaspoons lemon juice3 tablespoons seedless raspberry jamStep One: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Place a small pan (I use a 3×5 inch loaf pan) full of water in the back corner of the rack. This takes the place of a water bath, which is called for in many cheesecake recipes. Step Two. Turn the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan over, so that the side with a lip on it is on the underside and the lipless side is on top. It is easier to cut and serve the cake from a base that doesn’t have a lip. Grease the pan.
Step Three. Using a food processor, process the crust ingredients until the graham crackers are fine crumbs and all is well mixed. If you don’t have a food processor, put the crackers in a plastic bag and smash them with a rolling pin or your hands until they are in fine crumbs. Then, put them in a bowl with the sugar and melted butter and stir with a fork until well combined.Step Four. Pat the crust crumbs into the bottom of the pan. You can pat them up the sides of the pan if you like that look; I don’t do it because it’s too hard to get them to stick on the pan sides. If I want them on the sides, I pat them on the finished cake before serving it. It’s much easier and they don’t become soggy as they often do if baked with the cake. Step Five. Bake the crust for about 8-10 minutes, until firm. Remove to a rack to cool. Turn the oven temperature down to 300 degrees.Step Six. Melt the chopped white chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. To microwave: Place chocolate pieces in a microwave safe bowl and heat for about 1 1/2 minutes at power level three. Stir and keep heating at power level three for 20 second intervals until most pieces are melted. Remove from microwave and stir until totally melted and smooth. White chocolate burns more easily than dark chocolate, so watch it carefully. Set it aside.Step Seven. Using a mixer, blend the room-temperature cream cheese and the granulated sugar until smooth. Add the melted white chocolate, the vanilla and the lemon juice and blend until smooth again. Step Eight. When the crust is cool, pour the batter into the prepared pan and carefully smooth the top. Heat the raspberry preserves until they are melted. Using a spoon, dot the top of the cheesecake batter with the warm raspberry jam. Use a toothpick or a small knife to swirl the jam and create a marbled pattern.Step Nine. Place the filled pan on a baking sheet and put in the 300 degree oven. Start checking for doneness at about 40 minutes. This is the hardest part: BAKE ONLY UNTIL THE EDGES ARE SET AND PUFFY BUT THE CENTER STILL JIGGLES WHEN YOU GENTLY MOVE THE PAN. I know, I know, it doesn’t seem done, but it will continue to cook as it cools.Step Ten. Turn off the oven but leave the cheesecake in it. Partially open the door about seven to eight inches. If your oven door slams shut, stick a wooden spoon in it to hold it open. Cool the cake in the partially-open oven for an hour. This slow cooling prevents the top of the cake from cracking.
Step Eleven. After an hour, remove the cake from the oven and cool completely on a rack.Step Twelve. When completely cool, cover the cake with a kitchen towel and refrigerate it overnight. Using a towel, rather than one of the usual coverings, keeps condensation from forming and dripping onto the cake. The next day, when the cake is thoroughly chilled, replace the towel with saran wrap.Step Thirteen. When you are ready to serve, carefully run a knife around the edge of the chilled cake to release it from the sides. Open the springform pan slowly and remove the pan sides.Step Fourteen. When cutting the cake, use a thin-bladed knife and dip it in hot water. Clean the knife between cuts and re-dip it, so the cheese filling doesn’t smear.This is a gorgeous dessert served alone, but raspberry sauce is a nice accompaniment. If your cake develops a crack, there are several ways to hide it. Frost the top of the cake with warmed raspberry preserves or canned cherry or blueberry pie filling or cover it with fresh raspberries or chocolate curls. The flaw will be completely hidden and the cheesecake will still be a knockout.If your organization or business would like to sample and review a baked good that will be featured in the Life Is Sweet column, contact Vera Dawson at email@example.com.
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