Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Peach Cheesecake

Actually, it's not the cheesecake itself that is peachy. It's the peach compote hidden inside, and the peach preserve glaze on top, that lends the peachy flavor to this cake.


I found this recipe on Epicurious.It was originally in Bon Appetit magazine, June 2002.
The recipe was a pretty straightforward New York-style cheesecake recipe.

If you decide to make this, bear in mind that you really need to start a day ahead of the day you serve it.

Peach Cheesecake with a Gingersnap Crust

When you are ready to start, take your eggs and cream cheese out and put them on the counter. You really want them to be at room temperature when you make the filling.

Make the compote first, because it has to cool a little.
combine in a small saucepan:
4 small peaches (about 1 1/4 pounds), peeled and pitted
2 tablespoons of sugar (more or less depending upon how sweet the fruit is)
1/2 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice

Cover and cook over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves and the peaches break down and are juicy. Stir occasionally. This should take around 5 minutes. I used frozen peaches from last year, so I had to let mine go a little longer, just to let them thaw. Uncover the the pan and let the peaches cook until they are tender and the juices thicken.

Cool the compote. I would think to at least room temperature. But really you could probably make this ahead of time and refrigerate, then take it out to warm up a bit before you use it. It's not a big deal: it's pretty forgiving. I just wouldn't put HOT compote in the cheesecake batter.

Now, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Take out a very large roaster pan, large enough to set the springform pan inside, and place it on the counter out of the way. Lay a kitchen towel in the bottom. Fill the teakettle all the way full with water and set it on the stove to boil. This is for your bain marie.

Make a gingersnap crust by grinding up
25 gingersnap cookies (about 6 ounces)and
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted unsalted butter

Press the crust into a 9-inch springform pan, bringing the crumbs up the sides about an inch. Put the pan into the oven and bake until you can smell the gingersnaps browning, 6-8 minutes. Remove from oven to cool on a rack.

Reduce the oven heat to 325 degrees.

Make the cheesecake filling
4 8-ounce packages of cream cheese
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Beat the cream cheese until it's fluffy. Gradually add 1 1/4 cups sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix in the sour cream and vanilla.

Place your pan on top of a piece of foil that is large enough for you to gather up around the outside of the pan. This will help with any leaks.

Spoon half the batter (about 3 cups) into the crust. Then spoon the compote by tablespoonfuls around the batter, spacing the glops apart. Pour the rest of the batter onto the top.


Here is my friend Cassie putting together the cheesecake. She is a cheesecake-maker extraordinaire.

Okay. So now you have the cheesecake together and the water in the kettle has either come to a boil or is about to. Gather the foil up around the outside of your springform pan.

Place the large roaster pan in the oven and pour the boiling water into it. Then place the cheesecake pan into the roaster.

Now, you are going to bake this cheesecake for about an hour. But start looking at it by around 50 minutes. You are going for a lightly-browned top and you don't want it to be all the way "set." The center of the cheesecake should have a little bit of a jiggle to it if you nudge the pan. You will probably think it's underbaked. But that cake is going to hold a lot of residual heat for quite some time. Not to mention the water in the roaster pan.

Remove the cheesecake from the oven. I remove the entire roaster with cake inside and place it on the counter, then remove the cheesecake. But that's probably not wise, because the water can slosh all over. And it's hard on the back. You can just remove the cheesecake from the pan.

Let it cool on a rack for a while.

The recipe says to cool it for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the outside to be sure it's loose from that pan, then remove the sides of the pan and refrigerate for a day. But other recipes suggest you cool it for a day and then remove the sides before you serve it. I prefer that method. I just don't want to do anything that might upset the cake before it's all the way chilled. And yeah...you need to chill overnight. It's tempting to just go 5 or 6 hours, but a 24-hour chill is really the best here.

"And it was evening and then morning, the second day."

Make the glaze
Combine in a small saucepan
1/2 cup peach preserves
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Stir this over medium heat until the glaze comes to a simmer. The recipe suggests straining it, but I had a snafu removing the cake from the pan, so I used the lumps and bumps and extra glaze that I would have lost from straining to glaze the top of the cake and cover the ugliness. I'll tell you about the mess in a second.

Remove the springform sides of the pan by running a knife around the edge between the crust and the pan sides, and then loosening the sides and sliding up over the top.
Spread the glaze over the top of the cake, arrange some peach slices on top, and maybe a sprig of mint.

And there you have it!

This was the fourth cheesecake I've made. I've never had one crack. Cracking happens when the cake becomes overcooked. It's still great to eat that way, just not as strikingly beautiful. Glazes and toppings help to cover up cracks. I think the bain marie method really helps to assure that the cake does not crack. The water is an insulator and helps distribute the heat throughout the entire cake, so that the bottom and sides don't get overcooked before the middle has had enough time. Because cheesecakes are large and dense, bain maries just make sense. (Like that? I made that up)

My snafu. So this was my fourth cheesecake. Never have had any trouble whatsoever, so I figured now I had enough experience to make a cake for the newspaper. A photograph-able cake.

I removed the cake from the refrigerator and began to run my knife around the edge. It was hard to make the knife go. I didn't expect that. The pan I use is pretty much nonstick. I kept going. I loosened the pan sides and started to lift it off. It really seemed like it didn't want to come. As I gently lifted the side up, there was cake stuck to it and it snagged my perfect top and tore a jagged edge about 6 inches long.

I had managed to run my knife down between the crust and the cake, instead of between the crust and the pan. I had cut the side crust completely off the cake. ARRGH!

Ugly cake.

So I meticulously cut the crust remnants from the pan, fitting it like a puzzle to the sides of the cake with my fingers. Gently, gently pressing the sides together to "glue it." I carefully smoothed down the jagged top and then glopped all the lumpy glaze across the top.

I think it turned out pretty photogenic, if I do say so myself.

No comments: