Back in my younger days, I used to be something of a cheesecake fanatic. The creaminess, the decadence, that punch of flavor that comes from a true cheesecake…I couldn’t get enough. I found it impossible not to order it anytime it was on the menu, and, when my parents had friends over for dinner, I always begged for cheesecake for dessert. Over time, though, as so often happens, my obsession’s grip grew weaker; burned by too many mediocre slices, unwilling to gamble on such a heavy endnote, I found myself choosing the cheesecake less and less often.
But, once in awhile, there’s nothing like a classic. The Carnivore’s daughter had one birthday request for us this year, and that was to bake a cheesecake together.
I went directly to the source for the recipe: This is my mother’s mother’s version of the dairy-based dessert, and though it uses cream cheese, butter, and sour cream, the results are as light as can be.
The topping, adapted from various recipes found on Epicurious, was custom-made for a fussy seven-year-old with a sweet tooth; she wanted strawberries, and after they were combined with a little bit of jam, she neglected the cake entirely and commenced to picking off the berries and eating them alone. (Those of us that tried both elements together were happy to eat our pieces as-is.)
We’re not sure she really knew what a cheesecake was, anyway: As we prepared to cover the surface with strawberries, she wanted to know where the frosting was, and, as mentioned, she was more interested in the topping than the cake itself. Selfishly, though, I didn’t mind. Even if the next generation is resistant to cheesecake fever, consider my own interest rekindled.
1 pound cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 pint sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Crust and topping:
(adapted from Bon Appétit)
9 ounces chocolate wafer cookies or graham crackers
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
3 pints strawberries, hulled and halved
½ cup strawberry jam
1. Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 325°F. Butter 10-inch-diameter springform pan. Finely grind cookies in processor. Add melted butter; process until crumbs are moist. Press crumbs onto bottom and 2 inches up sides of pan. Bake until set, about 15 minutes. Cool on rack. Turn oven up to 350°F.
2. Cream the cream cheese, add sugar and eggs and blend well. Fold in sour cream and vanilla. Pour into pan and bake 30 minutes, then turn oven off and leave cake in for 1 hour. Transfer to rack until completely cool, then refrigerate.
3. Stir preserves in heavy small saucepan over medium heat until mixture boils. Stir in strawberries, turning to coat with preserves. Chill until cold, then arrange berries on top of cake and drizzle with preserves.