Thursday, April 7, 2016

very berry new york cheesecake

Ahhh Costco, the place where more is more and samples be served. Hot dog in hand, we'd run past aisles searching for rectangular carts stacked with free food and scan aisles for highlighter-marked labels, sneak-peaks at what we could find in our lunch pails the following week. While I can proudly say that I pack my own lunches now, the excitement still wells within me. Perhaps Costco has some sinister motive to this all. Even till this day, I can't have berry compote for breakfast without thinking about those halcyon days emerging from successful trips at Costco with frozen-yogurt in hand

And that's where this post begins. "Very Berry" is not only an homage to the Very Berry Sundaes my mom bought me after our triumphant Costco runs, it's a word that carries all the memories and nostalgia I've built throughout my youth. Luckily for those of you still reading, if you know the slightest of what I'm trying to articulate, I can guarantee you'll like this cheesecake. Regardless, you're not human if you can resist thick, dense New York Cheesecake packed into a crunchy Oreo crust and slathered with Very Berry topping. I mean, this cheesecake is so good my family doesn't even know I made two of them (one of them I scarfed down so quickly an asteroid could have hit and I wouldn't have reacted). More the reason to buy in bulk. (ugh...I'm on fire today!)

Contrary to the cakes we usually bake, cheesecakes, and especially New York Cheesecakes, are meant to be dense. Even though they taste better dense, being dense actually serves two practical purposes: 1) a dense cheesecake ensures that the topping doesn't seep and bleed into the cake, and 2) it keeps the cake creamy and prevents the formation of ice crystals when we store it. 


Almost indistinguishably adapted from Smitten Kitchen, whose blog has not only better pictures, but better writing and wittier humor; yields one 9 1/2 inch spring-form pan. 

for Oreo Crumb Crust
30 oreo cookie sandwiches or 60 separated oreo cookie wafers, 
with the frosting scraped off
8 tablespoons or 1 stick of unsalted butter, 
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

for New York Cheesecake Filling
5 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, if you can't math that's 40 ounces of softened cream cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
5 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Very Berry Topping

10 ounces of fresh or frozen assorted berries, I used half strawberries half blueberries, but blackberries and raspberries would work just as well, perhaps better
2 tablespoons lemon juice, that is a little less than half a lemon
1/4 cup sugar, depending on how sweet your fruits are
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup water
a small pinch of salt

1. First step is to make the Oreo crust. But, before we blend the crumbs with the butter and other ingredients, we need to separate the Oreo sandwiches from the frosting that holds them together. Personal opinion: I've never seen the appeal of that cloyingly sweet, grainy frosting, but I guess it's worked well for Oreo (technically Mondelez if you're looking at the parent company who owns Nabisco). Once you've scraped off all the frosting, place the cookies, sugar, salt, and melted butter into a food processor and blend until completely combined. 

2. Butter a 9 1/2 inch spring form mold and pack the crumbs in, working from the center out to the edges and up the sides. You'll be surprised how much filling these oreo crumb shell has to hold, so push the crumbs as high as they can go (Smitten Kitchen suggests to go up until 1 inch shy of the rim). Place in the freezer to cool while we work on the surprisingly easy cheesecake filling. 

3. In order to make smooth, completely lump-free New York Cheesecake, you need to start with room temperature cream cheese. I suggest letting the block sit on the counter for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour, before you start beating. Once it has come up to room temperature, though, beat for a minute to loosen up the block shape. Add sugar, salt, flour, and lemon zest, and beat for one minute more. Remember: you're not trying to beat air until this filling; you want the cheesecake to be as dense as possible, while still being evenly incorporated throughout. 

4. Add the eggs and egg yolks one at a time, beating each one completely before adding the next ones. Go slowly. If you're hasty, the cheesecake might split and there's nothing to save it (the internet suggests adding a splash of hot water, but you shouldn't really trust strangers). I would suggest cracking all the eggs into a separate bowl beforehand, so that you can add them easily without having to stop. Add vanilla extract and combine with a spatula. 


5. Preheat the oven to 500F. Fill the Oreo crumb shell with the cheesecake filling (minus that amount which you will save for "testing"), and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned. Full confession: I went to watch TV, and completely forgot about the cheesecake. For if the Oreo crumbs weren't dark and the very berry filling did not cover the top, this blog post may never have reached you today. I guess the lesson is that the human attention is as short as a...once the top is golden and puffed, without opening the oven door, turn the oven temperature down to 200F and bake for one hour more. What you're looking for is when you shake the pan, the center doesn't wobble. Let it cool on the countertop before returning to the refrigerator to cool completely. Don't cut a step and return it to the refrigerator while it's hot. The cheesecake crack will haunt all those who do not heed my warning. 

6. While we're waiting for the cake to cool, let's make that iconic Very Berry topping. In a medium saucepan, add strawberries, blueberries, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, water, and salt. Maintain a boil for 2 minutes and turn off the heat. Remember to scrape the bottom, which will prevent the sauce from sticking and burning. Cool in the fridge as well. 

7. After a minimum of two hours, preferably overnight, pour the Very Berry topping over the cheesecake, slice large, and serve with a dollop of whipped cream. For the definite possibility that you'll have leftovers, pre-slice, individually wrap, and keep the cheesecake in the freezer for up to three months; that's if they aren't gone by the next week. If you haven't tried it before, frozen cheesecake isn't too shabby.

There are plenty of reasons why you should bake this cheesecake, but the most important reason is because it has it all. The sweet, plump berries cut through the luxuriously rich and dense New York Cheesecake, while that ultra dark chocolate crust keeps you going back for more. If you're a dessert lover, a cheesecake lover, an Oreo lover, a chocolate and fruit lover, or even a Costco lover (will everyone please raise their hands), this recipe is definitely for you. I hope all of y'all give this one a big try. It's not that difficult and certainly gets you all the oohs and aahs at the dinner table. Don't forget to comment below and share this with all your friends. And as always, 


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