If the thought of the perfect cheesecake haunts your hopes and dreams, you are in the right place. If you love delicious goodness, you're still in the right place. It is picnic season after all. When I think of picnics; I secretly hope someone brings a homemade cheesecake. One topped with cherries, blueberries, or both.
Well, I haven't been invited to any picnics lately. At least not a picnic where old ladies that know how to make excellent cheesecakes will be in attendance. I wasn't born with a sweet tooth; I hardly ever crave sweets but I'll tell you what. If an old lady presents a cheesecake to me, I'm eating it.
Age of Excellence
"You're too young to know anything"
Old ladies are to be cherished and treasured. I've always been in admiration of the old ladies that shaped me into a good deal of who I am as a person. Who knows, maybe I will be a great old lady one day, you never know. Old ladies have it all over their younger counterparts. They are wiser, capable, the keepers of knowledge, and free of the trappings of youth.
Most of all, they can cook like nobody's business. This is probably how they manage to stay married for so much longer. Men don't necessarily NEED a woman; they do need to eat though. That older widower that shows up at the picnic with a homemade cherry cheesecake: she knows exactly what she's doing.
Having a Hankering
"I am not a baker"
As I said, I hardly ever crave sweets. For this reason, I never bake. The most I have ever attempted is brownies and it's a catch-22. They either come out delicious or bricks. Baking requires a level of chemistry understanding that, to me, is far more difficult than regular cooking. Regular cooking is more practical, you need to eat to live. You can live without sweets. Its only purpose is that you can live happily, albeit unhealthy.
Here lately though, for the past couple of weeks, I have had cheesecake on the brain. Not just any cheesecake, I wanted an old-fashioned, traditional cheesecake like the old ladies from my youth used to make, and topped with cherries. Well, you can't buy that in a store, not where I live anyway. So, it was up to me to make one. This is a first for me. I won't lie and say it was perfect, but I am aware of my mistakes which I will share as I go along. That being said, it was still incredible.
"There are 36 types of cheesecake!"
Being that the capable old ladies that shaped my youth are no longer with me, there was only one place I could turn to for the perfect, old-fashioned cheesecake of my fantasies. So, I pulled out my inherited copy of the Vintage 1940s American Woman's Cook Book War Time edition, edited by the late-great Ruth Berolzheimer. There I found a recipe for Cheese Cake.
Let's Do This
Regarding the photo below, there are 2 ingredients you won't need as much of, one ingredient you won't need at all, and one ingredient that isn't shown. This is because at first, I started to use a different recipe I had found, and while at the store, I didn't have a measurement reference to go by. Gelatin you won't need at all and cream cheese, you will only need 2 blocks, and flour isn't shown in the photo. Also, you will only need 1 bottle of whipping cream.
This recipe takes roughly 2.5 hours and serves 10-12 people.
2 cups of fine zwieback crumbs - This must be an old-timey brand name. I used graham cracker crumbs.
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 tsp of cinnamon
1/2 cup of butter, melted - 1/2 cup equals 1 stick
1/8 tsp of salt
1 1/2 tsp of lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp of lemon zest
1 cup of cream
1 1/2 pounds of cream cheese - equals 1.5 blocks
3 tbs of flour
1 can of cherry filling & topping
9-inch spring form pan
A box grater or zester
The actual recipe called for cottage cheese instead of cream cheese. I opted for cream cheese because cottage cheese had more sodium and also because I figured cottage cheese would be runnier and lumpier. Please forgive me Ruth Berolzheimer. The drawback is that cream cheese has a higher fat content. It's a cheesecake though, this is not exactly healthy food anyway.
Lemon juice (& zest) can be substituted with 1 teaspoon of vanilla.
You can also substitute butter for shortening. Also, if God forbid, you don't like cherries, you can change out the topping for your choice.
Step By Step
Wash your hands. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs (Set aside 3/4 of graham cracker crumbs to sprinkle over top for later) with 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1/2 cup of melted butter.
Mix it up really well and then press the mixture into a 9-inch spring form pan, lining the bottom and sides. I used my fist. You can also use the bottom of a glass. Make sure you press it evenly, you want no holes, cracks, or gaps. Set it aside while you make the batter.
Set your box grater (or zesting tool) over a plate and use the zesting side to grate the lemon.
Into a bowl; beat 4 eggs with the remaining 1 cup of sugar until light. Add 1/8 teaspoon of salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon juice, 1 1/2 lemon zest, 1 1/2 pounds of cream cheese, and 3 tablespoons of flour.
Beat thoroughly, and strain through a fine sieve. Pour the mixture into the pan and sprinkle the 3/4 cups of graham cracker crumbs you saved on top.
Place it in the oven and bake it for about an hour (or until the center is firm). Turn off the heat and open the oven door. Let it sit in the oven for another hour or until cooled.
As you can see, mine had a few cracks. This is because I used a mixer and over-mixed it. This caused too much air into the mixture which created cracks. It didn't affect the taste though, which was good. The most it did was that it made it difficult to slice in one piece. No big deal, I wasn't trying to serve it up at a fancy dining hall after all. If you strive for perfection though, take note of this when you begin the mixing process.
After it cools, add the cherries. Oh, my GOODness would you look at that!
It smells absolutely dreamy
It took a lot of doing but I managed to save this baby until my mom could share the first slice with me. Not sure why but that was important to me. It was my first attempt at baking anything besides brownies and it's probably natural to want to pass the 'Mom' test. She ate every bite, that's a good sign. She said it was absolutely delicious. Of course, Moms will say that anyway, right? She did say though, that if she didn't like it, she would have requested to take it with her and toss it out the window on the way home. So, there's that. It passed the mom test.
As I said, this was my first attempt at baking a cake. Naturally, it isn't perfect and I made a few mistakes. Here are my blunders so yours will come out better.
I overmixed my batter, this is what caused the cracks I mentioned above.
I used raw sugar instead of white sugar. Raw sugar didn't dissolve into the crust as it should have. You can taste the sugar in the crust. It probably would have worked out better if I had used white sugar. It wasn't a terribly bad thing, just noticeable.
I used too much cream cheese, 2 blocks instead of 1 1/2 blocks. So, I had more batter than I needed (that and the pan size). It still turned out very delicious. It didn't affect the taste at all that I could tell. Beginner's mistake I guess, I'll pay more attention next time. I put the remaining batter to use in a smaller pan and baked an additional, smaller cheesecake. I had left-over cherries too, so it worked out.
They didn't have any 9-inch pans at the store. So, I used what they had which was an 8.5-inch pan. It didn't seem like that much of a difference but my crust turned out just a little too thick.
Overall, I am very satisfied with my first attempt at 'real' baking. It was so good and my sweet tooth is content for a while. I am on my way to becoming a true, real honest-to-goodness old lady at some point in the future. If the good Lord's willing and the creek don't rise, that is.
If you love cheesecake, give this recipe a try. It is no doubt a crowd pleaser and your family will be forever grateful. If there is a man in your life you wish to impress, maybe you are invited to a picnic, who knows... Maybe you just want something good to go with a nice cup of coffee. The possibilities are endless. Just do it, no regrets.
Thanks for reading and have a blessed day.