Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Cheesecake Heaven!

That's where I live!

I been making lots of cheesecake! It started last year when my father-in-law turned 50! I made my first cheesecake and I was not impressed. Really, I wasn't. It wasn't a total flop but it seemed too wet, soggy, and kind of eggy. It just wasn't smooth. Then my mom turned 50 and wanted cheesecake for her birthday party, so I tried again. This time I made a few changes. For one thing I didn't use even a speck of flour. I also made sure that my ingredients were room temp and I made sure there was a big pan of hot water below the cheesecake while it baked. I don't know which made the difference, maybe it was all three, but I've had great luck on the most recent 3 or 4 I've made! Except this one (pictured below), it looks great but the center was rather undercooked, Whoops! Some of us ate it anyway. Since then they have all been perfectly textured all throughout.

To make this cheesecake (or cheesecake bites) you need:

4 - 8oz packages of cream cheese
4 - Eggs
1 cup (or 3/4 cup Agave Nectar)
1 & 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp crushed graham crackers
Pre-heat your oven to 325*, on the lower rack place a large but shallow pan of hot water. You'll leave the water in the over the entire time your cheesecake is baking. This is supposed to help prevent "The Crack" from happening. Lightly butter around the sides and the bottom of your pan, I use a spring form for a cheesecake but a rectangular cake pan when I make the bites. Once you've buttered, then sprinkle your very fine cumbs around the bottom of the pan and shake it around to even it out. I crush my crackers in the food processor, they become a very nice powder.

Set the cream cheese and eggs out on the counter long enough to reach room temp. I do mine for the morning and make the cheesecake after lunch, I try to give it about 3 or 4 hours. This is a very important step. Don't skip it. I'm not a pre-planner but I have found out that this is key.

Blend sweetener (sugar or agave) into cream cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla and lemon and mix. Add each egg one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each egg. Pour batter around the bottom of the pan and pop it in the oven. I bake mine for about 50 minutes until the cheesecake is almost done, a little wiggle is okay, not a lot. You might have to go with 30 mins for the 9x13 cake pan size, it's much more thin.
This part is important, take the cheesecake out of the oven and run a sharp knife around the edge then put it back in the oven for about another hour at least, longer might even be better. You might have to force yourself to leave it! Just do it! :) If you're making cheesecake bites, at the same time that you run your knife around the edge of the pan, cut your little squares out, cheesecake is super easy to cut while its warm. Resist the urge to have a piece at this point though. Not that great.
Once you decide to take it from the oven you'll need to put it directly into the fridge, uncovered, for a very long time. Overnight is great, a day is better, TWO days is SUPER FANTASTIC. I am telling you. I have a problem with not covering mine. If it feels bad to you too, to keep it uncovered, lay a piece of wax or parchment paper over the pan, don't let it touch your masterpiece.

Agave users: If you're worried about the agave making the batter too thin, you can use less agave and add a tiny tiny bit of stevia. I use the powdered stevia from the NOW brand, and I think I just did one or two little scoops, you can taste it as you mix it in just to be sure. I am a reformed stevia hater and I found out that if I just use a teensy weensy bit, it's pretty good.

Low(er) Carb Alert! If you make a 12 slice cheesecake and you use sugar then your sugar per serving amount is about 4 tsp so when you think about it, that's pretty low for a dessert. If you make cheesecake bites, I think you get nearly 100 pieces (?) so that's a little less than half a tsp in each bite. If you use agave nectar, then it's extra low carb. Agave is a great sweetener for diabetics too!

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