Cheesecake… dense, creamy, light, crumbly & oh so satisfying. In our house it never lasts long, as I sneak inhumanly sized portions from out of the fridge & my cheesecake replicates ,an albeit slower, Pacman style death.
You can imagine my rejoice when creating my usual (extensive) list of travel must-eats for my recent trip to New York, topped of course with bagels, pretzels & my favourite creamy dessert (I ate an awful lot during my 3 days).
New York cheesecake is pure, unadulterated cheesecake with no fancy ingredients added or placed on top. What differentiates a New York cheesecake from your regular cheesecake is it reliance on heavy cream or soured cream to produce its enticing consistency. If you were to ask any New Yorker where to find the best, genuine article then they would probably point you in the direction of one of its many deli’s or gourmet restaurants.
This is advice which I followed as I headed downtown to the tiny but prestigious Eileen’s Special Cheesecake in Nolita, just a stones-throw from Little Italy & Chinatown. As the name would suggest, this little bakery serves but one thing.. cheesecake. Not just any cheesecake however, Eileen’s serves just about every flavour imaginable which come in both large & individual sizes. Sticking to my morals (by not sampling every flavour), I opted for a plain individual cheesecake in order to experience a true flavour of New York, I was not disappointed.
It was 26C outside & I had just walked from beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, meandering through Little Italy in an attempt to find my food icon. Eileen’s was a chilled, sweet-filled haven, offering a more than worthy respite from my busy sightseeing schedule. Cheesecake was my reward.
Creamy, light, not overly sweet & with the slight tang that can only originate from the presence of soured cream, this New York cheesecake was the perfect balance. Obviously, upon my return to sunny Wales, after unpacking, sorting through an amass of near 900 photos (quite an achievement I think) & hiding the Reeces Pieces, I of course had to recreate this.
New York is a city that will forever remain with me, not just for its eats but for its absolute charisma. I fell in love with this ever-changing city, with its neck-aching skyscrapers, made-for-people-watching parks, high-end shopping, diverse architecture, enthusiastic locals, hurried & helpful commuters (sorry NY but the Subway isn’t a scratch on the Underground), eclectic markets, charming diners & the fact that you can buy anything from pretzels to pizza slices in the dead of night. So, whilst I still long to return to the iconic Big Apple, I can at least suppress my feelings of loss with the indulgent comfort of dessert.
NEW YORK CHEESECAKE
(makes one 23cm cheesecake)
For the base:
- 250g digestive biscuits
- 1tbsp demerera sugar
- 65g butter
For the filling:
- 800g full-fat cream cheese
- 180g caster sugar
- 285ml soured cream
- 4 eggs
- 3 tbsp plain flour
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- zest x1 lemon
- Grease & line the base of a 23cm round, springform cake tin
- To make the base, blitz the digestives in a food processor until they resemble fine breadcrumbs, empty into a large bowl & stir through the demerara sugar
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan set over a low heat (or in the microwave) & pour this over the digestive buscuit mixture
- Mix together until all of the biscuit crumbs have been coated & dampened with the butter
- Tip the biscuit crumbs into the cake tin & use the back of a spoon to press the biscuit firmly & evenly into the base & slightly up the sides of the cake tin too
- Bake the base in the oven at 180C for 10 minutes, until it turns darker & more golden in colour, remove &set aside to to cool
- To make the filling, place all of the ingredients into a large bowl & whisk together, leave this to rest for 10-15 minutes to avoid any bubbles in the mixture when baking
- Carefully pour the cheesecake filling over the biscuit base
- Bake the cheesecake at 160°C for 1 hour to 1hour 15 minutes, until the cheesecake has a light golden colour on top & around the edge, & it has a slight wobble in the middle when shaken (if it’s browning too quickly then loosely cover the top of the cheesecake with a foil layer to finish baking)
- Open the oven door, leave it slightly ajar & leave the cheesecake in the oven until both have completely cooled down
- Once cooled, place the cheesecake in the fridge to chill overnight
- Remove the cheesecake from the fridge & leave to sit for around an hour to warm up a little (this will help it to release from the tin a bit easier)
- After an hour, use a small palette knife or a blunt table knife to run along the inside edge of the tin to help ease the cheesecake away from the sides before releasing & serving