Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Happy Fourth of July! A Patriotic Cheesecake

It's not officially my favorite national holiday until my digits are permanently infused with patriotic hues.  I'm not kidding.  No amount of acetone can get this dye out from under my fingernails.  I guess I just have to waggle my pastry nubbins with pride.  Hell, they're more colorful than sparklers.

Here's a recipe that will get you caught up with my present state of red, white and blue jazz hands.  It's an all American cheesecake infused with a heavy dose of French zing in honor of Marquis de Lafayette, General Washington's great friend, compatriot and a major-general in Washington's continental army.

Crème Fraîche Cheesecake
(Makes one 9" cheesecake)


For the crust

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1 egg yolk
pinch salt

For the filling

1- 8 ounce package cream cheese at room temperature
3- 8 ounce packages crème fraîche (I use Vermont Creamery's Madagascar Vanilla CF)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
zest of one lemon
pinch salt
(If you can't find the Vermont Creamery crème fraîche, add a teaspoon of vanilla as well)
Red gel food coloring (I use Americolor)
Blue gel food coloring


For the crust

Preheat your oven to 325º.

•In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Scrape the mixture from the sides of the bowl.

•Add the egg yolk and mix until just combined.

•Add the flour and salt and continue mixing until the mixture comes together.

•Transfer the dough to a large piece of plastic, wrap it up and refrigerate for 10 to 20 minutes.

•Line a 9" cake pan ( a traditional pan, not one with a removable bottom) with parchment and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

•Crumble the crust evenly into the cake pan and press evenly onto the bottom with your fingers.

•Refrigerate the crust for 10 minutes and then bake for 15 minutes, until the edges just begin to brown.  Allow to cool COMPLETELY.

For the filling

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese, crème fraîche and the sugar until smooth.

•Crack the eggs into a small bowl and very gently break them apart a bit.

•With the mixer on LOW, add the eggs a little at a time, scraping down the bowl every now and again. (If you're too exuberant about adding the eggs, doing it on high speed and beating air into the mixture, the cheesecake can collapse and crack while baking).  Add the zest.

•Add the flour and salt on low and mix until combined.

•Transfer one cup of the batter to a small bowl and color with 2 to 3 drops of red food coloring.

•Transfer another cup of batter to another small bowl and color with 2 to 3 drops of blue food coloring.

•Spoon about three tablespoons of plain batter onto the middle of the cooled crust.  Spoon one tablespoon of red batter onto the middle of the plain batter.  Just plop it down. Don't spread it.  Don't worry about it being perfect.  Plop another 3 tablespoons of plain batter atop the red batter and then plop a tablespoon of blue batter atop the plain.  Continue like this, making sure not to shimmy the pan but instead let gravity and the weight of each successive spoon of batter do its work.  If you start to "spread" the batter and put weight on the layers, you'll smoosh the colors together.

•Once you've finished up with all the batter, place a hotel pan or roasting pan in the oven and fill it a few inches high with hot water, just enough that the water will reach half way up the cake pan.  Place the cake pan very carefully into the water bath in the oven and bake for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours, until the middle of the cheesecake gently shimmies.

•Turn the oven off and open the door a bit.  Keep the cheesecake in the oven in the water bath.

•Once the cake pan is cool enough to handle, carefully remove it from the water bath and allow to continue cooling on your counter top.  Transfer to the fridge to chill completely.  The cake will last up to a week in the fridge.