Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Stolen Secret Cheesecake

Loosen up those morals! All is fair in love, war, and baking.  Besides, I didn't actually steal the recipe, I just copied it down on the sly... it did not involve snooping around through my roommate's room or thinking of excuses to go upstairs and "say hi" in an effort to ascertain the location of the coveted recipe...  Who actually has a secret recipe anyways??? The whole point of baking is sharing!

This is definitely one of the best classic cheesecake recipes I've come across (although I'm not sure what the big deal was, since it seems like a fairly ordinary recipe on its face), and it's pretty much foolproof.  Trust me, if my crazy ex-roommate could make it, you can.  He cooked some of the worst food I've ever had the misfortune to taste.  For example, his gag-worthy rendition of pasta shells with cheese reminded me of festering pimples.  I'm serious!  The first bite seemed to pop in my mouth, and lukewarm, grainy cheese oozed from the rubbery shell.  I excused myself discretely to spit it out.  He also kept a vat of "recycled," a.k.a. never-replaced-ever, cooking oil on the kitchen counter at all times, and burned everything from shrimp to banana fritters in it!  I'm sure it must have been some kind of fire hazard.  I would definitely nominate him for that "Worst Cooks in America" show.  Despite his dubious cooking skills, he thought he was an amazing, chef extraordinaire, and was constantly bragging about his innovative recipes and culinary prowess.  He was a "talker."  My other roommates and I would get stuck listening to him rant for hours, powerless to so much as hint that we (urgently) needed to be somewhere (anywhere!) else.  So when he bragged to me about his super-secret, best-in-the-world cheesecake recipe, I was nonplussed.

Finally, after months of listening to him boast about the mythical cheesecake, I entered our kitchen one day to find him madly mixing an array of cheesecakey ingredients.  I approached and asked what he was making, and he immediately snatched his dirty little index card up off the counter, lest I catch a glimpse of his precious secret recipe, and leered at me.  "I'm making my secret cheesecake," he said, his nasal tone tinged with pride.  "Oh, great." I replied, "You'll have to let me try some."  He turned his back to me, shielding his batter.  "Hmph, it has to age two days." he muttered.  What?? Age?? It's cheesecake not cheese!  I thought.  But I ignored him and excused myself before I got trapped.

Sure enough, the mysterious cheesecake sat wrapped in the back of our fridge for two whole days.  It looked magnificent beneath it's glossy plastic-wrapping, and I despite myself, I became wildly curious.  At the end of the second day, I waited with bated breath (for once) for my roommate to come home and allow me to sample the fabled cake.  He so very-kindly obliged me a hair-sized slice, but every wispy bite was flawlessly creamy, dreamily rich, and oh-so-over-the-top.  I had to have that recipe!  And now, I do.  And I would like to share it with you.


I added a traditional graham cracker crust because the secret recipe just called for "any crust."

Graham Cracker Crust
1.5 c. crushed graham crackers
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 c. melted, unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 400.  Butter a 9-in spring-form pan (you can use any size, but the cooking time may vary and you might have extra batter if you go smaller).  In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter until combined and evenly moistened.  Pour the mixture into the spring-form pan, and press it along the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Bake about 10 minutes.  Reduce the temperature to 350 (cheesecake is forgiving at lower temperatures - I cooked mine at 300 by mistake with no adverse results - but don't accidentally cook it on 400 or it will be dry and very, very disappointing).  Let the crust cool and prepare the cheesecake.

Secret Cheesecake
4 pkgs (the ones that look like bricks) cream cheese
pinch of salt
5 eggs
1 c. + 2T. sugar
3/4 c. sour cream
2T. vanilla

1 pint sour cream
1/2 c. sugar
1t. vanilla

Make sure the oven is set to 350.  Beat the cream cheese and salt until fluffy.  Add three of the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in the 1c. + 2T of sugar.  Add the other two eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Finally, add the 3/4 c. sour cream and 2T. vanilla and mix well.  Pour the batter into the prepared crust and bake 45 - 60 min.  The cheesecake should be set at the edges but still jiggly through the middle.  Check it at 45 minutes, and if it looks really watery still, put it back in and keep checking every 10 minutes until you are satisfied. 

While the cheesecake bakes, stir together the topping ingredients.  As soon as the cheesecake is set to your satisfaction, take it out of the oven and immediately pour the topping into the pan, over the cheesecake.  Spread the topping evenly, and return the cheesecake to the oven for an additional 5 minutes.  Remove the cheesecake from the oven, and let it cool completely on the counter-top.

Here is the weird part.  When the cheesecake has cooled completely, wrap it in plastic or cover with tinfoil (mostly to protect it from funky fridge smells) and stick it in your fridge.  Leave it there for two days.  I know this will take willpower, but do it.  This must be the secret part of the recipe because I've never heard of this step before.  The longest I ever chilled my cheesecakes was overnight, and usually I can't beat my family away with my spoon for even that long!  But who am I to challenge the mysterious secret recipe?  I left this one for two days, as instructed, and it turned out fabulous.  If impatience gets the better of you, let me know how you fare!

Dedicated to my fellow Food Whores, and partners in crime.  You know who you are.

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