I love cheesecake. As a kid, when my mom brought home the frozen cheesecake from Trader Joe’s, I knew I was ready for something special. When I was first dating TheBoy, I knew we were meant to be when I discovered that he made cheesecakes from scratch. It was a sign.
I’ve made a few cheesecakes over the years, including a pumpkin bourbon cheesecake the Thanksgiving right before my oldest son was born. That was a great cheesecake, which I personally ate a quarter of after it was decided that the teaspoon of bourbon the recipe called for must have burned off. (As an aside: when you cook with alcohol, not all of it burns off. In fact, flambeing a dish doesn’t guarantee it’s burned off. It takes a fair amount time cooking at a steady high heat to burn off a small amount.)
I started to follow Eli’s Cheesecake on Twitter when they started having a giveaway for free cheesecakes based on their number of followers. They’re still doing regular giveaways, so follow them! I was lucky enough to win (on a day when I really needed it) and after I gave them my address, I had cheesecake on my doorstep.
I enjoyed their cheesecake. Quite a bit. I’ve also become intrigued by their Couture Collections. Unfortunately with shipping, it’s a little out of my price range. So when I fell in love with the idea of their Blackberry Creme Fraiche Cheesecake, I decided to use their recipe for their plain cheesecake and try to duplicate the top layers on my own to make as a gift for my mom, who loves Blackberry just as much as I do.
Which meant, I needed to test their recipe first. I bought the supplies over a week ago, and due to a rather hands-on week with the kidlets, I didn’t have the hour or so needed to make the cheesecake. But on a rather tumultuous Friday, I decided to make it. I dubbed it “the angry cheesecake,” because I was angry at the time I made it. So when I complete the project, my mother will get a “Happy Daughter Cheesecake.” Since, well, I’ll be a happy daughter indeed.
Eli’s “Almost” Plain Cheesecake
Source: Eli’s Cheesecake
Note: This will give you a nice thick crust for the bottom- if you like your crust to run up the sides, make a double batch.
1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup melted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
To crush graham crackers, you can pulse them in your food processor and make quick work of it. If you’re processor-less, like I am, break the crackers into quarters and place in a durable zip top bag. I admit, I’m not entirely sure how many graham crackers it took- I took two packets of graham crackers in the box and smashed away, but had some plenty left over.
In a bowl, mix the graham crackers, brown sugar and cinnamon thoroughly. Add in the butter, and using a spatula (if you’re like me and forgot to let the butter cool), mix until it’s well moistened and resembles wet sand. Feel free to use your fingers (then you can lick your fingers and taste how delicious the crust will be!).
In a 9 inch ungreased springform pan, empty the graham mixture inside. Using some sort of solid cylindrical object (I used the container I keep powdered sugar in for dusting, but a standard metal measuring cup will work well), spread out the mixture fairly evenly and begin to tamp down. Push down until it’s formed a solid crust. If you want the crust to go up the sides, tamp down the bottom crust first and then, using the side of your measuring cup, push the mixture against the sides. The butter acts like a glue to hold it together. Set the finished crust to the side, out of the reach of kidlets and pets.
4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
6 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Get your ingredients ready. If you mix the filling too much, sometimes the filling gets too airy and rises above your springform pan, which leads a mess. Always better to be prepared!
In an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, sugar and flour together until it’s light and creamy. Add the eggs/yolk one at a time, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl so that everything mixes thoroughly. When the eggs are completely incorporated, add in the sour cream and vanilla. Beat the mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl until it’s nice and smooth.
Pour the mixture into the springform pan, and use a spatula to make sure that it’s spread evenly in the pan. Don’t worry if it’s perfect, it will settle a bit while baking. Put your springform pan inside a baking dish or roasting pan with somewhat high sides (typically, it’s best to put aluminum foil around the bottom of the springform pan as insurance to make sure it’s watertight- And probably to do this before you put the filling in). Once your pan & cheesecake are in the oven, pour hot water from a tea kettle into the roaster around the springform pan to make a water bath.
Why the water bath? It’s to keep the oven nice and moist. If the oven is dry, the steam will escape from your cheesecake as it bakes and you’ll get lots of cracks. (I admit, I didn’t do this, but I usually do).
Bake for 45 minutes, or until the top of the cheesecake is firm and the center only jiggles a little if you shake the pan. Remove from the oven, and set the springform pan on a cooling rack. Here’s the next important part. Let your cheesecake cool for 2 hours or so before you put it in the refrigerator. If you don’t let it come to room temperature first, it will crack across the top (I can speak from personal experience on this point). Just cover it with a paper towel or clean tea towel.
Once it’s in the refrigerator, let it stay there for 8 hours or overnight. Cheesecakes get better the longer they’ve cooled. This is the hardest part about making cheesecakes, the waiting. But it’s worth it!
When it comes time to free your cheesecake from the mold, just take a sharp knife and cut around the outside of your pan. Pop the catch on the springform, and… you have cheesecake! For clean cuts, you can either use a warmed knife (just let it sit in a cup of warm water) or you can use some unflavored dental floss to cut the slices through the cheesecake and then use a knife to cut through the crust.
Final thoughts: This is a great cheesecake, and tastes just like Eli’s cheesecake (which it should- they took their bulk recipe and painstakingly cut it down to make this version). It’s creamy, but dense enough that you can top the cheesecake. It’s definitely what I’m going to use as the base for my “Happy Daughter” variant of their Blackberry Creme Fraiche cheesecake.
So how to I plan on doing that? Now that I have a good version of the cheesecake, I’m going to work on making the various elements of the topping. A blackberry curd, a blackberry mousse, and gelee. Only, for my test versions, I’ll use strawberry. But one step at a time. In the near future, strawberry curd!