My original intent was to make a very cheesy (pardon the pun) red-white-and-blue American-flag-shaped cheesecake, with strawberries and blueberries. Somehow, during the pre-party havoc, all of the strawberries and half of the blueberries disappeared.
In retrospect, this saved me from making a dessert better suited to a home & garden magazine than a backyard kegger.
Instead, some cheesecake bites happened.
This was my first cheesecake ever, and I’m actually quite pleased with how it turned out. When I first pulled it out of the oven, I was terrified – it looked like a cake pan full of tapioca pudding. The next morning, it looked just fine. Apparently, the chilling overnight step is a very important one.
1 box honey graham crackers
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 lbs cream cheese (3 packages)
7/8 cup and 1/2 cup sugar
5/8 cup sour cream
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon juice
fresh blueberries (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If you’re using a less-than-stellar oven, you may want to go with 375.
Line a 13 x 9 pan with parchment paper, so that paper is sticking out of the pan by at least two inches on each side.
Fill a freezer bag with graham crackers (you’ll be using almost the entire box, minus the ones you snack on during the process), seal the bag, and place it inside of a second freezer bag. Use a rolling pin, saucepan, or whatever you feel like using to crush the graham crackers into a coarse powder. In a large mixing bowl, combine the crushed graham crackers with a melted stick of butter and half cup of sugar until well-blended and rather sticky.
This on its own could be a dessert, but there’s cheesecake to make, so pour the future crust into the baking pan.
Press the crumbs evenly into the baking pan, making sure to cover the entire rectangle. It would be moderately awkward to end up with a slice that didn’t have a crust, so – considering the size of the cheesecake bites – this is a somewhat important step.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the cream cheese (Doesn’t that sound funny? Cream the cream cheese?), sour cream, remaining sugar, salt, vanilla, and lemon juice. Crack the eggs into the mixture, and beat until blended. The resulting batter should look like tapioca pudding.
Gently pour the batter into the pan, and smooth it out over the graham crackers. The top of the cheesecake should be just below the edge of the pan, and there should still be plenty of parchment paper hanging over each side. Smooth over the top with a spatula, and slide the cheesecake into the oven.
Bake at the higher temperature (350 if your oven works properly, 375 if it’s “vintage” and doesn’t work very well) for 25 minutes. After the timer goes off, turn the oven down to 275 (or 300) and continue to bake for an hour. Remove from the oven and let cool for an hour or so, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Here’s where the magic of parchment paper totally helps: I was expecting the corner/edge pieces to be really messy and awful because that’s what happens when one digs slices out of a baking pan. Not so! Grab a friend, and have them help you carefully lift the cheesecake out by the parchment paper, and gently place it on a cutting board. Peel down the sides of the parchment paper, and if all has gone well, you’ll have a perfectly rectangular cheesecake!
Slice the cake into small squares. Mine were approximately 1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ apiece, but you can slice it however you like. Top with a handful of blueberries (or strawberries, or other fruit, or nothing at all) and serve!
If you’re buzzing around the kitchen and taking your sweet time slicing the cheesecake, note that it will be persnickety as it gets warmer. Firm it up for a few minutes in the fridge, and it will slice much cleaner.
Oh yeah, and every single recipe I was drawing from seems to yield two full-sized cheesecakes (which I found out after the fact…oops!), so the posted recipe is half of what I used (hence the funky measurements, like 7/8 cup). Cheesecake rises, kids, so if your pan is overflowing with batter, scoop some out and feed it to a friend who doesn’t mind eating batter that contains raw eggs*.
* I do not officially support this. The consumption of raw eggs is severely risky, and I won’t even do it on a dare.