Sunday, January 24, 2016
Lemon Almond Cheesecake
How can a dessert containing a pound of cheese, 3 cups of sour cream, 14 egg yolks, not to mention butter and nuts, be greeted with cries of, "It's so light!" "Most cheesecakes are heavy; how did you get this one so light and fluffy?" and "It's so light I could have seconds"? I took this to an impromptu bon voyage party for neighbors who've rented a house in Denver for a few months, and people just gobbled it up.
Once again, I failed to notice the "PLAN AHEAD" note: "Make the cheesecake at least 1 day ahead," and I started the morning of the party. When I finally read the full recipe, I said, "Jim, I may have to come late to the party with dessert because I don't see how I'm going to finish it on time unless I bring a cheesecake puddle." He made soothing sounds, but I wasn't soothed. Fortunately, Rose and Woody appear to have built in idiocy periods in all the stop-and-chill times because I think it turned out perfectly. (Unless it wasn't supposed to be as light and fluffy and it turned out to be, but if that's the case, I'm glad I did it wrong.)
After I'd read the directions, you can imagine how happy I was that I'd already bought a package of lady fingers just in case I didn't have time to make the cake base. If I'd made the cake layer, I'd have had to buy dessert for the party or bring the dessert a day late and claim that I was sure that it was the night of the party.
I had just finished trimming the lady fingers when JJ came over to play. I told him he could have a bite. He looked doubtful. I told him they were fine, and I was going to give whatever I had left to the squirrels (we have extraordinarily portly squirrels in our back yard), and JJ relented and tried one. Then 2 and more. "Yummy," he said. Did he think I'd steer him wrong? (The squirrels still got their daily fix of leftovers).
JJ wasn't particularly interested in helping me build the ladyfinger base, mostly because we had about six inches of new snow, so he wanted to go outside. Jim got play in the snow duty while I got to stay in the kitchen. I took a few pictures with my phone, but most of the making of the cheesecake went undocumented.
It is, however, documented that Meyer lemons are a hybrid of lemons and mandarin oranges. It says so, right on the bag. I used regular lemons for the cheesecake and Meyer lemons for the lemon curd, even though that's not what's specified. Notice that Sunkist, an American company, I believe, wrote the description of Meyer lemons in French. To make them sound fancier, I suppose.
Jim came back inside in time to get a shot of the cheesecake in the oven.
And coming out of the oven. This is where I had to start fudging on the wait times. 50 minutes instead of one hour in the turned-off oven. Cooling on the wire cake rack for 45 minutes instead of one to two hours. Refrigerate the cheesecake for 2 1/2 hours instead of from 4 hours to overnight.
The lemon curd glaze recipe makes just a wee bit of curd--about 3/4 of a cup. My cheesecake is missing a spot on top because it came off with the paper towel. Maybe if I'd waited the full time, it wouldn't have. Glaze is good for a number of reasons, not least of which is that it covers any cheesecake bald spots.
As Rose warns, the glaze firms up quickly, making it not as easy as you think it will be to get a smooth top.
When it comes out of the refrigerator for the last time, and I'm loosening the sides with my little blow torch, I notice that there's a spot on the cheesecake that didn't quite get covered with glaze.
No problem. I'll just cut a thin slice of lemon (Meyer) and cover the spot with the slide. It'll look like I intended to do it.
Although it's only meant to serve 10 to 12 people, we got 20 decent-size pieces out of it. People loved this cheesecake! Even accounting for the fact that this was the only dessert for a crowd of healthy eaters (not counting everyone's leftover Christmas cookies), they were all highly enthusiastic. The woman who's spending the winter in Denver (imagine wanting to leave Minnesota in the winter!) thanked me for not making an overly-sweet dessert. And a number of people were intrigued by the ground walnuts in the cheesecake.
If you want to impress a crowd of people, there are apparently few better ways to do it than to bring a lemon almond cheesecake. You should probably read the recipe, though, and start baking it the day before the party. It's much less stressful.