Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Russian Tea Room Cheesecake (Page 755)

RECIPE #926

  • Date: Thursday, January 22, 2009 -- 7:30pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Tom M, Paul K, Beth, Lauren K, Jeremy, Ayelet, Michael L, Anne L, Daniel L, Chuck, Kent, Sue, Allan, Ann E, Jim, Vladimir, Kitty, Muriel, Marc, Chris C, Prudence, Kate, Jonathan, Marlies, and John B
  • Recipe Rating: A-



My special gentleman and I hosted a reception last week for some of the topologists and geometers in my department in honor of our visiting colloquium speaker. This cheesecake was part of a rather lengthy dessert menu for said get-together. Cheesecake is great to make for a party because it is quick to throw together and you can make it in advance. For this party, when I knew I would be preparing 6 or 7 different desserts, having some that could be made in advance was a necessity! The only tricky part of this recipe was preparing the pan. I took a springform pan, buttered the bottom, then covered the bottom in parchment and buttered again. I then took a long strip of parchment, buttered one side of it, then pressed the unbuttered side against the side of the pan, circling it around. This strip extended several inches above the top of the pan, creating a collar of sorts. I then wrapped the outside of the pan in several layers of aluminum foil.

Having made all the preparations for the pan, I moved on to making the cheesecake itself. I beat together cream cheese, butter, sugar, egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, orange-flower water, and almond extract, then beat in a bit of cornstarch. In a different bowl I beat 8 egg whites with sugar until stiff, then folded them into the cream cheese mixture. I poured this into the pan, then put the pan into a roasting pan and filled the roasting pan with enough boiling water to come halfway up the side of the springform pan. I put this whole contraption in the oven and baked for about an hour. Then I refrigerated the cheesecake overnight. This cheesecake was very tasty. I had been putting off making it because of the presence of orange-flower water in the ingredients. I hate that stuff. It tastes like perfume. But in this case, the combination of the lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, orange-flower water, and almond extract gave the cheesecake a very aromatic flavor to it, without any one of those flavors being too identifiable. It was lovely. Very well balanced. The most unique quality of this cheesecake was its texture. Cheesecakes are typically super dense, but this one was incredibly light. The 8 egg whites caused the cheesecake to rise tremendously (hence the collar on the pan) and although it fell a bit as it cooled, it was still wonderfully airy. The flavor and texture together made this one very refined cheesecake. My only complaint was that it didn't set well enough to slice neatly. It's hardly a complaint -- it was worth having it look a little messy to get that great texture. But if you want to serve perfect looking slices of cheesecake, this isn't the best recipe for that. Otherwise, go for it. It's very yummy!

Here is the recipe.

I woke up this morning at 6:30am to the sound of my phone receiving a text message. In my experience, early morning phone calls and text messages often contain bad news, so in the moment between waking up and checking my phone, I experienced a bit of panic. The panic quickly faded when I realized that the text message was from the university, saying that today was a snow day! I usually teach on Wednesdays, but my course (along with all the others!) was canceled, so I rolled over and went back to bed, sleeping in a little later than usual. Of course, I still had plenty of work to do, so I went into the office anyway later in the morning. On my walk to the office, Bloomington was like a ghost town -- totally deserted. Walking through downtown was eerie -- even though it was the middle of the morning, most of the shops and restaurants were closed because of the weather. And on campus there was no one around. It was just me and the snow. The funny thing was, there wasn't even that much snow! Now, I grew up in Wisconsin, where the winter weather is serious business. And I lived in Boston for 5 years, where it's not terribly cold, but the city can get absolutely dumped on with snow. So I was not terribly impressed by the snowfall we had today. I doubt high schools would have been canceled, more or less universities, for this kind of snow in Wisconsin or Massachusetts. But I suppose it is all about what you are used to. Southern Indiana isn't equipped to deal with too much snow, so the roads weren't cleared, etc... I'm not complaining -- I enjoyed a quiet snow day, even if I did spend it at work.

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