One of my most indelible and earliest memories of my darling mother Jennie was of her using her KA stand mixer to make a cheesecake. This was a dessert at which she was an expert – along with her rugelach, pecan tartlets, and strudel. But the cheesecake was something I did not glom onto until a company-wide competition at the ad agency I worked at in the ’70’s.
For that, I prevailed upon Sarah Edwards, the mother of my dear friend Ann, to share with me upon pain of death, the recipe for her extraordinarily creamy cheescake. She swore me to secrecy, I used the recipe, and won the competition hands down. That awarded me a lunch at my favorite restaurant in Boston with the two competition sponsors, a copywriter and an art director at the agency. I have since become the cheesecake afficionado in our circle of friends and family.
Every Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and major dinner party, there’s a variation of the cheesecake theme on my menu. It’s remarkably easy, hugely satisfying, and beauteously preparable a few days in adbance. I’m of the firm opinion that anything that can be done in advance should be – leaves you more time with your guests.
A few years ago, I discovered this delicious Lemon Cheesecake suitable for Passover, and have had it on my menu ever since. No need, though, to save it for a Jewish holiday – it’s light and creamy, a perfect ending to almost any company meal. Adapted from Epicurious:
Passover Lemon Cheesecake
CRUST – 3/4 cup sliced blanched almonds, toasted and cooled; 2/3 cup sugar2/3 cup matzo cake meal (just pulvderize some matzo in your blender for this); 1/4 teaspoon salt; 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly slightly
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened; 3/4 cup sugar; 3 large eggs; 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest; 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
julienned lemon zest
Preheat oven to 350F with rack in middle.
Pulse almonds, sugar, matzo cake meal, and salt in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and stir in butter until combined well. Press onto bottom and 1 inch up side of springform pan. Bake until crust is firm and a shade darker, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool crust completely in pan on a rack.
Make filling and bake cheesecake:
Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.
Beat together cream cheese and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add eggs 1 at a time, mixing until incorporated. Mix in zest and vanilla.
Put springform pan in a shallow baking pan and pour filling into cooled crust. Bake until filling is set 1 1/2 inches from edge but center is wobbly, 45 to 50 minutes (filling will continue to set as it cools). Transfer cake in pan to a rack and immediately run a knife around edge, then remove side of pan. Garnish with julienned lemon rind.