Pillbox

Sugar, cream cheese, raisins create delicious dessert

A collection of the ingredients needed for the cheesecake. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff) A collection of the ingredients needed for the cheesecake. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff) Poke the crust with a fork before baking. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff) Poke the crust with a fork before baking. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff) Spoon the cheesecake batter into a pan wrapped in foil. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff) Spoon the cheesecake batter into a pan wrapped in foil. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff) Your cheesecake is cooked and ready to enjoy. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff) Your cheesecake is cooked and ready to enjoy. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff)

There are different types of recipes — some that train us on specific techniques, some that take us on exotic adventures, and others that inspire us to put a new spin on the recipe. For me, making this cheesecake lets me take a break from whatever is going on. The recipe requires minimal preparation with a good balance of technique, but it is not so complicated that I am overwhelmed when I am making it on a bad day.

Generously butter a 9-inch Springform pan. It helps to cut a piece of parchment paper for the bottom of the pan for easier pan-to-plate transfer when serving. If you try this, make sure you also butter the parchment paper. In the case that you do not have a Springform pan, you can use a regular baking pan, but definitely line your pan with parchment paper.

Ingredients for the crust (measure everything out and chill it in the fridge while you make other preparations):

Three-fourths cup all-purpose flour
One-fourth cup unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, chilled
3 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ice-cold water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

For the crust, put all the ingredients, except for water, together in a bowl. Every ingredient must be cold, because you don’t want to melt the butter in the process. With a fork, or a pastry knife if you have one, mash in the butter and the other ingredients until the mix resembles moist sand.

Add half a tablespoon of ice-cold water at a time and keep mashing the crust mixture. You are looking for a large lump that still retains a moist, sandy resemblance, not a paste.

Dump the crust mixture into the pan, and with a glass covered from the outside in cling wrap, pat the mixture evenly over the pan. I find that it’s best to start with the glass and then finish patting with your hand. You don’t have to worry about making the crust perfectly even, as it will be covered with cheesecake mixture.

Once the crust is even, use a fork to poke the crust all over, leaving around a quarter inch to an inch between each poke.

Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then remove.

Cool the pan on a rack, or by the window if the weather is cool, before starting to mix the cheesecake batter. You want the batter and the crust to be at the same temperature so that the batter will be cooked evenly and gently. If you use a Springform pan, wrap the bottom of the pan with aluminum foil, as the pan tends to leak.

Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ingredients for the cheesecake:

2 packs of regular cream cheese, room temperature
1.5 cups granulated sugar
1 cup yogurt, the regular packaged cup
5 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
One-half cup of raisins, cranberry, or any dried fruit of preference. Chocolate chips are optional.

Soften the cream cheese with an electric mixer at medium speed; then cream it with sugar. Creaming is a process in which sugar is slowly added to softened cream cheese or butter. The two are then mixed together for about five to seven minutes at medium speed until light and fluffy. This process incorporates little air bubbles into the batter, and as the cake is baked, the air bubbles expand and elevate the cake.

Add the yogurt. I have never tried flavored yogurt, but attempt it if you dare. Make sure you mix it thoroughly.

Add one egg at a time while beating the mixture at medium speed. Mix well before adding another egg. After the third egg, I usually stop and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the entire bowl to ensure the ingredients have mixed well. I repeat this process again after the fifth egg. Add the vanilla extract and mix for another five to 10 seconds.

Pour the cheesecake mixture into the pan. If you want to put in any dried fruit or chocolate, drop them into the cake after you’ve poured the mix in. As a safety precaution, I generally put the cake pan over a larger rimmed baking pan. This makes sure that if there’s any leaking, the oven is protected.

After 50 minutes of baking, gently tap the pan with a wooden spoon. The middle of the cake should still jiggle a little bit like uncooked egg. With the center slightly uncooked, turn off the oven and leave the oven door partially open. This way, the cake cools slowly and continues to cook even after the oven is turned off. Slowly cooling the cake prevents cracking of the cake and, hopefully, you’ll get a smooth cheesecake.

You can also bake cheesecake in a warm water bath by placing the cheesecake pan in water in another bigger pan. Cover the cake pan with several sheets of aluminum foil to ensure no leaks. The water bath allows the cheesecake to cook at a gentler temperature.

Refrigerate the cheesecake for at least four hours before serving or keep it in the fridge overnight.

If you don’t have a Springform pan, run a small knife under hot water, pat it dry, and gently run it around the perimeter of the pan. Using a plate that is slightly smaller than the pan and covered in cling wrap, invert the cheesecake out of the pan; be careful, as the cake is very soft.

This is a cook-friendly recipe, as the ingredients require a minimum amount of measuring. The cream cheese, eggs, and yogurt already come in fixed quantities, and all that needs to be measured is the sugar and a little bit of flour. After all, you can practically eyeball the amount of vanilla extract and raisins. With cooler weather and closed windows, baking this cake will fill your room with the delicious smell of sugar, vanilla, and cheesecake.

Chalita Maneetham | Staffwriter