Amazing Cheesecake

I have mentioned before that I am not a huge sweet eater, but one thing I can tolerate—and tolerate well, if done properly—is cheesecake. Plain cheesecake, that is. Not cookie dough cheesecake, not banana split cheesecake, not chocolate and peanut butter cheesecake or any other such batshit—just a decent vanilla cheesecake with a simple fruit topping not mired down in a goopy gelatin syrup. A great cheesecake, to my mind, has a clean, just mildly sweet dairy taste that is not cluttered up with other extraneous flavors.
Probably the most well-known cheesecake is the one created by the original Lindy’s deli in New York City, which opened in 1921. Lindy’s cheesecake was so famous, it attracted the likes of Milton Berle, Ed Sullivan, Phil Silvers, Walter Winchell, Damon Runyon and Elizabeth Taylor on a regular basis and was actually immortalized in the 1950 Broadway musical, Guys and Dolls. Lindy’s cheesecake still remains the yardstick against how other cheesecakes are measured, almost 100 years after its debut.
What made Lindy’s cheesecake different was the sugar cookie dough crust and the use of both orange and lemon rind in the batter. My own cheesecake remains relatively true to the Lindy’s recipe, although I have lowered the sugar a bit from the original recipe and made some procedural changes I think result in a smoother, denser cake. My favorite change, however, is pulsing the rinds into a portion of the sugar first to release the oils and bring out a more intense citrus flavor (a trick you can use for any recipe that calls for citrus rind and sugar, but be warned: for cake batters, only pulse the citrus into a portion of the total amount of sugar called for. The extra moisture released by the rind can throw off the chemistry of a recipe; by using only of a portion of the sugar, the moisture balance is changed only minimally).
We love strawberry topping, but you can adapt the topping recipe for almost any fruit: just switch out the strawberries and strawberry jam for blueberries and blueberry jam, cherries and cherry jam, etc.
Best if made the day before serving.
Sugar Cookie Crust:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. freshly grated lemon peel
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch sea salt
1/4 cup organic butter, softened
1 large organic egg yolk, whisked
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.
In a small food processor, pulse the sugar and the lemon peel together until the citrus is finely ground and has released its oils into the sugar.
Place the lemon sugar, flour and sea salt in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Make a well in the center of the sugar-flour mixture and add the butter, egg and vanilla. With your hands, combine the ingredients together quickly until well-blended. Form into a ball and chill for 15 minutes.
Press the dough uniformly into the bottom of the springform pan. Bake for approximately 5-7 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Remove and let cool.
Increase oven temperature to 500°F.
Cheesecake Batter:
2-1/2 lbs. organic cream cheese
1-2/3 cups granulated sugar, divided
1-1/2 tsp. freshly grated orange peel
1-1/2 tsp. freshly grated lemon peel
5 large organic eggs
2 large organic egg yolks
1/4 cup organic heavy cream
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Pinch sea salt
Cut the cream cheese into chunks and place in the bowl of a standing mixer. Let soften for approximately 45 minutes.
Place 1/2 cup of the sugar in the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse the sugar, the orange peel and the lemon peel together until the citrus is finely ground and has released its oils into the sugar. Mix the pulverized sugar into the remaining sugar and add to the cream cheese.
Put the eggs and egg yolks into a 2-cup glass measuring cup and beat with a fork to combine. Add the heavy cream, vanilla extract and sea salt; beat until combined. Set aside.
Beat the cream cheese and sugar together until fluffy and well-blended, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. With the mixture running on low speed, add half of the egg and cream mixture in a slow, steady stream. Stop the mixer and scrape sides and bottom of bowl again. Add the other half of the egg and cream mixture in a slow, steady stream with the mixer on low speed. Stop mixer and scrape bowl one last time. Increase speed to medium and beat the batter until well-blended, about 1 minute.
Remove bowl and use a rubber spatula to scrape the bowl and ensure the mixture is well-blended. Pour batter into springform pan with baked crust. Spray a length of aluminum foil large enough to cover the pan with nonstick cooking spray; lay over the top of the springform pan, sprayed side down, taking care that the foil does not touch the batter.
Bake at 500°F for 10 minutes; without opening oven door, reduce oven temperature to 200°F and bake for another 1-1/2 hours. Remove foil; transfer cheesecake to a wire rack and cool 5 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edge of pan. Cool until just barely warm, about 3 hours, then wrap the cheesecake tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hours before serving, preferably overnight.
To unmold cheesecake, remove side of springform pan, then slide a thin metal spatula between the cake and the pan bottom to loosen; slide cheesecake onto serving platter. For clean slices, cut into wedges with a sharp knife dipped in hot water. Serve with Strawberry Topping. Refrigerate leftovers.
Strawberry Topping:
(1) 16-oz. pkg. frozen organic strawberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Pinch sea salt
1/2 cup organic strawberry jam
1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Toss berries, sugar and salt in medium bowl; let stand until berries are defrosted and sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally. 
Heat jam in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in lemon juice; pour warm liquid over macerated strawberries and stir to combine. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.

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