Only for Perfect Citrusy Cheesecake would we make a bonus Home Movies episode
Home Movies WEDNESDAY!
Hello and welcome to Home Movies Tuesday! If you’ve found your way over by some miracle but are not yet subscribed, here, let me help you with that:
Surprise, it’s Wednesday, on an otherwise NON-Home Movies week, and guess what? Here is a Home Movie for you. While not traditional for Passover (see brisket, ICYMI), it does remind me of Easter (I grew up celebrating both), but technically could be made for either.
Not quite traditional, but definitely not so far from the classic, just know that you don’t need a water bath, but you DO need lots of cream cheese.
I’m also here to tell you that this will be the last Home Movies for a few weeks while we take a brief sabbatical. Don’t worry, it’s not goodbye, it’s “see you later,” and we’ll be back as soon as the weather really warms up, promise (regular newsletters as well as the return of Chefs Kiss, our Q+A column, will remain flowing, don’t you worry).
Thank you, as always, for watching, for liking, for subscribing. Grateful for you all!
It’s finally above 50 degrees, the tulips in the front of my building are about to bloom, and that can only mean one thing: it’s springtime, baby, and already everything feels a little better. The produce and flowers at the farmers market are so beautiful they make me tear up and all I want to do is host dinner parties with my friends. All the food I’m after this time of year can only be filed under: things that taste like sunshine. Bright, fresh, and usually very citrusy. Enter: this cheesecake.
This cheesecake is classic in many ways, but in no way resembles the overly sweet, insanely rich versions I’ve had at many a diner and beloved fast casual restaurant. It’s tangy and fluffy with a graham cracker crust and the ideal amount of citrus zest (a lot). It more closely resembles one of my favorite desserts of all time, the frosted orange from the Varsity in Atlanta (the girls who get it, get it, etc.). It’s creamsicle at its finest, cheesecake at its simplest, and it’s what I want to end at least a few springy dinners with this season. I’ll always save room for a little cold slice of this one.
While yes, this cheesecake is simple and classic for a reason, it’s also incredibly adaptable if you’d like to improvise.
If graham crackers aren’t your thing, you can use nilla wafers (a perfect cookie), or biscoff. Just decrease the sugar by about a tablespoon, since both are a little sweeter.
No food processor? No problem! Crush the cookies by hand using a rolling pin and a ziploc. As for the filling, you can use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large bowl and an electric hand mixer. If using a stand mixer, scrape down the sides often and be mindful of citrus zest sticking to the paddles. Smoothness of the filling is key to a smooth cheesecake, so a machine is actually necessary here.
Our preferred vessel is a springform, but you can also use a 9-inch pie plate or standard cake pan. NOTE: in the video, we accidentally said to line a cake pan with plastic wrap if using. Please don’t do that! We meant parchment! It was a long day!
Any citrus zest works great, like lime, lemon, tangerine, or orange, or any combination thereof. Orange really gives us the creamsicle flavor we seek, but whatever you’re in the mood for will work great. If you want more of a classic, less citrusy cheesecake, omit the zest and use 1 teaspoon or so of vanilla extract.
If you want to top your cheesecake with a little something, you could go with fresh sliced citrus, whipped cream, or whipped sour cream.
serves 8 to 10
Cheesecake as a concept is well known. It’s basic, it’s perfect and it’s a classic for a reason. Slightly more citrusy than your average, almost creamsicle-esque (creamsicle: my favorite thing to eat and think about eating), it’s also more shallow than your typical. This is for a more fair crust:filling ratio and to eschew the whole water bath thing. To prevent it from cracking (a superficial thing that bothers some), cool the cheesecake at room temperature before refrigerating (the drastic fluctuation in temperature is what causes the cracking! The more you know). Alternatively, if it cracks, simply cover the top with a festive parade of your favorite sliced citrus.
For the crust:
8 ounces/225g vanilla wafers or graham crackers (shy of 2 packages)
3 tablespoons/40g light brown sugar
6 tablespoons/85g unsalted butter, melted
Pinch of kosher salt
For the filling:
1 pound/450g/two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup/240ml/8 oz sour cream, full fat greek yogurt or labne
½ cup/100g granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons/12g finely grated citrus zest (lemon, lime, tangerine, etc)
Pinch of kosher salt
Thinly sliced citrus, for serving, optional
For the crust:
1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Pulse the cookies in a food processor until you’ve got a good, coarse crumb (not too sandy or powdery). You can also do this by hand by placing the cookies in a resealable bag and crushing or smashing them with a rolling pin or heavy pot.
2. Transfer crumbs to a medium bowl and add brown sugar, butter and a pinch of salt. Using your hands, mix everything together until you’ve got a nice wet-sand texture with no obvious dry bits.
3. Press the crust into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate, tart pan or springform pan (alternatively, you can use a 9-inch cake pan lined with parchment up the sides for easy removal). Using the bottom of a measuring cup or small bowl, make sure the crust is really pressed in there, otherwise the cheesecake will be challenging to slice later once cooled.
4. Bake the crust until it’s lightly golden brown at the edges (it gets baked again, so don’t overdo it here), 10 to 12 minutes.
For the filling:
5. Combine cream cheese, sour cream and granulated sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until the mixture, scraping down the sides to get all bits of cream cheese, until it’s extremely smooth, almost pudding-like in it’s texture. Add eggs, citrus zest and a pinch of salt and continue to blend until there are no lumps (this is your last chance to remove lumps!) and the mixture is smooth and nearly liquified.
6. Pour the filling into the prepared crust (you may have some leftover filling depending on your chosen vessel) and bake until the filling is mostly set with just a small, slight jiggle in the center (and absolutely no browning!), 20 to 30 minutes if using a pie plate, and closer to 25 to 35 if using a springform. Turn the oven off and leave the door open a rack– let the tart sit inside the oven as it gradually cools for about 20 minutes. Remove the tart to cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes before transferring it to the fridge to cool completely (about two hours). This annoying sequence is optional, but it is good at preventing those deep cracks that form from sudden temperature change.
7. Scatter fresh citrus slices on top as you like before slicing and serving.
EAT WITH: so much fresh citrus.
DO AHEAD: cheesecake can be made 5 days ahead of time, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated.
Citrusy Cheesecake ala Roman, please and thank you...
What'll ya have? Ohh, it tastes like the FO (Frozen Orange drink, folks) at the Varsity?? The only things to order there are MK (mustard and ketchup) dogs, FOs, and the pretty good onion rings. Every time I left a conference at the University of Georgia, I swung by the Athens branch of The Varsity for this unholy triumvirate of junk! Sold on the cheesecake, because FOs are the bomb. Maybe why I stayed in Georgia as long as I did...