First of all, it's not raining and the sun made an appearance this afternoon, at least for a little while. Sunshine is wonderful any time, all of the time, but it was especially nice today since March seems to be operating under the 'in like a lion' notion - a roaring, angry, enormous lion. Come on, spring! I'm rooting for you!
Please ignore the blurry daffodils and just bask in the sun streaming through the window :)
Tomorrow morning Derek and Sara arrive for the weekend, and that means today, I bake! Do you know what I've decided? I love to bake because of this: our family is full of people with really specific, useful skills - Jan Michael is a computer genius, Derek takes be-still-my-heart pictures, my sis is the best hair stylist on the planet, the list goes on - and it's so handy to be able to call on their expertise. I, however, am a college drop-out who (happily!) cleans toilets and scoops cat poop for a living, so I don't always feel like I can return the favor to my amazing, talented family. But, I can bake, and I can bake with love, and when I do, it allows me to show, at least in a small measure, how much I appreciate each of them.
When I asked Derek for dessert requests, he voted for lemon cheesecake, and the recipe I used is totally worth sharing. I found it on a super fun blog called Perry's Plate - the link is under our 'More & more fun' list on the right; do pop over and take a peek! - and it's one of my favorite cheesecake recipes yet. It's simple and pretty and delicious (perfectly lemony!); there aren't any fancy-pants ingredients that demand driving halfway across the county, and the crust doesn't stick to the bottom of pan, requiring a chisel to scrape it out. I baked it a couple of weeks ago for our friend Kevin, who isn't a big fan of cheesecake to begin with, and he said he was converted :)
CURDED (BUT NOT CURDLED!) LEMON CHEESECAKE
For lemon curd:
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/3 cups finely ground graham cracker or gingersnap crumbs (5 oz)
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon (packed) finely grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Make lemon curd:
Whisk together zest, juice, sugar, and eggs in a 2-quart heavy saucepan. Add butter and cook over moderately low heat, whisking frequently, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubbles appear on surface, about 6 minutes.
Force lemon curd through a fine-mesh sieve into a wide shallow dish, scraping bottom of sieve, then cover surface with wax paper. Cool completely, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.
Make and bake crust:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Invert bottom of springform pan (to make it easier to slide cake off bottom), then lock on side. Stir together crust ingredients in a bowl, then press onto bottom and 1 inch up side of springform pan. Place springform pan in a shallow baking pan and bake 10 minutes, then cool crust completely in springform 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, beating until incorporated. Beat in sour cream, vanilla, lemon zest, and juice until combined.
Pour cream cheese filling into crust and bake cheesecake until set 1 1/2 inches from edge but center trembles when pan is gently shaken, about 45 minutes. (Center of cake will appear very loose but will continue to set as it cools.) Transfer springform pan to a rack and immediately run a knife around top edge of cake to loosen. Cool completely, about 2 hours, then chill, uncovered, at least 4 hours. Remove side of springform pan and top with lemon curd before serving.
*A quick note: The first time I baked this, I made the dumb, dumb mistake of making the lemon curd in an aluminum pan. Some kind of chemical reaction took place - something between the aluminum and the acid in the lemon juice, maybe - and it ended up tasting like a lovely pudding made of blood. I had to pitch it, of course, and send Jan Michael to Trader Joe's for a jar (which worked just fine) but the moral of the story is don't be like me!
*Quick note #2: I just realized that while I did find the recipe on Perry's Place (have you visited yet?!), Grace from A Southern Grace is the one who gets credit for the lemon love.
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