If you're just tuning in, the Cheesecake Saga is an ongoing monthly project here on the blog, and in my kitchen. When I emptied out Eleanor's recipe box to sort through her recipes, it became immediately apparent that she had over a dozen recipes for plain cheesecake.
Thinking that was far too many recipes for plain boring cheesecake, I did some research and found that, unanimously, those who knew Eleanor best told me that cheesecake was her favourite dessert. In honour of Eleanor's favourites (and to avoid getting stuck making a dozen cheesecakes at the end of the Recipe Box Project), I decided I'd make one cheesecake each month. This cheesecake is number 8, and so far we've had some major flops as well as a few resounding successes.
I know you wouldn't think it based on the recipes I post here, but we honestly don't eat that many sweets in this house. I make a lot of desserts, but they usually go to friends or work or straight into the freezer after I have enough tastes to write a post about them. But the cheesecakes? Well, you can't freeze a cheesecake, you can't cut a cheesecake recipe in half (though that hasn't stopped me from trying), and try as you might, you can't preserve a cheesecake for more than a week in the fridge.
So what you need is a cheesecake test panel. Friends (like the Golden Girls), co-workers, or really anyone you can find who is willing to eat a slice of cheesecake as often as you make them. Lately all of mine have been going into work with Judson, who has an easier commute (and hungrier coworkers) than I do. This has an unexpected bonus in that they've tasted almost all of the cheesecakes I've made lately, so not only do they know which ones are intrinsically delicious, but they've also made up a scale for the best ones. (I don't think any of them would tell me if one of them was terrible, but I do enjoy the 'BEST ONE YET!' commentary I occasionally get).
Over the last few months I've been afraid that I was so burned out on cheesecakes that I wouldn't be able to enjoy one more single slice for the rest of my life... but then this one came along, and I was devastated that I hadn't saved more than one slice for myself. You have to make this cheesecake. Even if you're on the fence about cheesecake in general, this will change your mind. The filling is custardy and sweet without being overly heavy, and the extra thick crust (on the top AND bottom!) makes it more like a crumble than a cheesecake. Plus, the inclusion of crushed pecans in the crust makes it more complex than just a simple graham cracker number, and the crispness perfectly complements the with the soft, melt-in-your-mouth filling. If you've been waiting for a cheesecake to make from this saga, this is it. It's even overshadowed my previous favourite, the slightly easier but much less interesting July cheesecake. Plus, the top crust covers up any bubbles or cracks that the top of your cheesecake acquires in the baking/cooling process, so it even looks nice if you take it somewhere (and, let's be real, you're not going to eat that entire thing yourself!).
There's a couple of substitutions included in the recipe as written below, because I don't think pot cheese still exists (though I would love to try to strain some cheese through a sieve), and I can't find zweiback anywhere in this country (and when I asked, I got crazy looks at the regular grocery store AND the Polish grocery store).
5 spoons out of five. If you've been waiting for a foolproof, delicious, unique cheesecake to make from this project, bake this one, stat. Eleanor wouldn't steer you wrong, and neither, obviously, would I.
Thick-Crust, Perfect Cheesecake
Beat egg white until stiff and set aside.
Whiz cookie crumbs in the food processor until mostly smooth.
Add nuts and pulse twice more just until broken up.
In a medium bowl, mix cookie/nut mixture with sugar and melted butter.
Separate half of the crust mixture and reserve for the upper crust.
To the remaining half, add the beaten egg white and spread in the bottom of a springform pan.
Preheat oven to 176C/350F.
Beat egg whites until very stiff.
Set aside and beat all other ingredients until very smooth.
Add egg whites and fold together gently (mixture will be very bubbly and airy).
Pour into prepared crust, sprinkle the other half of the crust mixture over the filling gently (some will sink, so just sprinkle evenly and gently).
Bake 45 minutes until the middle is just set, then turn off oven, leave the door cracked and allow to cool for 60 minutes in the oven.
1 ½ c rich tea or zwieback crumbs
½ c pecans, coarsely chopped
½ c sugar
½ c butter, melted
1 egg white
1 ½ c sugar
16 oz mascarpone
16 oz cream cheese
1 c heavy cream
2 ½ tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
7 eggs, separated