Under the Wire Cheesecake, or, Quick and Easy Cheesecake

I'm tired of cheesecake. It's never been, like, my favourite dessert (looking at you, chocolate cake with vanilla frosting), but I've always been pretty ok with it. Making one a month is a bit much, though. Especially when they're all plain.

But here we are in June, and it's time for the next installment of The Cheesecake Saga. As I've explained in previous entries, there is nothing that says 'friendship' to me quite like cheesecake. Maybe it's the influence of The Golden Girls, maybe it's the fact that you couldn't eat a whole one by yourself unless you're going through a terrible breakup, and even then it would probably take you a few sittings... maybe it's just the successful marketing campaigns of casual dining chain restaurants like Olive Garden and Red Lobster (which were, unashamedly, my favourite two places to eat as a small child), but regardless of what causes it, cheesecake to me sings of girlfriends, sleepovers, late night chats and long laughs over silly memories and ridiculous stories.

So when I realised it's the last day of the month and I still haven't made my June cheesecake, it was pretty appropriate that I just parted ways with my best friend of the last ten years, Emily. Emily and her fiance were in the UK for work-related reasons, so of course we made some time for fun-related things and explored the Scottish Highlands all weekend together. We stayed in a castle, ate cullen skink and full Scottish breakfasts, drank a lot of whisky and coffee, and explored a lot. But most of all, I got to spend three amazing days with my best friend, less than a month before her wedding. She's on her way back to the US now, so I won't get to share this cheesecake with her, but if she was here, we'd make a gluten-free version, pour ourselves another cup of coffee, and tease each other mercilessly over all the stupid things we've done, stupid boys we've loved, and stupid ideas we've had. Can you tell she's my favourite?

Emily lives in the California Bay Area now, so we're 8 time zones apart, but it doesn't stop us from regular Skype dates and endless email chains. Maybe that makes it even more appropriate that this recipe is from The Stars & Stripes, a magazine published for expat military families living a world away from all of their friends and family.

In fact, the introduction reads:

'And here's one especially for Mrs. R. Fruda of Holiday. It's guaranteed good by Mrs. Howard Black of St. Petersburg, who discovered it published in the Stars and Stripes while she was in Germany. She baked it, saved it, and now it's yours.'

Emily started her own bakery last year (making desserts far more delicious than mine), so the idea of friends sharing recipes is something that will always bring her to my mind. But where I treat cooking like a choose-your-own-adventure novel, substituting ingredients at will, trying things to taste instead of by measurement, and combining recipes when I can't find one that satisfies my whims, Emily believes baking is a science: her cooking experiments follow strict instructions and are carefully calculated, planned, and meticulously recorded so that they can be re-created (or avoided) anytime. I should really take some cues from her.

This cheesecake is already my favourite one from the box, and here are all the reasons why: it doesn't require a springform pan, it doesn't involve ricotta or sour cream or milk, the ingredients don't have to be brought to room temperature, there is no water bath, and it cooks in less than half an hour. None of which have been true with any of the first four Recipe Box cheesecakes I've made.

The verdict:

5 spoons out of five. A toasted graham crust, a filling just lightly sweetened, permission from the recipe to top the cake with cherries, and a perfect, creamy texture without leaving you feeling like you ate a brick of cream cheese; this cheesecake is the easiest and best cheesecake you'll make this year. Make it, bring it to work or share it with your best baking friend and enjoy.

The recipe:

Quick and Easy Cheesecake

the directions:

Preheat the oven to 162C/325F.
Whiz the crackers in the food processor until they are a fine crumb.
Mix crumbs with melted butter, 2 tbsp sugar, and a sprinkle of salt to form a loose graham crust.
Pat this gently into the bottom and up the sides of a pie pan and set aside.
Beat eggs until pale yellow and thick, then set aside.
With the same beater, beat the rest of the ingredients until smooth and uniform, scraping sides frequently.
Add the eggs and beat well until smooth.
Pour over crust and smooth top.
Bake for 20-30 minutes until the middle jiggles only slightly when the pan is nudged.
Let cool and top with pineapple or cherries before serving.

the ingredients:

1 ¼ c digestive biscuit or graham cracker crumbs
2 tbsp melted butter
½ c + 2 tbsp sugar, divided
2 eggs
3 packages cream cheese (I used 540 grams, and it was the perfect amount to fill my standard-size pie pan)
1 tsp lemon juice
½ tsp vanilla
Cherry pie filling or 'Thickened pineapple' for garnish