I love cheesecake. I remember as a very young kid it was one of those desserts that was distinctly “adult.” Cheesecake was the dessert I would always get when we went out for dinner. My dad did too. Maybe I even started eating cheesecake to emulate him, but I kept eating cheesecake because it's so good. And in my opinion given a standard cheesecake, blueberry is king.
My mother makes the best cheesecake ever. If you ask her she'll tell you that it's just the Kraft recipe and it's nothing special. I beg to differ. When she makes it's just better. And when she makes cheesecake she goes all out making at least two different toppings; blueberry and likely a strawberry. This is one of the wonderful things about cheesecake, you can make a standard cake and then switch up the flavours by simply changing the toppings.
One of my favourite cheesecake memories was my birthday party circa 1998. A day that has forever been known as “Shindig '98.” I had a bunch of friends over and my mother had already outdone herself with the amount of food she made for us. If you could eat it with your fingers, we were eating it with our fingers :). However, the highlight was my mother surprising me with not one but TWO cheesecakes. A blueberry cheesecake and a frozen chocolate coffee cheesecake. I'll never forget how good they were. I love cheesecake.
For my blogiversary weekend I had initially planned on making Dorie Greenspan's Peanut Butter Torte. That was until I realized how long it had been since I had had a proper cheesecake. I made a PB Fudge Cheesecake last year for my birthday, but that was fancy, I realized it had been almost Two YEARS since eating a traditional blueberry cheesecake. From that moment on I knew it was the one (okay, I was swayed briefly by the idea of a peanut butter cheesecake, but I corrected myself quickly).
Unfortunately there was no way I could get away with making an entire cheesecake. Especially since we would be a man down because my brother won't eat anything with cream cheese. But nuts to him, this was for me, I was going to make what I wanted, though slightly smaller. Thanks in part to this recipe I had a rough estimate of the proportions I would need. Approximately one quarter of a standard cheesecake. I went straight to the cheesecake source, deciding to reduce the basic Kraft recipe (if it's good enough for my mother, it's good enough for me). Because this was only the second cheesecake I would be making on my own I even checked out Kraft's cheesecake tips to make sure I didn't screw things up too much.
I didn't touch any of the recipe proportions except the vanilla and for this special occasion I even broke out the Mexican vanilla. Oh, and one of my mom's "tricks" is that she only ever uses light cream cheese so that's what I used as well. I paid very close and special attention to Kraft's tips. Too much. Lets just say that I was so concerned with not overbeating the eggs that I forgot to make sure the cream cheese-sugar mixture was completely smooth before adding the eggs. Upon pouring the filling into the pie crust I realized that there were still little chunks of cream cheese in the filling. Wonderful. Psst.. don't tell anyone, but this lead me to swishing around the filling and manually crushing all the little pieces of cream cheese by hand (with super clean hands of course, believe me, you could eat off of my hands :)). Sometimes it amazes me the things I'm able to mess up :).
For the blueberry topping I didn't want something gelatin like, I wanted the blueberry sauce that I had grown up with. I used frozen berries because I had them on hand and chose to use brown sugar instead of white. I thought maybe the molasses would add an interesting flavour to the sauce. After reducing the sauce to the thickness I liked, I gave it a taste and found that it already had a bit of a tartness and so decided against adding lemon zest and juice. It seemed redundant (and potentially overpowering). This was my first time making a sauce of this type and I found that there is no trick to it. You just keep reducing until the flavour and the thickness is where you want. If the flavour is good and it's still too loose just add a little more cornstarch. Ta-dah, Adam-proof recipe.
When the cheesecake came out of the oven I could tell it cooked perfectly. It didn't crack at all, and it looked smooth, rich and creamy. And my eyes did not deceive. After chilling for a few hours I paired a slice with a bit of the blueberry sauce and took a bite of a perfect cheesecake. I had almost forgotten how good cheesecake was, especially that great cream cheese tanginess. The vanilla was only slightly noticeable and perhaps not the best use of it, but I didn't care too much. And the blueberry sauce was just lightly sweet and slightly tart, perfect. I really should have made some pancakes to use up the leftovers but instead I just ate it with a spoon (don't judge me :)). Unfortunately I didn't notice the molasses from the brown sugar so it was a gamble that didn't pay off, though I suppose it didn't hurt either :). One of the best things about making a cheesecake this size was that it didn't feel heavy, which probably led me to eating more than I should have :).
I really only had one slight issue. Because I used my standard graham cracker crust and pressed it completely up the sides of the pan, there wasn't enough filling to fill the entire crust. This would have been fine if I was going to layer the blueberry topping, but it didn't work as well with my blueberry sauce. I also felt that there was perhaps a little to much bottom crust for the amount of filling. It's not a bad thing, but next time I think I will either double the filling (so that it fills the crust) or half the crust and only press it up the pie plate half way (the later will not have an effect on baking time).
Despite that one little issue, I could not have been happier with my cheesecake. My last cheesecake venture was quite a stressful one and I was very happy this one wasn't (other than my one little hiccup). I honestly can't believe this is the first cheesecake I have made for my blog, but I promise it won't be the last. Though this brings up the eternal question: is cheesecake a cake or a pie? And what about a cheesecake pie? If cheesecake is a cake, if you make it in a pie plate, does that make it a pie? And if it is a pie, why do I have to call it a pie when I make it in a pie plate? Shouldn't it just be a smaller cheesecake. Am I going to have to create another label called Cake-Pie or Pie-Cake? Aaaaaahh.. how am I supposed to sleep tonight?
Cheesecake Pie w/Blueberry Sauce
Adapted from KraftCrust:
9 5x2.5 inch Graham Crackers (135g)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted (57g)
8 oz (1 package) Philadelphia Light Cream Cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar (50g)
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla
Adapted from Joy of Baking3 cups of frozen or fresh blueberries (420g-450g)
2/3 cup water
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar (55g)
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
**Note: Next time I will double the filling or half the pie crust and only press it half way up the pie plate.
Preheat oven to 325F and have ready a 9” pie plate -- because cheesecakes are normally baked in a springform pan, I used a metal non-stick pie plate
Add graham crackers to food processor and run and pulse until only crumbs are left, crumble up any larger leftover chunks by hand.
Add graham cracker crumbs and butter to a medium bowl and mix until all the crumbs are moist.
Add crumb mix to pie plate and press evenly on the bottom and up the sides. Using a fork, poke a few holes into the crust to prevent bubbling.
Bake for 8 minutes.
Allow to cool completely on rack before using.
Fill a 9x13inch baking pan half way with water and set in oven.
In the medium bowl of a mixer add cream cheese and beat until smooth. Add sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until completely incorporated and smooth, scraping down the bowl as necessary.
Add egg and beat until just incorporated. Once all the egg is incorporated, stop your mixer immediately.
Remove bowl from mixer and fold batter a few times to make sure that there is no unmixed cream cheese at the bottom of the bowl.
Pour filling into cooled pie crust and bake for 25 to 30 minutes (25 minutes was perfect for me). Allow to cool completely before moving into the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours.
In a medium saucepan add water, sugar, cornstarch and salt and whisk to combine.
Add blueberries and place saucepan over medium heat. Bring sauce to a simmer and continue to cook down the blueberries until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.
Test the sweetness and add more sugar to taste or if the mixture isn't as thick as you would like add some more cornstarch and cook until desired thickness is obtained.
Allow to cool completely and place in fridge to cool with cheesecake.
Once chilled serve Cheesecake with as much or as little blueberry sauce as you like.