Sunday, January 27, 2008

key lime cheesecake

key lime cheesecakes

I can’t believe I haven’t told you yet about this Key Lime Cheesecake; I have some nerve, don’t I? And I suppose I could get into its texture (dreamy), flavor (bright and promising), topping (thin strips of mango tossed in lime juice) but it wouldn’t be honest of me, as I really only made these for one reason last weekend. Take a look at this bottle; could there be a more enticing Wish You Were Here sign? I take one look at it and just want to yell: I’m coming for you!

key lime juice

Alas, it is still quite January outside in New York, this might be the only piece of Key West we’re getting for several months. But not unlike what I was thinking when I made those lemon bars or that anything-but-clementine clafoutis this month, I hoped that a focus on bright, sunny citrus fruits would take some of the drudgery out of mid-winter. Did it work? Perhaps not, but it was delicious nonetheless.

graham crackersmaking the crustcheesecake crustsmini cheesecakes

I made it for the first time a few years ago–actually, it was the very first cheesecake I ever baked–and learned one undeniable fact: cheesecake is always a show stopper. People go mad for it, and I haven’t figured out if that is because they rarely allow themselves such unbridled decadence or because they so rarely have homemade, innovative versions of it, but either way, it’s a guaranteed hit, even if it can’t bring summer on sooner.

mango, peelingsliced mangomango decorationmini key lime cheesecakes

Cheesecake, elsewhere: Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake, Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake, Nectarine, Mascarpone and Gingersnap Tart (almost no-bake!), Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake, Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Squares, Black-Bottomed Cupcakes (with a cheesecake filling) and Cream Cheese Marbled Brownies.

One year ago: Paula Wolfert’s Hummus

Key Lime Cheesecake with Mango Ribbons
Adapted from Gourmet, May 2002

In last weekend’s incarnation of this recipe, I finally had a chance to try out my unbearably cute new mini-cheesecake pans. I discovered that halving the recipe made about 12 minis (I had a tad extra), hopefully helpful for future mini-cheesecake endeavors. As for this recipe, I wouldn’t change a thing. However, were I married to someone who didn’t (wrongly) think that coconut is evil, I think adding a little finely-ground coconut to the crust (swapping out graham crumbs, if it is dry coconut) would be delicious, and then you could sing “put thee lime in thee coconut and call the doctor up…” while you cook, even though (again with the husband) not everyone may rejoice at the sound of your afternoon song to a cheesecake crust.

For crust
1 1/4 cups fine graham cracker crumbs (5 ounces)
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted

For filling
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup fresh key lime juice (strained from about 1 1/2 lb Key limes) or bottled (Nellie and Joe’s is wonderful, as is Manhattan brand, if you can find it)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs

For topping
2 large firm-ripe mangoes
1 tablespoon fresh Key lime juice (strained) or bottled
1/2 cup chilled heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar

Special equipment: a 9- to 9 1/2-inch springform pan; a mandoline or other adjustable-blade slicer

Make crust: Preheat oven to 350°F and butter bottom and side of springform pan.

Stir together crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl with a fork until combined well, then press evenly onto bottom and one-third up side of pan. Bake crust in middle of oven 8 minutes and cool in pan on a rack.

Make filling: Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer at medium speed until fluffy, then beat in sugar. Add lime juice, sour cream, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Mix in flour and salt at low speed, scraping down side as needed, until just incorporated, then add eggs all at once and mix just until incorporated.

Pour filling into crust and set springform pan in a shallow baking pan. Bake cake in middle of oven until set in center, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. Cool completely in springform pan on rack. (Cake will continue to set as it cools.)

Run a thin knife around edge of cake and remove side of pan. If desired, transfer cake with a large metal spatula to a serving plate.

Make topping: Peel mangoes and, leaving fruit whole, slice very thinly lengthwise (slightly less than 1/8 inch thick) with mandoline (use caution — peeled mango is slippery). Halve wide slices lengthwise. Gently toss mango slices with lime juice. (I instead cut the slices with a flower-shaped cookie cutter, thinking they’d be a little neater for the miniature cakes.)

Beat cream with sugar in a bowl with electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks, then spread over top of cheesecake. Bending and curling mango slices, arrange them decoratively over cream.

Do ahead: Cheesecake (without topping) can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. If desired, bring to room temperature. Add topping just before serving.


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