Friday, February 8, 2013

Perfect Lemon Cheesecake with Lemon Blueberry Sauce

It's that time of year again. Lemon time! Around this time every year the family and I head over to the Texas Canyon lemon tree to harvest some lemons. As always, I will be making my famous Texas Canyon Lemon Bars (They were even specially requested by the Texas Canyon Hot Shot Crew Captain.). But, if you were to ask my adoring husband, he would say that this lemon cheese cake is what you would use your lemons for. He asks for it every year, and I am more than happy to accommodate him. :)
  This recipe holds a special place in my families heart and a permanent place in our Family Recipe Book. It's a take on Tyler Florence's Ultimate Cheesecake. It's creamy and smooth and has a nice lemon flavor that's not overwhelming by any means. The blueberry sauce on top sets it off perfectly. My dear friend Kim has a recipe for cheesecake that she has been using for years. I really enjoy her decadent cheesecake, but knowing that it has 5 packages of cream cheese, 5 eggs (plus 2 yolks) and cream in the mix makes me think twice about indulging. (Not to say I wouldn't devour it if it was placed before me . . . I would just think twice before I did it.) This recipe has far fewer calories, but is still deliciously decadent.
  I don't own any special spring form or cheesecake pans, so I just bake mine in a 9 inch round cake pan. It does fill the thing to the tippy-top so be warned, you'll want to be careful it doesn't spill. No special tools or ingredients required. Just an easy and delicious cheesecake that always impresses.

Here's all you need:
cream cheese, eggs, sugar, a couple lemons, sour cream, vanilla, butter, graham crackers and cinnamon (not pictured)
First thing's first, get all your ingredients out on the counter to come up to room temperature.
The crust is most easily done in a food processor. Start with the butter - 1/2 stick. (1/4 cup)

Melt it completely.

Then in the bowl of a food processor, break up 6 whole graham crackers. (This is for a bottom only crust. If you want your crust to come up the sides, you'll want to use 8 crackers.) Add in 1/2 tsp of cinnamon.

Pulse to break up the crackers, and when they start to turn to crumbs, drizzle in the butter with the processor on high.

When the butter is completely incorporated, the moist crumbs will stick to the sides of the bowl like this.

Now that the crust is made, just leave it in the food processor for a moment and make sure that you have lined your cake pan. I learned this from watching Alton Brown (one of my food heroes). First, take a piece of parchment paper that is roughly as long as your pan. (My parchment paper was probably about 10 inches long.) Fold the paper in half.

Fold from the torn side to the torn side. (From the side you ripped off from the roll to the previously ripped side from the last time you got a piece off the roll.) Get a good seam.

Fold it exactly in half (jagged side to jagged side) again. (Now it's folded twice.)

Then, with the fold on the right and the open sides on the left, fold the bottom left corner to meet the right edge. Like this:

You will now have a cone. Lay it down, with the tip in the center of your cake pan, and cut off the edge that hangs over the edge of the pan.

It should look like this:

Flip your pan over, and place the cut side against the inside edge of your pan, making sure the point is exactly in the middle. If it's too big, or isn't flush with the side of the cake pan you can trim the top of the paper to fit.

When you open it up, you should have a perfect 9 inch circle to cover your pan!

Spray the pan.

Put the paper down, and spray again. Now you're ready to fill the pan.

Dump your previously made gram cracker crumb mixture into the center of the prepared pan.

Lightly press it out until there is an even coat, from the center to the edges.

Use a glass (or the back of your knuckles like me) to press the crust firmly into the pan. Bake the crust @ 400F for about 8-10 minutes, or until the crust is set and browned.

While the crust is cooking, you can make the filling. 16 oz of cream cheese, and some sugar go into a mixing bowl. (Also put a kettle of water on the stove to get hot. You'll need this for the water bath later on.)

Along with some vanilla,

and the zest of two small lemons.

About 1 Tbsp?

Mix those all together until they are really smooth.

Take the crust out of the oven, and let it cool completely. (I browned my crust a little too much, but you won't be able to tell once the cheesecake is on top.) Turn the oven down to 325F

To the cream cheese mixture, add the sour cream.

Next you need 3 eggs. They need to be beaten slightly before put into the batter, so I just put them into the now empty sour cream container and beat them up in there.

Add the eggs to the batter.

And mix until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again just until everything is smooth. You don't want a lot of air in your batter or it will make your cheesecake crack. Let the batter sit until your crust is completely cool.

When the crust is ready, put the cake pan into a larger dish (I use my 10x15 casserole dish) pour the batter on top of the crust. Just pour it all in the center, and it should be even all the way around.

Like I mentioned earlier, it will fill a 9 inch round cake pan to the very top, so make sure you have your cake pan inside your larger dish already, so you don't have to move it too much and risk spilling it. At this point I gently lift and drop the cake pan (just an inch or so) to giggle out any bubbles that may be inside. See them rise to the top? (I learned this by watching Paula Deen - another food icon of mine.) Just pop the bubbles and you're all set.

Move the whole thing (both dishes) to the preheated oven (325F). CAREFULLY pour boiling water 1/2 way up the side of the cake pan. The water bath will help the cheesecake cook evenly and stay creamy.

After about 45 minutes the cheesecake will be cooked on the outside and just a little giggly in the center. No cracks at all. (It does have a funny bump where I scraped off spatula and let the batter fall - and didn't level it out well - but that will be covered up with the blueberry sauce.) I like to just crack the oven door and let the cheesecake stay in there until I can get it out with my bare hands.

While the cheesecake is cooking or cooling (you're choice) you can make the blueberry sauce. 1 pint of washed blueberries go into a pot with some sugar.

Then add the juice of the two lemons you zested earlier (and the zest of another lemon if you want the lemon flavor to be more pronounced).

Add 1/8 tsp of cinnamon, and bring it to a boil.

Once it's to a boil you'll need to cook it for at least 5 minutes.

When all the berries have popped and it looks more like jam than a pot of berries you're done.

Turn the stove off and add a splash of vanilla.

When the cheesecake is cool, put it in the fridge and let it set for at least 4 hours. I like to cool the blueberry sauce as well, but some people like it warm. If you are one of those people, then wait to do your sauce until about 1/2 hour before serving. Then it should be perfect (not to hot as to melt the cheesecake, but still warm.)  This is the cheesecake I made this time. I put it on a plate to give away.

This is the one I made 2 years ago, that I presented on a pretty platter. I put a little less sauce on this one.

It's always beautiful and tastes even better than it looks. :)

Here's the recipe:
adapted from Ultimate Cheesecake

Perfect Lemon Cheesecake with Blueberry Sauce

6-8 whole graham crackers (6 for bottom only crust; 8 if you want it to come up the sides a bit)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) salted butter, melted

1 pound cream cheese, 2 (8-ounce) blocks, softened
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 pint sour cream 
2 small lemons, zested
1 dash vanilla extract (about 1 tsp)
Lemon Blueberry Sauce *recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a food processor, break up the graham crackers. Add the cinnamon and pulse until the crackers are in pea sized crumbs. Then turn the processor on high. Drizzle in the melted butter and keep on high until all the crumbs finely ground, moistened and sticking to the side of the bowl. Turn off and dump into a 9 inch cake pan that has been greased and lined with parchment paper. Press the cumb mixture into an even layer covering the bottom of the pan (and a little up the sides if using 8 crackers). Bake @ 400F for 8-10 minutes - until the crust is set and slightly browned. Allow the crust to cool completely before adding the filling. Turn the oven down to 325F for the filling.
For the Filling: 
With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese on low speed. Gradually add sugar, zest and vanilla, and beat until creamy and smooth (for 1 to 2 minutes).  Scrape down the sides. Slightly beat the eggs and add to the cream cheese mixture. Mixing on low until smooth and completely combined.
Add sour cream. Periodically scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beaters. The batter should be well-mixed but not over beaten. Place the cheesecake pan into a large rosting pan or casserole to serve as a water bath. Pour the filling into the cooled crust-lined pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
 Pour boiling water into the roasting pan/large casserole dish until the water is about halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan. Bake for 45 minutes. The cheesecake should still jiggle (it will firm up after chilling), so be careful not to overcook. Let cool in the oven (turned off and door ajar) for at least 30 minutes (until you can remove the pan with your bare hands. Chill in the refrigerator, loosely covered, for at least 4 hours. Loosen the cheesecake from the sides of the pan by running a thin knife around the inside rim. Invert onto a plate, take the parchment paper off, and then invert again -transferring to a cake plate/platter. Using a spatula spread a layer of the Lemon Blueberry Sauce over the top.

Lemon Blueberry Sauce:
1 pint blueberries 
2 lemons, juiced (and the zest of 1 lemon) 
2 tablespoons sugar (more if the berries are tart)
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
In a small saucepan add all the ingredients (except the vanilla) and boil over medium heat for at least 5 minutes. The berries will burst and it will look more like a sauce/jam. Cool before spreading on cheesecake.


  1. LOL! I think my recipe just makes a larger cheesecake! It serves at least 16 people! This looks just as delicious though!

    1. I do remember your cheesecake being taller - but I think I would always cut the same sized pieces no matter how big the chesecake was. :) I also use lite sour cream, (and sometimes Neufchatel instead of cream cheese) so that makes me feel a little better about the fat and calories too. Either way, cheesecake is an indulgance. :P