Friday, September 15, 2017

Anna Sultana’s Lemon Cheesecake and the Autumnal Equinox

Can you believe it? 
We’re halfway through September.
We’re having odd weather: hazy because of the fires in northern Manitoba, yet overcast and rainy here in the south.
I know April showers bring May flowers, but September rain is just gloomy, without the promise of pretty flowers.
Kind of depressing.

Oh, well, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, a slice of cheesecake can cure many ills.
And a cheesecake with lemon curd on it is like having a bit of sunshine on your plate.


Hints:

If you don’t have graham wafer crumbs you can crush in a food processor
18 Graham crackers (2 packets from a 14 ounce box)
Process until the crumbs are consistent. 
No food processor? 
Place the crackers in a zip lock bag, seal, and use a rolling pin to crush.

If you don’t have graham wafers, you can crush arrowroot or sugar cookies.

Do not over beat when you’re adding the eggs. Too much beating at this point can make the top of the cheesecake crack during baking.

The plain cheesecake can be refrigerated, covered in plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.

If you want you can strain the curd once cooked. The curd can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week. You may not need all of the curd for the filling. 
It can be stored in a covered bowl and added to servings or on other desserts.

Lemon Cheesecake is best served the day it's made but can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days, but the longer you store it the more weepy the meringue will get. It'll still be good, it'll just look like it's been crying.


                        Lemon Cheesecake

Serves 10 - 12

Either in a pot or in a medium-sized microwaveable bowl, melt
1/2 Cup butter
Stir in
2 Cups graham wafer crumbs
Combine well.
Press the graham cracker mixture into the bottom and along the sides of a 9-inch springform pan and set aside.


Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven.
Preheat the oven to 350º F

Place in a large mixer bowl
1 Cup sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons flour
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Rub the sugar, flour and zest together to develop the lemon flavour.
Add
24 ounces brick style cream cheese, at room temperature
Blend until the mixture is smooth.
Beat in
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Add, one at a time
3 large eggs
Beat just until combined after each addition. Do not over mix.

Pour the mixture into the graham cracker crust and smooth the top surface.
Place the pan in a roasting pan and place the roasting pan in the oven. 
Pour hot, not boiling, water into the roasting pan to halfway up the sides of the springform pan. 

Bake for 50 minutes. You want the centre to jiggle slightly when the pan is tapped, and for a thermometer inserted in the centre to register 150° F.
Remove the roasting pan from the oven. 
Remove the springform pan from the roasting pan and put it on a wire rack. 
Cover the cheesecake with a cold baking sheet and let it stand for 5 minutes.
Remove the baking sheet and carefully run a knife around the edge of the cheesecake. 
Replace the baking sheet on top of the pan and let the cheesecake cool on the rack for 30 minutes. Remove the baking sheet and let the cheesecake cool to room temperature.
Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 5 hours. 
While it is cooling, make the curd.


For the Lemon Curd

Cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 Cup unsalted butter
Set aside.

Place in a large pot
3/4 Cup granulated sugar
3 large egg yolks
Combine
1/4 Cup lemon juice 
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture just begins to thicken, about 8 minutes. DO NOT LET IT BOIL.
Remove from the heat and stir in the butter pieces.
Stir until the butter has completely melted.
Let the curd cool at room temperature for about 40 minutes before spooning it on the cheesecake. 
While it is cooling, make the meringue.


For the Meringue

Measure and set aside 
1/2 Cup sugar

Combine in a small saucepan
2 Tablespoons of the measured sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
Gradually stir in
1/2 Cup water
Stirring constantly, cook over low heat until the sugar has dissolved, about 10 minutes. 
Remove from the heat and set aside.

Place in a large mixer bowl
3 large egg whites
Beat until foamy.
Add
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Gradually add the remaining sugar, continuing to beat at medium-high speed until soft peaks form.
Gradually beat in the cornstarch mixture. 
Increase the speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form. 

Spread the lemon curd over the top of the cheesecake.
Spread  the meringue over the curd. Be sure to have the meringue touching all the edges of the curd and make the surface spiky for a nice effect.
Bake in a preheated 350° F oven until the meringue is golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Release the sides of the springform pan and slide the cheesecake onto a serving plate. 


Having a craving for some more lemon recipes?  Try these…











About the sky this week and next, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac

September 16 - Set your alarms 90 minutes before Sunrise to see a super close conjunction of Mercury and Mars low in the eastern horizon. The crescent Moon and Venus will be higher in the sky.

September 17 and 18 - Look to the east about 40 minutes before sunrise to see the tiny waning crescent Moon above Venus. But hurry, once the Sun rises, Venus will disappear!

September 21 - Look to the west about 1 hour after sunset to see the tiny waxing crescent moon and the planet Jupiter. But hurry! They’ll disappear beneath the horizon before it gets dark.

September 22 - Autumn begins at 4:02 p.m. with the Autumnal Equinox. The Sun crosses the Equator and darkness begins to win out over daylight. It also means the Sun will rise due east and set due west!

September 26 - Look to the southwest as soon as it gets dark to see the waxing crescent Moon pair up with Saturn. They’ll set beneath the horizon by mid-evening. Nightfall also is the best time to view Saturn’s rings through a telescope.

September 27 - First Quarter Moon, 10:54 a.m. The Moon looks like a half-Moon - one-half of the Moon is illuminated by direct sunlight while the illuminated part is increasing, on its way to full. It’s called the “first Quarter” Moon because in this phase, the Moon is in its first quarter of the 29+ day lunar cycle.

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