Key Lime Cheesecake with Home-Made Graham Cracker Crust
Bright, citrusy and rich enough to satisfy even in the cold of February! I was in the mood for cheesecake, something smooth and velvety but not too sweet. Key Limes are readily available right now and have the magical ability to transport us to a warmer place of bright colors and sunshine, if only for a moment! You can certainly use packaged graham crackers but why not make your own, it is so easy and the flavor is so much more impressive! I like to bake my cheesecake in a cake pan instead of a spring form pan. I bake it in a water bath and find the cake pan easier to deal with. Getting the cheesecake out of the pan is easy if you follow my directions! Makes on 9" cheese cake: 1 1/2 pounds Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature 12 large egg yolks (Freeze the whites or use them for vanilla bean meringue cookies, recipe coming soon), room temperature 1 can sweetened condensed milk 1 1/4 cups fresh or bottled key lime juice 1/2 cup granulated sugar 2 tablespoons key lime zest Topping: 1 1/2 cups sour cream 3 tablespoons granulated sugar Graham Cracker Crust: 1 1/2 cups finely ground home-made graham cracker or packaged 4 tablespoons melted butter 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (optional) Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a 9 x 2" cake pan (If you have a 9 x 3" pan then use that instead), with butter and a parchment round. Combine the ground graham cracker, melted butter and ginger. Press into the prepared pan until smooth and bottom is completely covered. Bake the crust in the preheated oven for about 8 minutes to set the crust. If you don't bake it first you will end up with a soggy crust. Cream together the cream cheese so that there are no lumps, you will want to scrape down the side of the bowl several times. (If your cream cheese is not at room temperature when you start then let it mix alone for several minutes to really smooth it out.) Add the egg yolks one at a time and mix until they are totally combined. Scrape down the sides after each addition. The glory of a cheesecake comes in the smooth texture and this only happens if all the ingredients are perfectly combined. Add the sweetened condensed milk, lime juice and sugar. mix to combine, scrape down the sides. Add the lime zest. (If your cheese cake has lumps in it and you want to strain it, do that before you add the zest.) Pour the cheese cake into the prepared pan. Set the pan into a broiler pan with a kitchen towel on the bottom. (The kitchen towel allows the water bath to go under the cake pan and helps to insulate the cheese cake.) Add HOT water to the broiler pan. (The water needs to be as close to the temperature of the oven as possible. My tap water comes out very hot so I just use it straight from the sink.) Tent the cheese cake with foil so the top of your cake doesn't develop a hard skin. You want to poke holes in the foil so the steam can get out and not drip on your cake. After about 60 minutes remove the foil and check your cake. It should no longer seem wet and when jiggled it should be set all the way through, like jello. If it isn't completely set then put it back in the oven, covered and let it go for another 5-8 minutes. Once the eggs begin to set, they bake quickly so you want to check in short intervals. Once your cheese cake is set remove it and allow it to cool, uncovered in the broiler pan. This allows the cheese cake to cool slowly and will prevent cracking. If you run a knife around the edge it will release the cheese cake from the pan and this too prevents cracking. While the cake is cooling mix together the sour cream and sugar. After about 15 minutes very carefully spread the sour cream over the top of the cheese cake. The cheese cake won't be completely set so you want to use as little pressure as possible. Bake with the topping on for 5 minutes. It will not seem completely set until cool, so don't be tempted to over bake. Let the cheese cake cool until until it is room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Once it is thoroughly chilled remove the plastic and run the pan quickly over an open flame or on your electric burner. This loosens the cake from the pan and allows you to remove it easily. Quickly run a knife around the edge. Put the plastic back on the top so you can invert the cheese cake. Invert the cake onto a flat surface. I am using the false bottom of a tart pan. Tap the top of the pan with your hand until it sounds hollow, which means the cake has released. The pan should slip off. Then invert to the serving plate. Flip the cake over. Smooth the edges with a knife. Decorate, serve and enjoy!!!