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Food Network Favorites: The Ultimate Cheesecake

Cheesecake fans tend to fall into two different camps: those who love a dense, firm cake (the traditional New York-style cheesecake), and those who prefer a lighter, fluffier-textured cake. This recipe falls into the latter category.

I personally prefer a denser cheesecake, and found this one to be almost too loose-textured. Even after following the instructions exactly, and then allowing the cake to firm up overnight in the refrigerator, I still thought that the center of the cheesecake was too soft and moist, almost like yogurt.

There are a million recipes out there for classic cheesecake. This one isn't good enough to claim the title of "Ultimate Cheesecake." The texture is too soft, and the lemon flavor is very strong. I recommend that you try different recipes, depending on which style of cheesecake you prefer. This is an excellent version of dense cheesecake. If you prefer the fluffy style, you could try Florence's recipe, and see if you like it. But I think you can probably do better than this.

This is the second "ultimate" recipe of Florence's that hasn't lived up to the name. I'm beginning to to think that hyperbole, at least, is something Mr. Florence has got down pat.

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Bake Time: 45 minutes, plus 1 hour with the oven turned off, and additional cooling time
Yield: 8 to 10 servings

2 cups finely ground graham crackers (about 30 squares)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, melted (1/2 cup)

1 pound cream cheese, softened
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 pint sour cream
Zest of 1 lemon
1 dash vanilla extract

Lemon Blueberry Topping
1 pint blueberries
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spray an 8-inch springform pan lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

For the crust: In a bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, cinnamon, and butter with a fork until evenly moistened. Pour the crumbs into the prepared pan and use the bottom of a measuring cup or drinking glass to press the crust firmly into the bottom and about 1/2 inch up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate while making the filling.

For the filling: In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese on low speed for 1 minute until smooth and free of lumps. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and continue to beat slowly until combined. Gradually add sugar and beat until creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Periodically scrape down the sides of the bowl. The batter should be well mixed but not overbeaten. Pour the filling into the crust-lined pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Set the cheesecake pan on a large (18-inch wide) square of aluminum foil and fold the foil up around the sides of the pan. Place the cake pan in a large roasting pan and pour boiling water into the roasting pan until the water is about halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake for 45 minutes. Turn the oven off and let the cake sit in the oven for 1 hour. The cheesecake should still jiggle in the center when you turn the oven off; be careful not to overbake. Remove the cake pan from the water bath and let cool for 30 minutes. Cover loosely and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

For the topping: In a small saucepan, combine the blueberries, lemon zest and juice, and sugar and simmer over medium heat until the fruit begins to break down slightly, about 5 minutes. Let cool before spreading on cheesecake.

Loosen the cheesecake from the pan by running a thin metal spatula around the inside rim. Place the cake on a serving platter. Using a spatula, spread a thin layer of Lemon Blueberry Topping over the surface. Slice the cheesecake with a knife dipped in hot water and wiped dry.



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