Christmas Cheesecake

(I originally planned to hit the publish button on Christmas Day, but got caught up in the festivities, and had a food coma partly induced by this cheesecake.  I hope you enjoy the recipe and happy holidays!)My mother had what can only be described as a passion for cheesecake.  Maybe it was because she was a New Yorker.  Maybe it is because cheesecake is the ultimate marriage of a sweet desert with savoury inputs and fruit toppings.  And my father is the family cheesecake maker.  I think that is because he has a passion for cheese, and also loves his electric mixer.  My father made cheesecake for my mother each Christmas.  She always requested pineapple topping.  At my brother-in-law’s request, this year is my second year of making cheesecake for Christmas.  Last year I made blueberry topping, and didn’t use a water bath (bain marie) while baking.  Both the cheesecake and the topping were not really that good (in my opinion).  So this year I decided to change things up a bit.  I decided to make a colourful topping, and my supermarket had cherries which seemed ideal to get a seasonal red colour.  I also decided to do my first ever water bath so that the cake would both bake and steam, protecting the sides from burning/overcooking in the process.  The results were fantastic, if I do say so.Mom would’ve loved it.  Even the cherry topping I think!The recipe below is from Cook’s Illustrated, modified slightly.  It is very simple to make.  The hardest part is making sure that the foil around the springform tin is tight enough to prevent water leakage while the tin bakes in the bain marie.  To achieve that, I placed heavy duty foil on the bottom of the tin (edges folded to the bottom, so that the top of the tin would be smooth foil).  Then I put together the tin, and folded the foil edges up along the ring, and added additional foil around the tin so that no water could enter.Photos from Cook’s Illustrated.INGREDIENTS1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted3 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs (or plain Hob Nob crumbs)2 pounds cream cheese (I use 4 and a half packs of 200g Philadelphia Cream Cheese)1 1/4 cups granulated sugar4 large eggs1 teaspoon lemon zest from 1 small lemon, minced2 teaspoons vanilla extract1/4 cup heavy cream1/4 cup plain yogurtINSTRUCTIONS1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees (about 160C). 2. Line bottom of 9-inch springform tin with foil, tuck foil underneath pan bottom, assemble tin, then pull foil around side of tin. Cover tin underneath and along sides with sheet of heavy-duty foil.  3. Brush bottom and sides with butter. Sprinkle crumbs over bottom. Tilt tin in all directions to coat evenly with crumbs. 4. Beat cream cheese in bowl of electric mixer until smooth. 5. Gradually add sugar and beat on medium speed until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. 6. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated and scraping down after each addition. (If you don’t scrape down the bowl after each egg, cream cheese that sticks to the bowl will ultimately show up as lumps in the batter.) 7. Add zest and vanilla and beat until just incorporated. 8. Remove bowl from mixer; stir in cream and plain yogurt. 9. Set crumbed tin in large roasting pan. 10. Pour batter into crumbed tin. 11. Bring kettle of water to boil for water bath.12. Set roasting pan on oven rack and pour enough boiling water to come about halfway up side of springform tin.13. Bake until perimeter of cake is set, top is golden, about 55 to 60 minutes.14. Turn off heat and leave oven door ajar, leaving in oven for 1 hour longer.15. Remove springform tin from water bath and set on wire rack; cool to room temperature.16. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours. (Can be refrigerated up to 4 days.)For the topping:I purchased 3 packs of cherries (enough for a whole bowl, pictured above).  I removed the stones (with an olive destoner) and made sure that the stones were really removed (nothing is worse than biting into a stone!).  I heated the cherries with a cup of sugar (no additional liquid necessary) to boiling, and broke down the fruit until it was soft yet still holding the cherry shape.  I chilled the fruit topping and let everyone spoon on their own.

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