EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 23, 2013

Red, blue berries add patriotic color to cheesecake

Pat's Kitchen
Patricia Altomare

---- — Memorial Day weekend is special and this cheesecake is festive to look at, and will certainly be a special dessert to serve.

Making a great cheesecake is easier than you think.

Follow these techniques for cheesecake success:

Make sure cream cheese is softened so that it will mix more easily and quickly. Have sour cream and eggs at room temperature.

Use a springform pan. The removable outer rim allows for easy release while leaving crust intact. Spray sides of pan very lightly with cooking spray before filling to help prevent sticking and cracking.

Preheat oven for 15 minutes. Bake cheesecake on middle rack of oven unless recipe indicates otherwise. Place a 13-by-9 inch pan half-filled with hot tap water on bottom rack of oven while cheesecake bakes. This just keeps moisture in the oven to prevent cracking.

Do not over beat. Over-mixing can add too much air into the batter.

Beat in eggs one at a time just until blended. You can also stir eggs in by hand with a spatula.

Refrain from opening the oven door while cheesecake is baking; it causes drafts that may lead to cracking.

Do not check for doneness with a knife. The cheesecake is done if the top is slightly puffy and set except for a small area in center that should still appear soft and jiggly (size of silver dollar). This will set while cooling.

When done, place cheesecake on a wire rack to cool.

Loosen immediately by running a knife around edge of cheesecake. Do not unlock fastener or remove from pan for about an hour.

To remove from pan, unlatch fastener and lift straight up. Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to blend

Red, White & Blue Cheesecake

Serves 12 to 16.

Use a 9-inch springform pan

Ingredients

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

3 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons butter, melted

5 packages (8 ounce each) cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese (lower in fat), softened

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 cup sour cream

4 eggs

Preheat oven: 300 degrees if using dark nonstick pan; 325 degrees if using light pan

1. Combine crumbs, 3 tablespoons sugar and melted butter; press firmly onto bottom of pan. Bake 10 minutes.

2. Mix cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, flour and vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed until well mixed.

3. Add sour cream; mix well.

4. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed after each egg just until blended in. Pour over crust.

5. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until center is almost set; loosen cake from side of pan; cool before removing rim of pan. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

6. To decorate for red, white and blue theme, mix cut-up strawberries with blueberries to make 2 cups. Pile on top of cake to within 1 inch of edge. Brush with 2 tablespoons melted strawberry jelly for a nice shine.

Note: The baked cheesecake comes out very golden in color due to the eggs and natural browning. To maintain the red, white and blue theme, I frosted the cooled cheesecake with a thin layer of white frosting that consists of Cool Whip, and sour cream. I did not want anything too sweet or thick, just white.

If I had mascarpone I would have used that.

Frosting Recipe: Mix 1/2 cup Cool Whip, 6 ounces sour cream, 2 teaspoons powdered sugar, and a half teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Patricia Altomare invites your letters; contact her at patakitchen@yahoo.com.