Blackberry Cheesecake

51rk4txvkal-_ss365_I got a craving for blackberries. But it’s winter in Wisconsin, so blackberry preserves seemed like a better idea. Blackberry preserves, and, because I sometimes pretend to be a civilized adult who wouldn’t eat blackberry preserves straight out of the jar, cheesecake. My first stop, obviously, ended up being The Pioneer Woman, but I don’t actually have a food processor, so I went a little differently.

Ingredients:

  • Oreo cheesecake crust
  • 2 packages cream cheese
  • a jar of blackberry preserves
  • lime juice
  • 2 eggs
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg
  • sugar

Soften your cream cheese – leaving it on the counter for an hour and then microwaving it for 45 seconds was enough for me – and put it in a large bowl. Add sugar, lime juice, cinnamon and nutmeg to taste, beating well. The ‘to taste’ thing works really well, because it’s safe to eat the batter until you add the eggs. I used a ton of cinnamon and a couple generous splashes of lime juice because I wanted it as a strong counterpoint for the blackberries. Start your oven preheating to 350°F and add your eggs and beat well again, until everything’s well mixed.

Pour or scrape all of that into your Oreo crust, then add the preserves. If you’re feeling ambitious or artistic, heat the preserves a bit, either in the microwave with the lid off or spooned out into a pot and heated on low. Then drizzle the warm preserves over the batter for a marbling effect.

I just kind of spooned room temperature preserves in and then smoothed everything with a spatula, because I didn’t have it in me to care about what it looked like. Bake for 50 minutes at 350°F, then turn off your oven. Let it cool in the oven to close to room temperature, then cool on the counter completely before refrigerating, otherwise the top cracks.

It tastes amazing.

Lemon Ginger Cheesecake Bars

To give you an idea of what my queue is like, I made these for Easter.

When I was gearing up to get cooking, the pan I wanted to use was dirty. So, rather than doing something hideously rational like washing the pan, I changed the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • graham crackers
  • 3 packages cream cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • lemon juice
  • half a stick of butter
  • ginger
  • vanilla
  • salt
  • sugar

Also very important to this process is having a hand mixer and a ridiculously huge bowl, or a stand mixer. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to combine all this by hand.

Start off by grating the ginger! If you’ve got one of those four-sided standing graters, you want the side with the smallest holes. Actually, honestly, if you’ve got dried ginger, you can probably just use a couple tablespoons of that, but sometimes in the grocery store I get fuzzy ideas about organic and fresh and stuff and end up with ingredients I then have to find uses for. Anyway, when you’ve shredded a couple tablespoons of ginger – or more if you want it, a couple tablespoons makes for a mild but noticeable taste – chuck that in the bowl you’re using for everything. If you’re like me, it took like half an episode of something to get all of it shredded. But not everyone has weak hands that give up in the face of grating!

So, next step, your crust. You are making graham cracker crust to fill a 9×13 pan. The graham crackers you get from the store, where each box has two of those little bags of like 8 graham crackers in it? Those are the ones you want, because then you can beat the hell out of one of those little bags and get all your crumbs and none of the mess. Rip open the bag and throw the mangled remains of the graham crackers in the pan. Shake the pan to spread them out, then use your fingers.

Now melt half a stick of butter in the microwave. 30 seconds, then letting it sit for a minute, then another 30 seconds should do it. Drizzle all of that over the graham cracker crumbs. Smush everything down so it’s vaguely crust-like.

Next up: filling. You want to start softening the cream cheese one block at a time, again in like 30 second increments in the microwave. What I also like to do is use the same dish I used for the butter, because the remaining grease means the cream cheese won’t stick too badly. While the cream cheese is softening, add a couple cups of sugar (how much or how little is going to depend on your target audience), a splash of vanilla, a shake or two of salt, and a couple generous splashes of lemon juice.

Add the cream cheese one block at a time, creaming it in between blocks. It should end up fairly creamy and not stick too badly to the mixer. If it’s clumping up a lot, add more lemon juice. Lemon is pretty popular, so don’t worry too much about overdoing it. When all of the cream cheese is mixed in, start preheating the oven to 350°F.

My oven preheats pretty fast and I can take a while trying to get everything the right consistency, which is why I wait this long: if you’re faster or more decisive, you can start earlier.

Since you’ve combined everything but the eggs, try the cheesecake now for taste. Add more sugar/lemon/ginger as needed. Then add the eggs one at a time, mixing until smooth between each egg. It should now all pour easily. Pour it on top of your crust, using a spatula to scrape everything out and also to make sure the filling ends up at the edges.

Toss that in the oven for like 50 minutes? Then let cool completely. It will rise worryingly in the middle, and then maybe settle with some kind of ridge where the bubble used to be. There are, I think, two ways to deal with this: keep an eye on the cheesecake and stab it with a fork when it starts to rise, or present it to your entire family still in the pan and with the less than aesthetically perfect surface, because you made cheesecake and it’s delicious no matter what it looks like.

Strawberry Nutella Cheesecake

T inherited a can of strawberry pie filling from her grandmother. It sat in our cupboard for . . .

Well, never mind that. The important thing is that I found a use for it, and that use is delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can strawberry pie filling
  • 2+ tbsp nutella
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • cream cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 14 Oreos
  • 3tbsp butter

First, you want to make Oreo crust. For an 8×8 baking tin (I cut it into bars, because we don’t have any round tins), I put 14 Oreos in a plastic bag and then broke them up into tiny bits. That got dumped in the bottom of the baking tin, and then I melted a little less than half a stick of butter in the microwave. Pour that over the crust more or less evenly, sort of smush it down if you feel like it.

Then grab a large mixing bowl – you can start preheating your oven now, too, to 350°F – and dump some sugar in. I’m guessing it was half a cup, but I was nearly at the end of a bag of sugar, so I just poured some in until it looked good enough. Cheesecake is remarkably forgiving, so do whatever.

Soften a block of cream cheese in the microwave, then cream it with the sugar. Electric hand mixers are an amazing invention and I never want to cream anything by hand ever, so I used that. Then add however much Nutella you’re using. What I did was take a soup spoon, scoop a massive heaping spoonful, and dump that in the bowl. You could probably use more, or less but add cocoa powder and more sugar if you want it more chocolate. Mix that well, too.

I did the eggs then strawberry filling, but I don’t think the order here matters. Mix in the pie filling until it’s all a uniform gross brown-pink color. Mmm, delicious. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring until combined before adding the next.

Dump that over your crust, poke it with a spatula until it spreads to the corners, and bake for an hour at 350°F. Let cool completely before refrigerating. It tastes amazing.

It’s a little lighter in texture than cheesecake usually is: if you want a really dense cheesecake, you want different proportions. So probably two things of cream cheese to one thing of pie filling, a bit more Nutella, and another egg. Adding just another egg would firm it up, but also make it taste eggy. The rule of thumb I’ve used that has yet to go horribly wrong is an egg per large unit of other ingredient. So here it’s an egg for the package of cream cheese and an egg for the thing of pie filling. When I’m making northern Italian style cheesecake, it’s an egg for the thing of ricotta, too, and regular cheesecake or cheesecake bars it’s just an egg per package of cream cheese.