Last weekend, I got invited to a friend’s place for a late lunch. She was making Boeuf Bourguignon, and I was going to bring dessert.
I immediately thought of a great vanilla-bean madeline recipe I used to make. There were only two problems – first, madelines are really good only for about half an hour after they come out of the oven, and while I suppose I could have lugged batter and the pans over to her house, it seemed like a lot of trouble. The bigger problem was that I couldn’t find the recipe anywhere. It wasn’t in my recipe database, it wasn’t in any of the cookbooks I looked in, and a Google search didn’t find me anything that looked like what I remembered.
So I gave up on the madelines, and made cheesecake instead. This is an old favorite recipe of mine – I have no idea where it’s originally from, but I’ve made it for many years. It’s got lemon, lime, and orange zest in it, which makes it interesting enough on it’s own that it doesn’t need a topping.
But then I remember that my cheesecakes always crack on top, so maybe I’d make something I could spread on top to make it look better. And I remembered that I had a lemon curd recipe in my bookmarks, and immediately envisioned this beautiful, perfectly flat cheesecake with 1/4 inch of lemon curd spread perfectly on top. It was a nice fantasy
I mixed up the cheesecake. There’s not much to say about it – I threw half a package of graham crackers in the food processor to crush them, mixed them with butter and brown sugar, and pressed the crust into a pan. The filling was 4 blocks of cream cheese, mixed with the lemon, lime, and orange zest and juice, some eggs, plus a little sugar and a bit of flour to thicken it. I poured it over the crust and put it in the oven.
There’s a whole series of old wives’ tales about keeping your cheesecake from cracking. Bake it with a bowl of water in the oven. Grease the sides of the pan. Don’t over-beat it. Don’t over-bake it. Let it cool inside the oven with the door cracked.
I try to be careful about how long I beat it, and I do put a pan of water in the oven, and my cheesecakes always crack on top anyway. This one was no exception.
So it went in the fridge overnight to cool, cracks and all.
The next morning, I made the lemon curd. The recipe said any citrus juice would do, but I used 2 ounces each of lemon juice, key lime juice, and orange juice, to mirror the flavors in the cheesecake. I’m probably going to try a cranberry juice variation around the holidays, maybe as a base for a tart, because it looked interesting.
It’s easiest to think of a curd as a custard, because it uses basically a custard method – warm up the liquid, beat the eggs, very slowly add just enough liquid to the eggs to bring them up to temperature without cooking them, then add the eggs back to the hot liquid to set everything. Then, in a departure from “custard”, mix in the butter. The residual heat will melt the butter and thicken up the curd.
When it was time to leave, I looked at the cheesecake and the bowl of curd. I looked at how much cheesecake I would have to cut off to get rid of the cracks and make it smooth – and I just took it with me, exactly like it came out of the oven, and took the bowl of curd, and when it was time to serve it, we all had slices and topped them individually with a dollop of curd.
Everyone raved about it, and no one even mentioned the cracks.