Visions of Cheesecake

Home for Christmas feels good this year, having spent my favorite holiday in Los Angeles last time. Oh, it’s great to be in movie land with a daughter’s family, but she’s coming here this year, and I can get out my streetcar ornament collection again.

Things are always different here. You start the day with milk punch. It’s usually so warm that the kids can take their new toys outside to play.
 I still put children’s ornaments on the tree, from the paper plate that spells “Jennifer” with a backwards “J” to the ceramic streetcar that has Elizabeth’s name on it. Christmas memories is what it’s all about.

One Christmas we dined at a hotel with huge windows, and snow began falling. Our first grandchild was two, and he suspected we were at the North Pole. He wasn’t the only one who had never seen snow. In our neck of the woods, a lot of grown-up people haven’t either.

We usually dine at home, sometimes on a standing rib roast with creamed spinach and potatoes au gratin. The meal calls for a spectacular dessert, and we have gone all the way with flaming bananas Foster and café brulot, but this year, I’m going with color – a raspberry white chocolate cheesecake. One thing four grandchildren have taught me is that cheesecake is something they all like, and you can say that for adults as well.

A cheesecake is best made a day ahead, and you can sneak it into the schedule on Christmas Eve, along with the breakfast casserole that has to refrigerate overnight. That takes a load off the big day, which no one wants to spend in the kitchen. Fortunately, we are a family of cooks so we share the load, each making a special dish.

We often talk about ordering a turkey from this place or that as some our friends like to do, but when we get down to it, we enjoy that time in the kitchen together, picking up on each other’s shortcuts and debating the doneness of the meat. It’s true. Everybody gathers in the kitchen. What’s a kitchen for if not for tasting, sipping, gossiping and passing a good time.




Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake



1 ½ cups cinnamon graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted

1 8-ounce package white baking chocolate
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten

Raspberry topping
1 cup red jelly (not jam) such as raspberry, strawberry or currant
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
¼ cup water
1 10-ounce package frozen raspberries, thawed

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the bottom of a 9- or 10-inch springform pan.

2. To make the crust, break up about 14 (approximately 2 ½-by-4 ½ inch) graham crackers into a food processor. Blend until crushed. You should have 1½ cups crumbs. Add sugar and pour melted butter gradually into the mixture, pulsing until well mixed. Press mixture into the bottom of the pan and up 1 inch of the sides.

3. To make the filling, break white chocolate into pieces into a microwavable bowl. Melt at 30-second intervals, stirring each time, until smooth. Let cool. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla until well-blended. Add eggs and yolks and beat on low speed until just combined. Stir in white chocolate.

4. Place springform pan on a baking sheet. Pour filling over the crust. Bake for about 50 minutes or until the center is just set. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen and cool for 1 hour. Refrigerate overnight.

5. To make the topping, melt the red jelly in a sauce pan on top of the stove and add sugar. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch with water, and pour into the melted jelly. Stirring constantly, thicken over medium-low heat. Cool until just warm, and stir in raspberries. Cool completely.

6. Remove cheesecake from the springform pan and place on serving plate. Spoon raspberry topping over the cheesecake, allowing some of the liquid to run down the sides. Keep extra sauce for spooning over individual servings. Refrigerate cheesecake and remaining sauce until serving time. Serves 12.




Proper Form


1. Using a springform pan can be tricky. The bottom of this two-piece baking pan must be tightly placed or batter can leak out. Make sure the bottom fits directly into the groove at the base of the pan. Only then should you close the latch, tightening the sides to fit snugly.

2. Springform pans are especially good for cheesecakes, producing perfectly round sides and making them easier to remove from the pan. They can be used for other cakes and tarts, too. Although they are leak-proof if properly assembled, it is a good idea to set them on a baking pan to make handling easier.



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