Having a source for home-made sour cream and eggs from free-range chickens means that dishes made with these ingredients, whether sweet or savory, take on a special charm. Really, how often do you come across home-made sour cream? A holiday is always a good reason to make a special dessert, and I couldn’t think of anything better for these ingredients than Cheesecake with Lemon and Orange Curd, garnished with Candied Orange Zest. For the curd and zest, I used the very last oranges from our winter harvest.
The mountain town of Mascota in the western state of Jalisco is known for candied fruits, home-made cookies and a type of sour cream called jocoque, a fermented cream product. I count my lucky stars each time we walk into the welcoming ranch house of our neighbors and buy something so fresh and close to the earth as this jocoque. But it sat in the fridge, as special as it was, while I wondered what to do with it.
Jocoque is good enough to take a spoon to and enjoy as is. When we visit our mountain friends, we are served dishes of it straight up, it’s that good. It’s one thing to eat it straight out of a dish when served as a guest. Eating it like this in our own home is another matter. It’s sour cream, after all, no matter how good it is, and we are as brainwashed as everyone else that we shouldn’t over indulge in straight fat. But a cheesecake? For the holiday week-end? No problem.
The cheesecake recipe was inspired by Rose Levy Beranbaum’s recipe in The Cake Bible — no cake baker should be without this book. Curd is so easy to make, I almost don’t need a recipe. And the candied zest is easy too — it’s just a matter of blanching zest, then simmering in a simple syrup.
1 8″ cake, serving 8
- 10 oz. (284 grams) cream cheese
- 1/3 cup (2.3 oz./66 grams) sugar
- 2 large eggs (3.5 oz./100 grams; weighed without shells)
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) vanilla
- pinch of salt
- 2 cups (17 oz./484 grams) jocoque or sour cream
- Butter the sides of an 8″ springform pan or 8″ cake pan and have ready a larger oven-proof dish to serve as a water bath, or Magi Cake Strips (see note at end of post) and an insulated cookie sheet. Pre-heat oven to 325 deg. F. (163 C.).
- Mix cream cheese and sugar on low speed until very smooth.
- Add eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed until incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl.
- Add vanilla, salt and sour cream and mix just until blended. Do not over-beat.
- Pour batter into an 8″ springform pan or 8″ round cake pan with sides 2″ high. If using a springform pan, double wrap exterior of pan in a large sheet of aluminum foil (being very careful not to perforate foil) and place pan into a larger oven-proof dish. Pour boiling water in oven-proof dish to a depth of 1″. If you are using a cake pan, you do not need to wrap in foil before setting in water.
- Or wrap springform pan or cake pan with a double layer of cake strips (see note below) to prevent over-baking and place on an insulated cookie sheet (a cookie sheet with a pocket of air in its center). If you use this method, you do not need a water bath.
- Bake for 40-50 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 deg. F. (71 C.) when checked with an instant-read thermometer. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in the oven with the door closed for 1 hour.
- Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan. The gradual cooling prevents cracks. When the cheesecake has reached room temperature, cover and refrigerate overnight.
- To remove from pan: if you used a springform pan, run a thin knife around the edge of the cheeecake, release spring and remove ring when cake is chilled. If you used a cake pan, run a thin knife around sides, and hold the pan over a stove burner until bottom of pan feels warm to the touch. Gently invert onto a plate.
- Cover with 2/3 cup of Lemon Orange Curd and decorate with Candied Orange Zest. Serve cold.
Lemon Orange Curd
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 3 eggs
- 12 tablespoon butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 pinches of salt
- Mix all ingredients in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
- Cook until thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, stirring continuously. If curd starts to boil, briefly remove from heat. Curd is done when it becomes thick and coats a wooden spoon.
- Cover and refrigerate.
This recipe makes more than is needed for the cheesecake. Extra curd is a wonderful topping on toast.
With a zesting tool or very sharp paring knife, cut strips of peel (without white) from 1 orange. In a small saucepan, cover zest with water and simmer for 2 minutes. Drain, discarding water. Make a simple syrup with 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water. Gently simmer zest in syrup for 15 minutes. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and drain zest on a plate. While still moist, toss with 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Baking a cheesecake is a delicate operation. Cheesecakes can turn out dry and cracked if baked without benefit of a water bath or Magi Cake Strips.
Magi Cake Strips can be purchased on line or at cookware stores. To use them, soak first in water, then squeeze out excess water with your fingers. Wrap around cake pan and secure with a large straight pin or paper clip. Not only do these strips keep cheesecakes creamy, they prevent regular cakes from baking too quickly on their outer edges and doming in the center.
Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of The Cake Bible, and Rose’s Heavenly Cakes, has created silicone strips that do not need to be soaked in water or secured with a pin, therefore, they are much easier to use. They are available on line or at cookware stores.
An alternative to purchased cake strips is to make your own with aluminum foil and wet paper towels. Cut a length of foil 8″ wide and 18″ long (diameter of cake pan doubled, plus 2″ extra for securing with a pin). Soak paper towels and squeeze out excess water. Fold into 2″ wide strips and lay on foil. Fold foil over 3 times, so that finished strip is 2″ by 18″. Wrap around pan twice and secure with a long straight pin or a large paper clip. The double wrapping around the pan is necessary for a cheesecake if you don’t use a water bath. If you are making strips for baking a regular cake, the pan only needs to be wrapped once around to slow baking of outer part of cake.
I have never read a recipe that called for using cake strips and an insulated cookie sheet, instead of a water bath, for baking a cheesecake. My cheesecakes baked this way come out as tender as any baked in a water bath. I think I may be on to something. To no longer have to use a pan of near-boiling water and have the risk of a soggy cheesecake if the foil is perforated will be welcome news to all cheesecake bakers. Feedback via the comments will tell me if this is a sure way of baking a creamy, tender cheesecake or not. Please let me know if you try this method.