I don’t remember exactly when cheesecake became my favorite dessert, but I know it was when I was a teenager. As a kid, I wondered why anyone wanted to make a cake out of cheese; an equally perplexing question was why anyone would want to make a cake out of carrots. I guess it all started to make sense when I smelt the dessert my mother made one afternoon. She made cheesecake. And from that point on it became one of my favorite desserts (big tie between cheesecake, crème brûlee – and the original chocolate cake).

Over the years I’ve tasted a variety of cheesecakes and toppings. For my dessert plate the supreme is a 3 inch high, dense, rich cake with a plain graham-cracker crust. Simple is good. Coupled a side of fresh strawberries, New York style cheesecake is a wonderful dish.

On night, after hanging out with Tim and being transported from a house warming party, to Moe’s, to about three or four lounges throughout the L.E.S. (Lower East Side), I reliably called my mother (a tipsy ritual over the years in NYC). I don’t think she minded the 3 am phone call since she got out her recipes for making cheesecake. I found myself at Pathmark on my cel phone with three different kind of pie crust and a couple of packages of Philadelphia cream cheese. At home, I placed the items in the refrigerator and decided to catch some Z’s.

A few days later the desire returned. I wanted the cheesecake. But of course I discovered I was missing some critical ingredients and utensils – namely a mixer. God be with you if you attempt to make a cheesecake without a mixer. By this time my mother was in town and I bounced around the idea of making a cheesecake for a small dinner soirée at my apartment. It would be my first one from scratch. But what to do about the mixer?

For the longest, I’ve wanted to purchase that Kitchen Aid mixer. You know the one all the chefs use on those cooking shows and it has a host of various attachments. So after some research I discover the least expensive was the Kitchen Aid Artisan mixer for $250. Then of course I longed for the chrome one which was like $200 more. When I get an appliance or tool, I’ve learn to get something that’s going to last; which translates into “not cheap”. I have been very happy with my Kitchen Aid Blender so I knew I’d dig the mixer. With the realization, that I wasn’t going to purchase the Kitchen Aid Mixer just now, I went ahead and got a Faberware hand mixer for less than $30. And I’ve been happy. But you can bet that once I get a larger space – that Kitchen Aid Mixer is mine.

Okay, so I’ve gotten off the subject of cheesecake. I just wanted to paint a more vivid picture of what went into making my first cheesecake from scratch. I came across a variety of recipes. Blending bits and pieces from my research as well as adding my own flavor – notably Cointreau orange liqueur I came up with a recipe and method that makes people happy. My aunt Teenie said, “It’s the best cheesecake I’ve ever had”.

Ron’s Brooklyn New York Cheesecake

The Graham Cracker Crust
• 1 and half packages of Graham Crackers, finely ground (1 ½ cups)
• 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon salt

The Cheesecake
• 4 (8-ounce) packages of cream cheese
• 1 ¾ cups sugar
• 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 1 orange
• 1 lime
• 5 large eggs
• 2 large egg yolks
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1/3 cup Cointreau

Soften cream cheese for about 1 hour

Turn that oven up to 550 degrees F.

Prepare the graham-cracker crust. Use either a food processor or blender to grind up (Grindin’!) the crackers into a very fine powder. Place a package and a half in the unit and rock and roll it (pulse control is the method). Add your sugar and salt. Set aside.

It’s much easier to prepare and measure all your ingredients before you mix them. So do that. Zest Orange and Lime in your big bowl. Measure out sugar and flour and combine with the zest. In a separate bowl carefully crack your 5 eggs. You will use two egg yolks. The best method to get egg yolks is to carefully crack the eggs into the palm of you hand and let your fingers strain out the whites. Place with the other eggs.

Unwrap your five packages of cream cheese and place in your big bowl with the zest, sugar, and flour. Smile. Start the mixing process with you mixer. If you’re using a hand mixer, for easier cleanup place the bowl in you empty sink and set the mixer on low. Mix until all the ingredients are blended thoroughly. It will be a tad thick (Kinda like that girl from that Clispe video – the one that Pharell whispers to).

Anyway, you are now ready to incorporate your eggs. Place your eggs in the mixture one at a time while you are mixing. You’ll notice the mixture becoming creamier. You may need to scrape the side of the bowl down. While continuing to mix, add vanilla followed by the wonderful Cointreau.

Returning to the graham cracker crust, take a stick of butter and work the sides and bottom of your springform pan. Take that stick and melt it. The method I use is making a sort of water bath of boiling water – a Bain Marie for those in the know. I place a container of butter in the middle and keep and eye on it. Remove from heat when melted.
In your bowl of graham cracker crust, pour in your butter and mix the two together. When all the powder has been coated, make the crust in a springform pan.

Pour in that creamy cheesecake mixture into your springform pan. Place the springform pan in a shallow baking pan. This baking pan is helpful if any of the mixture spills out. Return the pans into the oven; careful not to spill.
At 550 degrees cook for about 12 minutes. This will brown the top as well as make the cake “puff” up. After the 12 minutes, turn oven down to 200 degrees F and cook for about 2 hours. When the cake is done the center will wobble when the pan is gently shaken.

Take a knife around the top portion of the cake and allow to cool down for about 2 hours at room temperature. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

When the cake is ready, plate it up alone or with fresh strawberries. Enjoy. Get busy!