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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Perfect High Altitude Cheesecake from Susan Purdy

The Altitude Adjustment Section
Cheesecake, a great high-altitude choice because it does not rise so it should not be altitude-affected, right? Wrong again, my sweet! I learned a lot this week about this recipe and baking cheesecake. It started when I received a lovely email form a listener who said he loved Pie in the Sky, Susan Purdy’s high-altitude cookbook but the cheesecake recipe did not work.

Well, I immediately called Susan and we discussed this. I did not test that one, she did, and I had actually never made it, so I did. I am happy to report when I followed the recipe exactly (and some of the steps initially made no sense to me) it worked perfectly, actually better than my own prized recipe! So I will now be adapting my recipe which was my father's — and he stole it from the Abraham and Strauss cheesecake contest winner of 1978.

Ingredients for crust
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or almonds or walnuts
2 tablespoons sugar

Ingredients for filling
4 8-ounce packages Philly cream cheese
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large room temp eggs
1/4 cup frozen OJ concentrate
1 teaspoon orange extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange zest

Ingredients for mango topping
1/2 cup apricot preserves
2 large ripe mangoes to make 1 1/2 cups slices

Procedure
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Make sure you have a rack in the center of your oven. Place a sheet pan in the oven to preheat. Prepare your 9 1/-10 inch spring form pan by taking the bottom and wrapping it in tin foil. This tip is worth the whole show. This way you can easily remove the cake from the bottom and it also seems to help the pan seal better (I have old cheap pans which always seem to leak just enough to make the crust soggy which I hate). Now butter or spray the foil covering the bottom and sides of the pan.

To make the crust, combine the melted butter with the graham cracker crumbs, the finely chopped nuts and the sugar and press into the bottom and up the sides about 1 1/2 inches. Chill til ready to use.

To make filling, use the paddle attachment of your electric mixer beat the cream cheese til very smooth and soft. Add the sugar scrape down the bowl to avoid lumps sticking to the side. Now beat in the sour cream, cornstarch and salt. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between additions. Last, add in the OJ concentrate and extracts. Scoop batter into prepared pan and place on hot sheet pan already in the oven.

Bake for 35-43 minutes til top is nicely browned, and it jiggles but is not liquid. It will firm up as it cools. It will also probably form circular cracks around the outside edge which will heal as it cools. Set it on a wire rack to cool away from drafts. To prevent further cracking, if that bothers you, cover top with a cardboard cake circle and let cool completely at room temp then refrigerate. It's best to let it sit overnight. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the cake and release the springform clip. Now easily pick up the cake and unwrap the tinfoil form the bottom and lift the cake onto a platter. That part is magic!

About 1 hour before serving, prepare the mango topping: Put apricot preserves in a small sauce pan over low heat to melt it and then strain out the chunks and set aside. Take your beautiful ripe, thinly sliced mango and arrange it on the top of the cheesecake and then brush it with the apricot glaze, refrigerate for 30 minutes and then serve.

You have many options with this recipe. Change the flavorings from citrus to vanilla and almond. Cover it with berries and raspberry glaze. Throw some espresso powder and chocolate chips in. Keep the fruit on top so it does not change the consistency of the batter. The most interesting thing about this recipe is Susan eliminated the bain Marie from the recipe which I believe helps the cake cook faster and keeps the texture a little drier and makes it cut perfectly which has always been a problem for me at this altitude.