National food days don’t excite me. If it’s National Cashew Day, I’ll celebrate the crunchy carrot.
It means more when people think for themselves. Sorta like Valentine’s Day — if you wait and spend three times as much money on a dozen roses just to give a bouquet to the love of your life on the day society tells you to, you don’t deserve a sweetheart. Instead, on a random day in the summer, pull off the busy highway and pick a handful of those pretty purple wildflowers swaying in the country shade.
I’ve always been a rebel. (In the American sense of the word.) Hallmark wouldn’t like me. If everyone is doing something the same way, I’ll simply wait until I find a different way before I do it. It’s not such a bad thing now but trust me, it got me into plenty of trouble when I was a teenage girl wearing boxer shorts to school on final exam day.
But National Cheesecake Day? It’s like my personal national holiday! Even a rebel’s gotta respect the one day when people across the nation celebrate the most traditional yet luxurious dessert known to man(and woman)kind.
Today is National Cheesecake Day. If you are in the Minneapolis area, you must go to Muddy Paws Cheesecake. Once you’ve had a mouthful of their luscious cheesecake, you’ll be weaving your way through the residential area of St. Louis Park every chance you get just to grab a slice from [owner] Tami’s freezer. You can also order Muddy Paws cheesecake off the menu at these restaurants in the Twin Cities. (Say hi to them on Facebook and on Twitter @MPCheesecake.)
When you can’t have Muddy Paws, bake your own slices of creamy heaven:
And when you want a good old-fashioned vanilla cheesecake with berries from your garden or corner farmer’s market, make this one and share it:
Vanilla Cheesecake with Fresh Berries
1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
32 ounces (four 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1-2/3 cups sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (I use Sonoma Syrup Co. Vanilla Bean Crush)
3/4 cup heavy or whipping cream
3 large eggs at room temperature
fresh berries of your choice
Put it all together
For 9-inch springform pan: Preheat oven to 350°. Grease the springform pan with baking or cooking spray.
Combine the crushed graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter in a small bowl. Stir well. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the springform pan. Bake 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
In a large bowl using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium speed until creamy throughout, with no clumps. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times while mixing. This will take approximately 3 minutes. This only works if the cream cheese is at a soft, room temperature consistency.
Add the sugar to the cream cheese mixture and beat on low to medium speed for a few minutes until sugar is well combined and the texture is creamy.
Put the cornstarch in a tiny bowl. While stirring, add just enough ice-cold water to dissolve the cornstarch. It’s probably a teaspoon or two. Stir until dissolved and then add to the cream cheese batter.
Pour the vanilla extract and whipping cream into the batter and then beat on low until all the ingredients are incorporated. Do not overbeat.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on low just until combined. Turn off the mixer and gently scrape down the sides of the bowl after each egg is added.
Gently pour the filling into the prepared crust. Bake at 350° for approximately one hour and 15 minutes or until the edges are light golden brown and the center is just set. Turn the oven off and crack the oven door open slightly. Let the cheesecake completely cool in the oven for a couple of hours.
When cooled, run a knife between the pan and the cheesecake to loosen it from the sides, then cover the top of the pan with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
When ready to serve, remove the cheesecake from the springform pan. Slice with a warm knife, wiping after each cut to keep the slices smooth and free from crumbs. Serve with your favorite berries.
Keep cheesecake in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. If you want to freeze the cheesecake or slices of cheesecake, (remove the berries first) wrap tightly in foil or seal in freezer bags for up to 3 months. Thaw in refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for 2 hours.
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If you want to bake these in 4-inch springform pans as I have pictured, lower the oven temperature to 275° and bake approximately 35-40 minutes. If you have mini cheesecake pans, bake for approximately 26 minutes.
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