Cheesecake Please

Vanilla Cheesecake with Blueberry Sauce

Whenever we are invited to a get together or a special occasion dinner I offer to bring something, most people do. It’s a gesture I think people who enjoy cooking and baking do so that they can share the work that goes into these types of things. Usually food is involved and sometimes even large groups of people. 
Some host and hostesses will let you know what to bring to perhaps round out the meal or if it is a themed event what would fit the party’s details. Now on occasion it is wide open and you are given the option to bring whatever you like. This can be high pressure and stressful for people because you want to bring something that everyone will enjoy (or at least most of the guests). When given this option I usually turn to my children for the answer! Why you may ask? Well clearly my thinking is if my children like it and ask for it, surely adults will enjoy it as well! Now I have to admit this has not always worked to my benefit, especially when it is dinner related but most recently it did work out for me. So much so, that my cousin asked for the recipe. Always puts a smile on my face!
When I asked what I could bring, the answer was that dessert had not been decided on yet so I could take care of that. Perfect! 

I looked at my children and said “so mommy has to make dessert to bring to Maria’s for dinner, what should I make?”
“Cheesecake!”, was the response that I honestly was not expecting. My oldest son and daughter usually ask for apple pie and my younger son usually is happy with mounds of fresh fruit and chocolate ice cream. In my shock I responded, “why cheesecake?”
Well they easily filled the room with chatter and many answers, “it’s creamy mom and so tasty”. I loved my younger son’s answer “mom I love cream cheese and graham crackers and if you put blueberries on top well I love those too! so what’s not to love?”
Truly I laughed and agreed. 

Cheesecake holds a special place in my heart as well as in my families bellies. My mother in law used to make cheesecake (without the crust) for my oldest son when he was little, he really did love it. She made mini ones for him so he could snack on them. It was his special treat from Grandma. After she passed away, we didn’t really make cheesecake around here for awhile, didn’t seem the same. But now I was determined to take on this task to fulfill the need for a dessert to bring to a family dinner, make my kids proud and share my love of baking in memory of my mother in law.

Cheesecake has been around for a long time, I remember enjoying it as a child but not a baked cheesecake the simple flavours of cold cream cheese, whipped cream and sugar piled high on a graham cracker crust and topped with canned cherries. Something my grandmother was proud to make and I was happy to eat!
Baked cheesecakes were most often seen in bakeries and at restaurants as it seemed like a difficult task to produce such a creamy and rich dessert. Now we all know just how easy they are to create at home but sometimes there are frustrations to get the texture right so you have a smooth and somewhat crack free top on your cheesecake. 
Typically baked in a water bath to help reduce the cracks and retain the delicate rich texture of the cheesecake. I wanted to try something a bit different so I didn’t have to use a water bath but still get the same results. 
I included some tips that I did to make my cheesecake a success that hopefully will help you out if this is your first cheesecake or something for you to try if you are a seasoned pro and haven’t tried these ideas yet. 

Vanilla Cheesecake
I used vanilla extract in the recipe but this would be extra special if you scraped out the seeds of a vanilla bean and added it to the recipe instead of the extract. 

1 1/2 cups (375 mL) graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter, melted
3 pkgs (250 g each) cream cheese, softened
1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp (15 mL) vanilla extract
1 small tub (250 mL) sour cream

Blueberry Sauce:
2 cups (500 mL) frozen blueberries
1/4 cup (60 mL) orange juice
3 tbsp (45 mL) granulated sugar
1 tbsp (15 mL) cornstarch
1 tbsp (15 mL) water

In a small bowl, stir together graham cracker crumbs and butter until well moistened. Spread out into a 9 or 10 inch (23 or 25 cm) springform pan. Pat in bottom and slightly up sides (about 1/2 inch/1 cm) of pan. Place on baking sheet and bake in preheated 350 F (180 C) oven for about 12 minutes or until fragrant and firm to the touch. Let cool slightly. Reduce oven to 300F (149 C).

In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat cream cheese for a bit to smooth out. Scrape sides of bowl with a rubber spatula. Gradually beat in sugar until smooth and starting to lighten in texture. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape sides of bowl again and beat to smooth out any lumps. Beat in vanilla. Add sour cream and beat slowly until combined.

Pour cream cheese mixture into prepared crust and smooth out top. Place in preheated 300 F (149 C) oven for about 50 minutes or until sides are set and slightly puffed and centre is still slightly jiggly. Carefully using a small paring knife, slowly run it around edge of pan and cheesecake. Turn oven off and leave cheesecake in oven for 45 minutes. Take if out of the oven and let come to room temperature (about 1 hour), and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or until chilled through.

Blueberry Sauce: In a saucepan, combine blueberries, orange juice and sugar; bring to a gentle boil over medium high heat, stirring often. Let blueberries simmer for 2 minutes. 
In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and water; stir into blueberries and cook, stirring for about 1 minute or until sauce is thickened slightly. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
Using a thin knife, cut wedges out of cheesecake and serve with blueberry sauce.

Makes 12 to 16 servings.

Helpful Hints and Tips: Use a dry measuring cup to pat down graham cracker crumbs on bottom and up sides of pan. (see photo)

Scrape bowl often to get smooth cheesecake (with smaller lumps of cheese)-see photo.

Leave cream cheese out at room temperature for not  more than a couple of hours to soften so it combines easily with other ingredients. (Leaving the other ingredients out at room temperature as well. It will help everything come together smoothly.)

Placing the springform pan on a baking sheet is helpful to move the cheesecake in and out of the oven so you don’t have to worry about the sides or bottom of your springform pan falling out. (this can happen to older pan often!) (see photo)

To slice the cheesecake more easily, dip your knife in hot water and wipe dry between each cut. The creamy texture of the cheesecake will stick to your knife and become very tricky to slice if not.


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