This weekend I embraced a little retro baking. This sour cream cheesecake was a staple, special occasion dessert in our house when I was young. Always made with 2 blocks of Philadelphia cream cheese. Scented with a little lemon and baked to a wobbly perfection. So much more sophisticated and avant garde than its gelatin based cousin. Coincidentally made with very similar ingredients. The perfect prepare ahead recipe that could be started the day before. All that was required on the day of its unveiling, to a most appreciative audience, was a simple garnish of berries and light dusting of icing sugar.
The secret behind a great baked cheesecake? It’s not a complicated process, requiring just a little patience and time. For a smooth and creamy texture always use softened cream cheese and room temperature eggs. For a perfect finish free of cracks it’s all about slow baking and even cooling. Bake the cheesecake in a slow oven for up to an hour. It’s crucial that the cheesecake retains a slight wobble or tremble in its centre when baked to avoid any potential cracking as it cools. Its then a matter of simply turning off the oven and leaving the door ajar to allow even cooling for another hour. A wooden spoon placed just inside the oven door does the trick. Make sure the cheesecake has reached room temperature before placing in the refrigerator to chill for at least four hours, preferably overnight.
Here’s a step by step guide to a perfect baked sour cream cheesecake every time. Complete with a photo collage above.
Baked Sour Cream Cheesecake
Serves 8 – 12
For the Base
250g packet of plain sweet biscuits (I used Arnott’s Nice)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
125g unsalted butter, melted
For the Filling
500g (2 packages) Philadelphia cream cheese
3/4 cup caster sugar
grated zest of 1/2 small lemon
3 large free range eggs, separated
3/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla essence
1 teaspoon lemon juice
fresh strawberries and icing sugar to serve
Prepare the Base
GREASE the base and sides of a 22cm springform tin with melted butter and line the base with non-stick baking paper.
PLACE the biscuits in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until crushed. Alternatively place in a strong, sealed plastic bag and use a meat mallet or rolling pin to crush.
TRANSFER the crumbs to a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and ginger and mix well until thoroughly combined, ensuring all the crumbs are evenly coated with butter.
USE the back of a spoon to press the biscuit mixture evenly into the base of the greased and base lined tin.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes until firm.
Prepare the Filling
PREHEAT oven to 160 C non fan forced.
PLACE the egg whites in a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer for about 5 minutes until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
IN A SEPARATE bowl beat together the cream cheese, sugar and lemon zest until smooth, creamy and well combined.
ADD the egg yolks, sour cream, vanilla and lemon juice. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.
GENTLY fold the whipped egg whites into the cream cheese mixture with a large metal spoon.
POUR the batter onto the prepared base, tapping the tin against the benchtop to release any air bubbles and smoothing the top with a palette knife.
PLACE cheesecake in preheated oven, centre rack position, and bake for 1 hour until pale golden with a slight tremble in the centre. Best to check the cheesecake after 50 minutes and every 5 minutes there after. Tap the side of the tin to check for the tremble. The cake will firm as it cools, over cooking will result in the cheesecake cracking, either as it bakes or as it cools.
TURN OFF oven and allow the cheesecake to cool slowly for another hour leaving the oven door slightly ajar.
AFTER an hour remove the cheesecake from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
COVER with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours or preferably overnight to chill thoroughly.
REMOVE the cheesecake from the fridge at least 20 minutes before serving.
DECORATE with fresh strawberries and a liberal dusting of icing sugar.