Cheesecake & procrastination.

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For someone whose life (work life, anyway) is dictated by meeting deadlines, you’d think I wouldn’t be such a procrastinator. My rationale is, I work better under pressure. If I know I have several weeks to get something done, I shrug it off and occupy myself with other things. It’s a terrible habit, but I always get my work done, my bills paid, et cetera.

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On that note, my mother’s birthday was a little over two months ago. I made her a cake, and I am just telling you about this now.

It’s not that it wasn’t delicious (it was), or that I didn’t photograph it (I did), or that I wasn’t proud of it (I am). But there were other recipes in the queue. Freelance assignments to finish. New episodes of Arrested Development to watch. Dear Prudence columns to be read. 

Excuses, am I right? But no matter! Be undaunted by cheesecake no longer, because if I can churn out a delectable, slightly lemony cheesecake, I’m sure you can, too.

The funniest thing about making this cheesecake was the fervent suggestions I got from EVERYONE about using a water bath. The recipe (thanks for another great one, Martha) called for a water bath. Posters on forums sang the praises of a water bath. The woman scanning my groceries asked if I was going to use a water bath. When I arrived at my parents’ house, my mother asked if I used a water bath.

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It was kind of like that.

I followed Martha Stewart’s recipe to a T, and my mom, Colin and I all thoroughly enjoyed it. My dad? “I don’t like cheesecake. I’ve never liked cheesecake.” I promised him german chocolate cupcakes for an all-about-him special occasion. Which happens to be this weekend. Guess what? He’s going away with his high school buddies. I fear this may be the result of their shenanigans.

I’ll make them for you anyway, Dad.

So, if you’re a cheesecake person, try this out! If you’re lukewarm on cheesecake… still try this out! Colin’s lukewarm on cheesecake, but claims he liked mine. He also might be slightly biased, but whatever.

Classic cheesecake (from Martha Stewart)

For the crust:
5 tbsp unsalted butter, plus melted butter for the pan
12 graham crackers (3×5″)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt

For the filling:
2 1/2 lbs bar cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream

Equipment:
springform pan
electric mixer
foil
roasting pan (deep & large enough to contain the springform pan and water for the water bath)

Make your crust: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and butter your springform pan. In a food processor, pulse graham crackers until fine crumbs form (best way to do this is to do it in batches, I’ve found). Pour all your crumbs back into the processor, then add your melted butter, sugar and salt, and pulse to combine. Press crumb mixture into the bottom and about one inch up the side of your springform pan. Bake until set, 12 to 15 minutes; let cool on a wire rack. Reduce the temperature in your oven to 325 degrees.

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Set a small pot or kettle of water to boil.

Make your filling: Using an electric hand or stand mixer, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually add your sugar; again, beat till fluffy. Beat in your lemon zest, lemon juice and salt, then beat your eggs in, one at a time. Lastly, beat in your sour cream.

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Wrap the bottom half of your springform pan in foil and pour in your filling. Place the springform pan in your roasting pan, then pour boiled water into the roasting pan – you want it to come about halfway up the sides of your springform pan.

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Bake for about an hour and 45 minutes, or until just set in the center.

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Remove the springform pan from the roasting pan and let it cool for about 20 minutes. Run a paring knife around the edge and then allow the cake to cool completely. Cover and chill at least a couple of hours before serving.

Serve, with a nice hot cup of coffee. Or tea, if coffee isn’t your cup of tea. Har har.

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Happy eating!

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