Thursday, December 13, 2007

Meyer Lemon Cheesecake

I was reaching deep into a pot of coarse, moist sea salt when I met my first Meyer lemon.  It was my job on a slow night to scrape out Meyer lemon interiors and finely mince the brined zest for a Meyer lemon sea-salt that got sprinkled on grilled asparagus.  The squeaky squealy slimy rinds were a pain to work with, and my knife skills were not so well-developed as they might have been -- rind-mincing, like mopping the floor, wasn't my favorite task (that, perhaps, was roasting eggplants. Or making horseradish creme fraiche.  Or wrapping the cheeses each night).  

Yesterday I found myself with several pounds of lovely Meyer lemons on my hands.  An old hybrid of mandarins and regular lemons, Meyers are incomparably sweet, creamy-shiny things redolent with meringue and custard possibilities.  What with the December chill, I've been hankering for some more fat on my bones -- and so it had to be cheesecake.  Yesterday I dumped two quarts of rich yogurt into a cheesecloth-lined colander set over a large bowl to start making fresh cheese for the cake, and whey for sipping.

To make the crust, brown 1/2 c. butter (slowly), while in another bowl you whisk together 1 c. almond meal, 3/4 c. white flour, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/3 c. sugar.  Drizzle in the browned butter, fluff well, and pat the crumbs into the bottom and partway up the sides of a springform pan. Bake at 350 degrees fahreinheit for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Beat the well-drained cream cheese* til yet creamier, then gradually beat in 1 1/3 c. sugar, 4 eggs, one at a time, 1/3 c. cream, 1/2 c. sour cream, the lemon juice and zest, a small splash of vanilla, and 1 tsp salt.  

Bake at 350 till the edges have risen and just barely cracked but the center still jiggles.  Turn off the oven and leave there a bit longer, then chill for quite a few hours before you serve it.  It is one of the many merits of cheesecake that it improves with age.

*2 lbs of room-temperature commercial cream cheese will work as well.  Reduce the amount of sour cream and cream to something like 1/4 c. of each and the salt to 1/2 tsp.

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