Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Lemon Meringue Cheesecake

My Hubbers and I recently had lunch at The Cheesecake Factory. As the name implies, there is a lot of cheesecake to choose from. In addition to a bakery display case full of decadent cheesecakes, they also had TV screens flashing pictures of various cheesecake offerings. How could anyone resist?  My Hubby honed in on their lemon meringue cheesecake and didn't deviate from that when we were presented with the full dessert menu. The cheesecake was topped with lemon curd and meringue.  He ate every crumb and proceeded to ask me if that was something I could replicate for Christmas. I took that as a challenge and got to work looking up recipes. Being the nice Hubby that he is he told me that mine was much better than the restaurant's version. He has a few brownie points in reserve now! All my guests enjoyed the cheesecake so I will definitely make it again.

The starting point of the cheesecake was a recipe from the cookbook Luscious Lemon Desserts by Lori Longbotham. What attracted me to this recipe was the method of grinding sugar and lemon zest together.  Rather than having large pieces of zest in the cheesecake, which some don't find attractive, the zest was finely ground with the sugar providing a subtle lemon flavor. More lemon flavor was provided by using some lemon juice.  I took it one step further and marbled fresh lemon curd into the cheesecake batter. The cheesecake also has sour cream in it.  The result was a lemony, very creamy, cheesecake. More lemon curd was spread on the top of the cheesecake and then a cooked meringue on top of that.  It was pretty and, oh, so, good!

In my opinion,commercial lemon curd pales in comparison to the fresh version.  It's not hard to make; it's egg yolks, lemon juice, and sugar cooked to a spreadable consistency. It can be made a day or two ahead of time and you will have extra for other uses.  I use this recipe.

Most meringues are uncooked and are applied on top of a hot filling, which cooks the underside of the meringue, before placing in the oven and browning. This method wouldn't work with a chilled cheesecake. The thought of uncooked eggs didn't appeal to me so I went with a cooked meringue.  It's got more of a marshmallow texture, rather than a light and fluffy meringue. 

Lemon Meringue Cheesecake

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest, finely grated
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh squeezed
3 large eggs
1 cup (approximately) lemon curd, chilled

Position rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter the bottom and side of a 9" springform pan. Have ready a roasting pan.  Put on a kettle of water to boil for the water bath.

Stir together the crumbs and butter with a fork in a medium bowl until combined well.  Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan.  Bake 8-10 minutes or until crust is set; let cool on a wire rack. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Process sugar and lemon zest in a food processor until zest is finely ground.

In a medium bowl, with an electric mixer, beat cream cheese beginning on low speed; increasing to medium-high, until light and fluffy.

Gradually add sugar mixture, scraping down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula, continue beating until smooth.

Add sour cream and lemon juice; beat until well blended.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Wrap the outside of the springform pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil, then pour half the filling into the pan. Dollop large teaspoons of lemon curd on top; with a knife marble the curd into the filling. Repeat with remaining filling and more lemon curd. Set the pan in the roasting pan.  Place the roasting pan in the oven and carefully pour in enough boiling water into the roasting pan to reach halfway up the side of the springform pan.

Bake for 70-75 minutes or until the center is almost set but still slightly jiggly.  Do not overbake, the cheesecake will firm as it cools.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven and let the cheesecake cool in the water bath for 15 minutes.  Remove from the bath; let it cool on a wire rack.

Remove the foil; refrigerate the cheesecake in its pan, loosely covered, for at least 8 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

Run a table knife around the inside edge of the pan; remove the pan's side.  Spread approximately 1/2 cup lemon curd over the top of the cheesecake.

Top with meringue and brown the meringue using a kitchen blow torch.

4 large egg whites
3/4 cup granulated sugar

Fill the bottom of a double boiler with about 2-3 inches of water.  Bring to a boil.

Whisk the eggs and sugar in the top of the double boiler (or use a bowl and saucepan). Place on top of the pan with the boiling water.  Whisk constantly for about 5-7 minutes, until the mixture reaches 140 degrees (use a candy thermometer).

Immediately transfer the hot mixture to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat at high speed until stiff peaks form.

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