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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Justa Pasta Cheesecake

I should, but do not, have a picture of this. I have made it several times and each time am flabbergasted by how good it is. It is not like other cheesecakes (flash of Michael Jackson saying, "I'm not like other guys" in the Thriller video), and no one ever leaves any on his or her plate, no matter how much they might not usually like cheesecake. The one change I might possibly suggest would be to use the juice of half a lemon instead of a whole.

Justa Pasta's Cheesecake
as printed in the Oregonian in September 2004 (thanks to Sara Perry for sending it to me after I struggled accessing the archives!)

Makes one 10-inch cake, serving 14 to 16 (or more; 21 1.5" slices have 386 calories each)

Crumb Crust
3 cups graham cracker crumbs (19-20 whole cracker sheets)
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

Filling
Four 8-ounce packages (32 ounces total) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar, preferably baker’s
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg, at room temperature

Topping
2 cups sour cream
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Juice from 1 medium lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Drop of almond extract

Do not preheat the oven.

To make the crumb crust: Mix together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter until well blended and crumbly (my Cuisinart had the softening cream cheese in it, so I put the crushed-slightly-with-my-fingertips crackers in my Kitchenaid with the butter and brown sugar, and it worked just great to break them down further). Transfer to a 10-inch springform pan and firmly press the mixture onto the bottom of the pan (I use my straight-sided metal one-cup measure). Chill the crust while making the filling.

To make the filling: In a food processor, combine the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and almond extract until creamy and smooth, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary. Beat in the egg until fully blended. Pour into the springform pan and place it in the center of the cold oven. Turn on the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 40 minutes.

To make the topping: Meanwhile, mix together the sour cream, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla and almond extract until blended. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and gently (very! one time I made this I wasn't so gentle, and made a big divot in the filling from the topping waterfall) spread the topping over the cake. Lower the oven to 300 degrees and bake for 15 additional minutes. Transfer to the refrigerator to chill at least 4 hours or overnight. Using a paring knife, loosen the sides from the inside edge of the pan. Slice and serve.

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