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Recipe: Lindy's Cheesecake

Flickr user, Patrick Lauke
Lindy's Cheesecake (CC BY-NC-2.0)

Greg and Jon explore the long history of cheesecake and introduce Greg's version of the classic New York-style dessert.

(Broadcast: "The Food Guys," 5/17/15 and 5/21/15. Listen weekly on the radio at 11:50 a.m. Sundays and again at 4:54 p.m. Thursdays, or via podcast.)

Lindy's Cheesecake
(Recipe from: "Baking in America," by Greg Patent)

This is perhaps the most famous and imitated cheesecake of all. Dense and creamy, it is what has become known as New York-style cheesecake. The recipe is linked to the original Lindy's restaurant, which opened in New York City in 1923 and closed in 1967. The late Helen McCully, food editor of House Beautiful magazine for many years, claimed to have gotten the recipe from Lindy himself, and I have adapted it from her 1978 version in Cooking magazine.

The recipe calls for a pastry crust and an unusual method of baking. Both are essential to the success of the recipe. For baking, the cake is started at a temperature of 525 degrees, then the oven temperature is reduced to a cool 200 degrees. The high temperature gives the top of the cheesecake a rich brown color, and the low temperature assures a creamy texture. Be sure to use an oven thermometer to make certain your oven can accommodate these swings in temperature. I've made this with regular and reduced-fat cream cheese and can honestly say I prefer the texture and feel of the latter. A fresh strawberry sauce brings out the flavors of the cheesecake.

Makes one 9-inch cheesecake, 16 servings

    1/2 cup sugar
    Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
    4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces.
    1 large egg yolk
    1 tablespoon water
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1 cup all-purpose flour

    5 8-ounce packages Neufchatel cream cheese, at room temperature
    1 3/4 cups sugar
    3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    Finely grated zest of 1 orange
    Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
    1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
    5 large eggs
    2 large egg yolks
    1/4 cup heavy cream

    3 cups ripe strawberries, rinsed, patted dry, and stems removed
    3/4 cup sugar
    1/3 cup water
    Pinch of salt
    1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
    2 teaspoons unsalted butter
    1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

    For the pastry, place the sugar and lemon zest in a food processor for 5 seconds. Add the butter, egg yolk, water, and vanilla and pulse until the mixture looks granular and lumpy; the butter should be in about 1/4-inch pieces. Add the flour and pulse rapidly 20 to 30 times, stopping occasionally to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, until the mixture almost gathers into a ball. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and press the dough into a 1-inch-thick cake. Wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

    Adjust an oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Detach the sides; set aside.

    Cut off slightly less than one half of the dough. Break it into pieces, and scatter them over the springform bottom. Press firmly and evenly with your fingertips to make a thin layer. Set the bottom crust in the oven and bake until pale golden brown, about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven with a wide metal spatula and set on a cooling rack to cool completely. In- crease the oven temperature to 525 degrees.

    Shape the remaining pastry into a square. Roll it out on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle slightly larger than 10x6-inches. With a large sharp knife, trim away the edges so that the pastry measures 10x6-inches. Cut the pastry crosswise into five 2-inch strips. Reassemble the springform pan. Line the sides of the pan with 4 of the pastry strips, pressing the pieces firmly together where their edges meet and pressing the pastry firmly against the pan so that it will stay in place. Cut what you need from the last strip to fill in the last gap. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

    For the filling, beat the cream cheese in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar, flour, salt, zests, and vanilla and beat until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs and yolks one at a time, beating only until thoroughly incorporated, about 15 seconds after each. Beat for another 30 seconds. On low speed, beat in the heavy cream. Scrape the mixture into the pan and smooth the top.

    Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200 degrees and bake for 1 hour longer; the top will be golden brown. Cool to room temperature on a rack. Cover loosely and refrigerate for at least 6 hours; overnight is best.

    For the strawberry sauce, if the strawberries are small, reserve 1 cup of the prettiest ones. If they are large, slice enough to make 1 cup. Set aside. Place the remaining berries in a medium saucepan and crush with a potato masher. Add the sugar, water, salt, and cornstarch. Stir well with a heat- proof rubber spatula, and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes, or until the sauce is slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and add the butter, lemon juice, and reserved berries. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled. (The sauce can be made a day ahead.)

    To serve, run a small sharp knife around the edges of the cake to release the pastry and carefully remove the sides of the pan. Rinse a knife in hot water, shake off the excess water, and slice. Serve each portion with a spoonful of the strawberry sauce. Refrigerate leftovers.