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My friend Delilah threw a dinner party on a recent snowy Chicago night, and I found myself wondering what the hell I would bring. I nominated myself for dessert, but felt daunted by the task of having to cook for a group of people I had never met before. To top it off, I also needed something that would travel safely in the car.
I had to cross my fallback Crème Brulee off the list. Carrying an armload of ramekins up a few flights of stairs didn’t seem like a very good idea. I’m a clumsy little man and I imagined a hospital trip involving shards of porcelain in uncomfortable places.
After mulling it over a glass of wine, I sifted through one of my magazines and found a novel idea for Green Tea Cheesecake. It’s rich, creamy, and indulgent, and I don’t know too many people who hate cheesecake. Those who do shouldn’t be invited to food parties.
All ends well. The dinner party turned out to be fun, and I met a few new friends that night. Not too shabby for a shy fellow like me, don’t you think?
Here’s my modified version of the original recipe:
1 cup (overflowing) ground shortbread cookie crumbs
2 8-oz packages cream cheese, room temperature (full fat)
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons finely ground green tea from 4 tea bags
1 drop of green food coloring (if you use tea from teabags)
Fresh mixed berries for garnish
Preheat your oven to 325 F. If you’re like me, this is the part where you start drinking an alcoholic beverage of your choice (preferably bourbon). If you’re smart, and not me, lay off the booze until you’re finished.
Press the shortbread crumbs firmly down into the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan. Since there’s already plenty of butter in the shortbread, the crust will stay together when baked.
Wrap the outside of the springform pan with three or four layers of foil – you’ll be baking this cheesecake in a water bath later, so give your cake a nice tight jacket of foil now.
If you have a standup mixer (you lucky chef, you), beat the cream cheese, sour cream, and sugar in a large bowl until it’s all smooth. Make absolutely sure that you use cream cheese that’s completely at room temperature, otherwise you’ll get funny little beads of cream cheese in your batter.
Since I’m a cheap bastard, all I have is an electric hand mixer which works just as well. If you use a hand mixer, keep a rubber spatula on hand because the cream cheese mixture will creep way up on the beaters. If this doesn’t make sense to you now, it will when you’re doing it.
Add your eggs one at a time (if you have them all cracked into one bowl already, it’ll make your life easier). Make sure that each one is completely incorporated into the batter before you slip the next one in.
Now beat the green tea powder in until the mixture is evenly distributed.
If you used ground tea from tea bags, here’s where you put in a small drop of green food coloring to give the tea a nice light green color. Without the food coloring, the cake will look slightly brown and a little less attractive, but it’s up to you.
Place the cake in a roasting pan, and put the roasting pan in the oven. Bring a kettle full of hot water (doesn’t have to be boiling) over to the roasting pan, and pour enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the springform. I’d strongly advise against filling the pan full of hot water first, with the cake inside – try walking over to the oven with a pan full of scalding water and see what happens. You won’t be pleased.
On a side note, just to let you know: The water bath allows your cake to bake evenly, because in a dry oven, heating can be uneven, resulting in a cracked and dry cake.
Bake your cake until its more or less set, which means the center should move just a tiny bit when the pan is jiggled. This will take about an hour or so, but the time can vary depending on your oven. Remove the cake from your roasting pan, let it cool off at room temperature, and refrigerate it overnight.
Throw some berries onto the cake, slice away, and serve. Don’t forget to tell me you love me after your first bite.