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You Asked for It | Ellen Folkman

You Asked For It: Elements Global Cuisine's cheesecake

A friend and I recently enjoyed a great meal at Elements Global Cuisine in Gulfport. Catherine's cheesecake was the best I've ever had. Would she share the recipe? — Susan Gamelli, St. Petersburg and Massachusetts

Chef/proprietor Catherine Pawelek is happy to share the recipe for the popular cheesecake. It is creamy and light, with a hint of lemon, and the secret is to not overbake it. The variety of flavors is limitless, and Catherine has shared some below. Some substitutions can be made to lighten it. Although I didn't try any of the variations, I tested the main recipe, and it was delicious. I did double the foil to keep the water from seeping into the springform pan, which worked well. It was tricky getting the pan out of the water bath; the oven mitts kept getting wet and the water was hot. Then I got smart and drained some of the water out of the pan. This recipe is a keeper.

Recipe requests

• Rhonda Latrella of Asheville, N.C., fell in love with calamondins while in college in St. Petersburg. She is looking for a calamondin connection to set her up with the fruit so she can make marmalade. Her relatives no longer live here and can't supply her. She will be in Jacksonville this summer and has friends in Orlando who could get them to her. Rhonda would appreciate any help in finding them. • Irma Cruz of New Port Richey would like appetizers or entrees that use goat cheese.



Substitutions: For those not able to have sugar, substitute the 1 cup of sugar with 1/2 cup of Splenda.

• You can use 24 ounces fat-free cream cheese instead of the regular cream cheese and mascarpone.

Variations: You can incorporate the following into the cheesecake:

Key lime: Add juice of 2 limes.

Raspberry white chocolate: Add ½ cup of small chips and spoon about 1/4 cup raspberry jam in a circular motion over top of batter. Use a knife to swirl the jam.

Orange Grand Marnier: Add juice of 1 orange and its zest and 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier.

Butterscotch Toffee: Add ½ cup of butterscotch chips, ½ crumbled Heath Bar, drizzle with caramel, swirl to make a design.

Chocolate Chocolate: Put 1 cup chips in the filling and then swirl top with chocolate sauce.

Eggnog: Add 1/4 cup of eggnog, lightly sprinkle top with nutmeg.

Mango Tango: Add 1/4 cup mango puree, 1/2 cup diced mango and 1 tablespoon mango schnapps.

Recipes tested by Times correspondent Ellen Folkman unless otherwise noted. Send requests to You Asked For It, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or e-mail youaskedforit@knology.net. Please put "recipe request" in the subject line. Include your name, city and phone number.

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Elements Dreamy Creamy Cheesecake

Crust:

2 cups finely ground graham crackers (or Amaretti cookies)

½ cup unsalted butter, melted

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Filling:

20 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature

4 ounces mascarpone cheese

1 cup sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

1 lemon zest (finely grated)

1 ½ pints sour cream

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Prepare the crust: In a mixing bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, butter and cinnamon with a fork until fully moistened. Lightly coat the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides (1 inch) of the pan. Refrigerate while preparing the filling.

Prepare the filling: In a mixer, beat the cream cheese on low speed for about 20 seconds, until smooth, then add the mascarpone. Gradually add sugar and continue mixing for 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to keep all ingredients mixing. Add the eggs, one at a time and continue to beat until well incorporated. Add the vanilla and lemon zest and finally the sour cream. Do not overbeat; mix only until fully incorporated. Pour the filling into the crust-filled pan that has been set on a large piece of aluminum (fold down the sides of the aluminum, which will prevent any water from seeping into the batter).

Prepare a water bath: Pour water 1/3 up the sides of a large, rectangular baking pan, and place the springform pan in the center. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and immediately refrigerate for 3 hours. The cheesecake will still seem somewhat soft, but after refrigeration (3 hours) it will solidify. (Don't overbake; it will get dry.) Run a knife along the sides, open the springform pan and unmold.

You Asked For It: Elements Global Cuisine's cheesecake 06/10/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 10, 2008 4:30am]

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