Lemon Cheesecake Soufflé

  The one that almost got away!

The one that almost got away!

Fifty years ago I tasted a cheese cake that was almost as light and airy as whipped cream. I never forgot it. The bakery was in Princeton, NJ and when I moved back to New York City I actually took a bus ride to the bakery trying to persuade them to give me the recipe. They promised they would send it but never did. Finally, all these years later, I figured it out. Instead of adding the whole eggs to the cream cheese batter, I separated them and whipped the egg whites with the sugar Italian meringue style. I added a little extra sugar to compensate for the sugar syrup that sticks to the sides of the pot.

The resulting cake is so fluffy it makes a sound when you put a fork to it.

 Serves: 10 to 12

Oven Temperature: 350˚F/175˚C

Baking Time: 50 minutes (55 minutes if using a silicone pan instead of aluminum foil for the water bath), plus 1 hour with the oven off

Plan Ahead Make the cheesecake at least 1 day before serving.

 Equipment One 9 by 3 or 2-3/4 inch high springform pan, lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray, set in a slightly larger silicone pan or wrapped with a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil to prevent seepage; A 12 inch cake pan or roasting pan to serve as a water bath

  Preheat the Oven   * Twenty minutes or longer before baking, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Set the oven at 350˚F/175˚C.    Mise en Place   * One hour ahead, into the bowl of a stand mixer, place the cream cheese, cornstarch, and 25 grams/2 tablespoons of the sugar at cool room temperature (65˚ to 70˚F/19˚ to 21˚C).  * Into another 1 cup measure with a spout, place the lemon zest, and weigh or measure the lemon juice. Cover with plastic wrap.  * If using a cake base, trim it to size and set it on the bottom of the pan. If using lady fingers, cut off the rounded edges and arrange them on the bottom of the pan, placing them rounded crust flat sides down and cutting or tearing smaller pieces to fit into any gaps. Cover the pan with plastic wrap while making the filling.   Make the Batter   1) Into two small containers, separate the yolks and the whites.  2) Attach the whisk beater and beat the cream cheese mixture on medium-high speed until very smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice, about 3 minutes.  3) Gradually beat in the egg yolks and continue beating until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  4) On medium-low speed add the lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt and beat until incorporated.  5) Add the sour cream and continue beating just until fully blended, 20 to 30 seconds. Detach the whisk beater and use it to reach down and whisk in any mixture that has settled to the bottom of the bowl.  6) Remove and wash, rinse, and dry the whisk beater to remove any trace of oil. If you do not have a second mixer bowl, scrape this mixture into a large bowl and thoroughly wash, rinse, and dry the mixer bowl and whisk beater to remove any trace of oil.

Preheat the Oven

* Twenty minutes or longer before baking, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Set the oven at 350˚F/175˚C.

 Mise en Place

* One hour ahead, into the bowl of a stand mixer, place the cream cheese, cornstarch, and 25 grams/2 tablespoons of the sugar at cool room temperature (65˚ to 70˚F/19˚ to 21˚C).

* Into another 1 cup measure with a spout, place the lemon zest, and weigh or measure the lemon juice. Cover with plastic wrap.

* If using a cake base, trim it to size and set it on the bottom of the pan. If using lady fingers, cut off the rounded edges and arrange them on the bottom of the pan, placing them rounded crust flat sides down and cutting or tearing smaller pieces to fit into any gaps. Cover the pan with plastic wrap while making the filling.

Make the Batter

1) Into two small containers, separate the yolks and the whites.

2) Attach the whisk beater and beat the cream cheese mixture on medium-high speed until very smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice, about 3 minutes.

3) Gradually beat in the egg yolks and continue beating until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

4) On medium-low speed add the lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt and beat until incorporated.

5) Add the sour cream and continue beating just until fully blended, 20 to 30 seconds. Detach the whisk beater and use it to reach down and whisk in any mixture that has settled to the bottom of the bowl.

6) Remove and wash, rinse, and dry the whisk beater to remove any trace of oil. If you do not have a second mixer bowl, scrape this mixture into a large bowl and thoroughly wash, rinse, and dry the mixer bowl and whisk beater to remove any trace of oil.

  Mise en Place   * Have ready a 1 cup glass measure with a spout (not coated with nonstick cooking spray) near the cooktop.    *  Into the bowl of a stand mixer, weigh or measure the egg whites.     1) In a small heavy saucepan, preferably nonstick and with a spout, stir together the remaining 200 grams/1 cup of sugar and the water until the sugar is completely moistened. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is bubbling. Stop stirring and turn down the heat to the lowest setting. (If using an electric cooktop, remove from the heat.)  2) Attach the whisk beater and beat the egg whites on medium-high speed just until almost stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly (they should curve slightly).  3) Increase the heat on the cooktop and boil the syrup until an instant-read thermometer registers 248˚ to 250˚F/120˚C.   Immediately pour the syrup into the glass measure to stop the cooking.  4) With the mixer off, pour a small amount of syrup over the whites. Immediately beat on high speed for 5 seconds. Stop the mixer and add one-third of the syrup. Beat on high speed for 5 seconds. Add the remaining syrup in two parts, with the mixer off between additions. For the last addition, use a silicone scraper to remove the syrup clinging to the glass measure and scrape it against the beater.  5) Continue beating on medium speed for 2 minutes or until the outside of the bowl is no longer hot to the touch. Then use the whisk beater to fold it into the batter. Use a silicone spatula to reach to the bottom of the bowl to finish folding.  6) Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface evenly.   Bake the Cheesecake   7) Set the pan into the larger pan and surround it with 1 inch of very hot water. Add about 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar to the water and stir to dissolve it. (This will prevent discoloration of the aluminum pan.) Bake for 25 minutes. For even baking, rotate the pan halfway around. Continue baking for 25 minutes (30 minutes if using the silicone pan). Turn off the oven without opening the door and let the cake cool for 1 hour. When moved the center will jiggle slightly. (Alternatively, bake for 1 hour plus 10 minutes until the center tests 147°F. The center bounces back when lightly pressed and it jiggles even in the center.) The edges will have little cracks and be browned.   Cool and Chill the Cheesecake   7) Remove the pan from the water bath but leave the silicone pan or foil in place to contain any liquid that may seep from the cake. Set it on a wire rack to cool to room temperature or just warm, 1 to 2 hours. To absorb condensation, place a paper towel, curved side down, over the pan with the ends overhanging. Place an inverted plate, larger than the springform pan, on top of the paper towel.  8) Refrigerate the cheesecake for 8 hours or overnight, still covered with the paper towel and plate.   Unmold the Cheesecake   9) Remove the plate and paper towel. Use a small propane torch or wipe the sides of the pan several times with a towel that has been run under hot water and wrung out. Release the sides of the springform pan. If the sides of the cheesecake are uneven, run a small metal spatula under hot water and use it to smooth them.  10) This delicate cake is best left on the pan bottom of the springform.  11) Cut with a wet knife that has been run under hot water between each slice and wiped clean with a paper towel.   Store  Airtight: refrigerated, 3 days; do not freeze, as the texture will become less smooth.   

Mise en Place

* Have ready a 1 cup glass measure with a spout (not coated with nonstick cooking spray) near the cooktop.

 * Into the bowl of a stand mixer, weigh or measure the egg whites.

 1) In a small heavy saucepan, preferably nonstick and with a spout, stir together the remaining 200 grams/1 cup of sugar and the water until the sugar is completely moistened. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is bubbling. Stop stirring and turn down the heat to the lowest setting. (If using an electric cooktop, remove from the heat.)

2) Attach the whisk beater and beat the egg whites on medium-high speed just until almost stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly (they should curve slightly).

3) Increase the heat on the cooktop and boil the syrup until an instant-read thermometer registers 248˚ to 250˚F/120˚C. Immediately pour the syrup into the glass measure to stop the cooking.

4) With the mixer off, pour a small amount of syrup over the whites. Immediately beat on high speed for 5 seconds. Stop the mixer and add one-third of the syrup. Beat on high speed for 5 seconds. Add the remaining syrup in two parts, with the mixer off between additions. For the last addition, use a silicone scraper to remove the syrup clinging to the glass measure and scrape it against the beater.

5) Continue beating on medium speed for 2 minutes or until the outside of the bowl is no longer hot to the touch. Then use the whisk beater to fold it into the batter. Use a silicone spatula to reach to the bottom of the bowl to finish folding.

6) Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface evenly.

Bake the Cheesecake

7) Set the pan into the larger pan and surround it with 1 inch of very hot water. Add about 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar to the water and stir to dissolve it. (This will prevent discoloration of the aluminum pan.) Bake for 25 minutes. For even baking, rotate the pan halfway around. Continue baking for 25 minutes (30 minutes if using the silicone pan). Turn off the oven without opening the door and let the cake cool for 1 hour. When moved the center will jiggle slightly. (Alternatively, bake for 1 hour plus 10 minutes until the center tests 147°F. The center bounces back when lightly pressed and it jiggles even in the center.) The edges will have little cracks and be browned.

Cool and Chill the Cheesecake

7) Remove the pan from the water bath but leave the silicone pan or foil in place to contain any liquid that may seep from the cake. Set it on a wire rack to cool to room temperature or just warm, 1 to 2 hours. To absorb condensation, place a paper towel, curved side down, over the pan with the ends overhanging. Place an inverted plate, larger than the springform pan, on top of the paper towel.

8) Refrigerate the cheesecake for 8 hours or overnight, still covered with the paper towel and plate.

Unmold the Cheesecake

9) Remove the plate and paper towel. Use a small propane torch or wipe the sides of the pan several times with a towel that has been run under hot water and wrung out. Release the sides of the springform pan. If the sides of the cheesecake are uneven, run a small metal spatula under hot water and use it to smooth them.

10) This delicate cake is best left on the pan bottom of the springform.

11) Cut with a wet knife that has been run under hot water between each slice and wiped clean with a paper towel.

Store Airtight: refrigerated, 3 days; do not freeze, as the texture will become less smooth.