- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My memory might fail me on some fronts but never when it comes to an impressive dish. If I have tasted something special in a restaurant or at a friend’s home, I tend to remember it vividly and can still taste it in my mind, even several years later.

Take, for example, the exquisite lemon cheesecake my pal Lisa Baskin served at an open house almost two years ago. From the first bite I took of this ethereally rich and creamy confection, I was smitten. Within minutes I was in the kitchen pleading for the recipe. Although I went home that day with the directions for this scrumptious dessert, I filed them away and didn’t look at them again until recently.

I was trying to decide what to serve to end a Memorial Day cookout when that tart lemony dessert came to mind. I pulled out the recipe and started baking. Although the original version didn’t call for a crust, I created an easy one using purchased biscotti, and while my friend had baked her batter in a souffle dish, I opted for a traditional springform pan.

The results were as good as I had recalled. The cheesecake was silken-smooth and boasted a perfect balance of citrus and sweet flavorings. One thing I noticed as I assembled this cheesecake was that the batter needs a lot of beating with an electric mixer.

First, the cream cheese is beaten several minutes, then heavy cream is added, and the mixture is beaten some more. Next, lemon zest and sugar are added slowly, and finally lemon juice, eggs and vanilla are incorporated. All this beating results in a beautiful texture when the cake is baked.

Like most cheesecakes, this one must be made ahead (a day in advance is perfect) so there is no last-minute fuss, and it serves a crowd — two big advantages for those searching for a memorable dessert to serve on this holiday weekend.

Lemon cheesecake with a biscotti crust

CRUST:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened, plus 2 or more tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 cup finely crushed almond biscotti (about 5 medium)

FILLING:

2 pounds cream cheese, softened at room temperature

3/4 cup heavy cream

1½ cups sugar

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

6 large eggs, slightly beaten

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Water

2 cups blueberries for garnish

1 small bunch fresh mint

Arrange a rack at center position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with the softened butter. Wrap the bottom and sides of the pan tightly with a double thickness of aluminum foil.

Have ready a large baking pan that will accommodate the springform pan.

Place crushed biscotti in the prepared springform pan. Add 2 tablespoons melted butter, mix well, and press onto the bottom of the pan to form an even layer. If the cookie mixture seems too dry, add up to 1 tablespoon additional melted butter. Bake the crust until golden, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool while you prepare the filling.

For filling, with an electric mixer on medium speed (using a flat paddle if you have one), beat cream cheese in a large mixing bowl until smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and beat in the heavy cream until blended, about 1 minute more.

Gradually add the sugar and lemon zest and beat until thoroughly combined, 2 to 3 minutes. If necessary, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

On low speed, beat in the lemon juice, eggs and vanilla until incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes more. Remove bowl from mixer and whisk mixture by hand to remove any remaining lumps. Pour batter into the springform pan and place it in the larger baking pan.

Pour hot or boiling water into the baking pan to a depth of 1 inch. Bake cheesecake until firm, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Then turn off the oven and let cheesecake rest in the oven with the door shut 30 minutes.

Remove cheesecake and cool on a rack. Cover and refrigerate until cheesecake is well chilled and set, at least 6 hours or overnight. With a sharp knife, loosen the cheesecake from the sides of the pan, then remove the sides.

Place the cheesecake on a serving plate and garnish the center with a few blueberries and a mint sprig. Place remaining blueberries in a bowl and garnish each serving with some blueberries and a mint sprig. Makes 12 servings.

Betty Rosbottom is a cooking school director and author of “Big Book of Backyard Cooking” (Chronicle Books).

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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