Monday, March 30, 2009

The Pantry Luxury: Three-Ingredient Cheesecake


Well, I lied.

I know I said Burning Pasta was done with heavy food for a while.

I know I said Burning Pasta had featured too many desserts recently.

I know I said Burning Pasta would be featuring more Spring-inspired dishes, that it was time for vinegar, and vegetables, and fresh-mown grass with puppies rolling around in it or some other sort of rhetorical ridiculousness.

All those things are true, but the fact of the matter is that this dessert, this cheesecake, is so easy, so fast, and so versatile that it would have been cruel to deny you its pleasures until the fall just because of some arbitrary editorial stubbornness.

This is the real thing -- homemade cheesecake -- without a bain-marie, containing a fraction of the fat, and with ingredients that you either already have, or will be easy to keep on hand in your house. Let's get to it.

Three-Ingredient Cheesecake
Makes one nine-inch cake

1 prepared nine-inch Graham Cracker pie shell

1 Eight-ounce package of Cream Cheese
1 Fourteen-ounce can of Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 Large Egg

[Editor's Note: The best part of this recipe is how flexible it is, how many varieties you can make -- but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's make the base batter first.]

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Gather your cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, and egg.

Put the cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, and egg until into a bowl.


Wow. That was hard.

For a traditional New York-style cheesecake, finish the batter with 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon of lemon zest.

What about variations, you ask? Easy. You can either blend the entire batter or split your batter into two parts for a "swirl" effect. What to flavor it with? Try any of the following:

Adding 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder = Black and White Cheesecake

Adding 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder + 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract = Mint Chocolate Cheesecake

Adding 1/2 cup Creamy Peanut Butter = Peanut Butter Cheesecake

Adding 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder + 1/2 cup Peanut Butter = Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

1/2 cup Nutella + 1 Tablespoon Frangelico (optional) = Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake

Adding 1/2 cup either strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or pitted cherries = Strawberry, Blueberry, Raspberry, or Cherry Cheesecake

On this particular day, I had a spare Kabocha Pumpkin lying around.

The Kabocha (file photo here) is a small Japanese squash varietal with a green exterior and bright, bold orange flesh. It's very similar to the traditional orange Jack O' Lantern variety (Editor's note: What do you want? I don't know what it's actually called!), but it has slightly richer, sweeter flesh.

We had one lying around from a late January farmshare delivery (they last forever), and hadn't used it yet. I decided to make a Kabocha Cheesecake. I split it in half, seeded it, roasted it at 400 degrees F until it was tender.

Next, I scooped the guts out, and blended it into my batter with a teaspoon of cinnamon and a half-teaspoon of nutmeg. The cake should be baked in a preheated 325 degree F oven for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until the middle is just set.

When you take your cheesecake out of the oven, it will have a light, slightly fluffy texture. The key to achieving the thick, creamy cheesecake body we all know and love is achieved by refrigerating the still-warm cake for no less than one hour (the longer the better). This "crash-cooling" process will allow the cake to settle and "collapse" into the familiar, dense mouthfeel we're looking for.

A few pictures of the final product:

Fool-proof cheesecake. What more do you want?

Music: Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby -- "Cheesecake"


  1. You've made it too easy. If I gain one pound...

  2. I think I could make this without utterly destroying it. Yay!

  3. i tried this recipe a while ago except i made my own graham cracker crust and i threw in some blueberries and it turned out amazing. My whole family loved it this is definitely going down as one of my favorites.


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