Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cottage Cheesecake

Back to the great Cheesecake Experiment! This is the third cheesecake I have made in the past thirteen months. Deluxe and Evelyn's are cream cheese cheesecakes. This one is, as the name would indicate, made with cottage cheese. Lacking test kitchens and a food chemist I cannot give you a calorie count, but it stands to reason that a cheesecake containing a pound and a half of cottage cheese has fewer calories than one made with either 32 or 40 ounces of cream cheese.
Cheesecake of any kind is time consuming. It ties up the oven for over two hours. Make it the night before so you don't get jammed up the way I did. We invited some old friends from the neighborhood, who have since moved to Montgomery County and a friend from school and her husband to dinner. I had planned to make as many dishes as possible from the cookbook, and settled on three, avocado soup, cheesecake and roast chicken with cornbread stuffing.
Close students of the cookbook will realize that avocados do not grow in New England and cornbread isn't a staple food of that region either.
It's the old shellfish conundrum. Bill and Liz, the old friends from the neighborhood, had a summer house on the Cape and thus were prime candidates for lobster. But, when I invited Delilah, my friend from school and her husband, they didn't eat shellfish. Good, my husband, who doesn't eat it either, and probably doesn't like to have to cook his own dinner at the last moment before a dinner party, said.
Anyhow, when I settled down to cook Saturday afternoon, I should have made the cornbread for the stuffing first. Then, the cheesecake could have tied up the oven to its heart's content. But I didn't. I made the cheesecake first. The cheesecake proved to be a time consuming project even before it got into the oven. Number one, it requires zwieback.
Zwieback, we are told by that essential Internet resource, Wikkipedia, means twice baked. It is a kind of sweet bread made for children and invalids that is baked once, sliced and baked again. I remember it mentioned in novels of the 30s and earlier as food for babies. However, tracking it down can be tough. It's not available at the Safeway in Potomac, where I do some minor shopping on my way home from the stable, and it's not available at Whole Foods, where I encountered the polite, "I have no idea what you are talking about, but I will do my best to be helpful," response from the staff.
Apparently quite a few people want zwieback, some of them for cheesecake recipes, because a post on some kind of Internet site not affiliated with Nabisco received 68 entries from people who had scoured the shelves at their local markets asking for it. One person reported that they had called Nabisco and been told it was discontinued in 2007.
If you must have zwieback, you may buy it in bulk from Amazon (?) ( I thought they sold books.) for $27.60 for ten 8 ounce packs of a German brand. Gerber, the baby food company, also makes zwieback, but it wasn't available in the baby aisle at Safeway or Whole Foods.
So, after making two stops, I said the hell with zwieback and used graham cracker crumbs. Another time devouring aspect of the recipe is having to mush the cottage cheese through a sieve to smooth it out. My husband suggested the food mill, which is a cone shaped object with a stand that one uses to make applesauce, tomato sauce and other vegetable concoctions. Always being one to ignore helpful suggestions, I tried using the hand held strainer. Not terribly easy. He was right. The food mill was easier, but once I forced all the liquid out of the cottage cheese, I was left with a mass of curds, which I just dumped in with the strained cottage cheese. Then, as you will see, you have to separate three eggs and beat first the yolks and then the whites.
On my first foray into egg separating, I got egg yolk in with the whites, and had to dump the whites. Then, I successfully separated three egg whites, but discovered after I beat them into the desired consistency, that they tasted like soap. I thought about not dumping the beaten whites, but decided that soap would not be a harmonious flavor for cheesecake, so I beat them a third time. The third time I hit the jackpot. Beaten egg whites without soap! At that point it was around 3:30 and the cheesecake had to bake for an hour and a half and then sit in the oven for 45 minutes.
At 5:00 when the baking process was supposed to be over, my husband suggested I test the cheesecake with a knife to see if it was done. Do not do this. It makes it fall. It wasn't done, so, needing the oven and feeling somewhat frantic, I jacked up the oven to 350 and stuck the cheesecake back in. The final product was tasty and well received, but with the egg whites and the whipped cream, it was probably supposed to be more of a souffle and less of a cheesecake. What I got was more cheesecaky and not at all souffle-y. So, start the night before, and be patient. Follow the directions.

Cottage Cheese Cheesecake

16 zwieback (graham crackers) crushed into crumbs
1/4 cup butter melted
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs separated
1/4 cup of flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds small curd cottage cheese forced through a sieve
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream whipped

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
2. Combine the zwieback (graham cracker) crumbs and one-quarter cup of the sugar. Press half the mixture into bottom of a buttered nine-inch spring-form pan.
3. Beat the egg yolks until thick.(This takes about 2 minutes.) Add the flour, salt, cottage cheese, lemon rind, lemon juice, and three-quarters cup of the remaining sugar. Mix well.
4. Beat the egg whites until foamy. (Omit the soap.) Gradually add remaining sugar. Beat until stiff. Fold with the whipped cream into cheese mixture. Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle with remaining crumbs. Bake one and one half hours, or until set.
5. Turn off the oven heat and allow cake to remain forty-five minutes in oven with door ajar. Cool on a rack. Chill.
Serves 8.

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