Ina Garten's Raspberry Cheesecake

I've noticed that a lot of people are talking about why they cook. I first noticed this back in November when I read Adam Gopnik's piece in The New Yorker, What's the Recipe?. I wanted to mention it a while ago, but realized that I didn't really know how I felt about it. He seemed to come to a kind of cynical conclusion on what we get out of cookbooks: "We reanimate our passions by imagining the possibilities, and the act of wanting ends up mattering more than the fact of getting. It’s not the false hope that it will turn out right that makes us go on with our reading but our being resigned to the knowledge that it won’t ever, quite." Back in November was pre-my minor announcement (that I've kind of fallen in love with most things culinary) and I think I sort of liked that Gopnik was getting all grumpy about failed attempts at recipes: "Anyone who cooks knows that it is in following recipes that one first learns the anticlimax of the actual, the perpetual disappointment of the thing achieved."

But then, as we all now know, I've sort of turned a corner and started to embrace the misadventures, the complexity, and even the often called for gadgetry of certain recipes. Speaking of gadgetry, I went to Surfas this past week and got me a springform pan so now I can finally join in on all fun recipes I'd been missing out on. Like, say, Ina Garten's raspberry cheesecake for example.

our version:
Then, a few weeks ago, I was on Ruth Reichl's website and read an entry titled, On Cookbooks, which began, "Rereading Adam Gopnik's New Yorker piece on cookbooks made me mad all over again... Before asking why we read cookbooks, we need to question why we cook in the first place." (At this point, you may want to click over to the entry because I'm about to copy and paste a big chunk of it anyway.) Ruth goes on to describe quite beautifully why she cooks:

For me one of the great pleasures of cooking is that nothing ever turns out the same way twice. Each time you walk into the kitchen you are setting off on an adventure. What will it be like this time? Will it make people happy?

And that, to me at least, is the crucial question. Gopnik seems to cook for himself; for him it is an act of wanting. I cook for other people, and to me, cooking is an act of giving. When I leaf through cookbooks or magazines I am imagining all the people who will be sitting around my table, and I am looking for food that will make them happy.

In the end it is their pleasure that will take me back to the kitchen for the next experiment. I love the physical act of cooking - the feel of the knife as it slices through the apples, the scent of the onions as they caramelize in butter, the moment when the cake comes sashaying out of the oven. But more than that, I love to watch as everybody takes the first bite, and then, hurriedly, another. And another.
Blame it on my slight obsession with Ms. Reichl, but I like her thought process and conclusion best.

Things came full circle when I happened upon Michael Ruhlman's blog entry on why he cooks, which was finally straightforward enough to get me thinking about why I cook instead of thinking about how much I like reading the aforementioned pieces. (Rulhman actually out and out asks bloggers to write about why they cook.)
So, apart from my love of taking aerial food shots, why do I cook?
Well, first and foremost, I cook because I love to eat. That one is easy. And I wish I could copy Ruth and say that the second reason was to make people happy, but that's not really a main objective for me. I mean, I'm just not confident enough of a cook to derive too much pleasure from cooking for people that aren't Matt. With that said, I would have to say the other main reason I cook is for the sense of accomplishment, the pleasure in the finished product, which of course increases with the difficulty level of the recipe. This is kinda obvious/how this blog got started in the first place, no?
And while I'm talking about why I cook, I should mention that Matt made this cheesecake. And it was insane--the creamiest cheesecake I've ever had I think. And Ina is right, it doesn't crack on the top so that you can serve it plain, though, as Ina would say and in fact does say in the book version of the recipe: "The fresh raspberries are so delicious on top, though, why would you want to?" (For some more fun with Ina-esque catchphrases, click here. And much thanks to Heather for leading me to these great works of video montage.)

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (10 crackers)
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 whole extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the topping:
1 cup red jelly (not jam), such as currant, raspberry, or strawberry
3 half-pints fresh raspberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
To make the crust, combine the graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter until moistened. Pour into a 9-inch springform pan. With your hands, press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and about 1-inch up the sides. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.

To make the filling, cream the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and add the eggs and egg yolks, 2 at a time, mixing well. Scrape down the bowl and beater, as necessary. With the mixer on low, add the sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly and pour into the cooled crust.

Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 225 degrees F and bake for another 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and open the door wide. The cake will not be completely set in the center. Allow the cake to sit in the oven with the door open for 30 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and allow it to sit at room temperature for another 2 to 3 hours, until completely cooled. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the cake from the springform pan by carefully running a hot knife around the outside of the cake. Leave the cake on the bottom of the springform pan for serving.

To make the topping, melt the jelly in a small pan over low heat. In a bowl, toss the raspberries and the warm jelly gently until well mixed. Arrange the berries on top of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Note: Measure your springform pan. The bottom of mine measures 9 inches, but it says 9 1/2. I put the springform pan on a sheet pan before putting it in the oven to catch any leaks.
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Mary Anne said...

how did i beat Matt to the comments?? Is it because Matt made the cake? It looks beautiful!

I love this post, Amelia! I definitely cook for the sense of accomplishment too. But also for the discovery--discovery of interesting new ingredients, new combinations, new and unusual things to hunt down, trips to the market that end in me catching dead fish with the fishmongers, learning what to do with squid ink, learning how to pickle or candy something (not that i've done either yet--heh heh), wondering what i could do with prosciutto ends or argan oil, and on and on and on. So much fun!

Matthew said...

Great post Amerz. Making that cheese cake was a lot of fun. I like to cook for all the reasons Mary Anne listed (I can't believe she beat me to the first comment), but also because it can be a major stress reliever.

amelia said...

Mary Anne: ahh yes, the discovery! (btw, still havent been able to find perail.) And argan oil?? Got to Google that now.

Matt: Cooking as stress reliever? I agree presuming we have the ingredients on hand. :)

Mary Anne said...

Good call, Matt-- total stress reliever for me too.

Wendi said...

Great post. The cheesecake looks perfect. Why do I cook? Because my husband can't.

Andrea said...

Great post! The cheesecake looks yum-bers.

I like all the reasons for cooking that have been expressed here.

Jessica said...

Wow -- that cheesecake looks amazing! I gotta say, I'm a fan of Gopnik's New Yorker column and I get what he's saying in the article. For me, cooking is pretty much about the journey and hope that it will look and taste as good as the pictures in the magazines, but it rarely (never) does for me. This cheesecake on the other hand...

Neal said...

I love this post.

I like to cook because it lets me spend time assisting my wife with her passion.

amelia said...

Wendi and Neal: both great spousal-related reasons! :)

Alex said...

I eat therefore I cook! Cooking for friends and being fed by friends is a delight as well.

Heather Taylor said...

i've been thinking about this all week and doing everything in my power not to pick up the phone and ask if there's any left. SOOOOOO GOOOOOOOD.

Wendy Jung said...

I had the great fortune of eating this cheese cake. It was the BEST cheese cake I have ever eaten EVER. My mouth is watering just thinking of it. I want one for my birthday.

Marsha and Mark said...

Please ship one Raspberry Cheesecake to Pittsburgh. We will pay top dollar. We agree with Andrea, it looks yum-bers.

Mary Ann said...

I absolutely love your blog! It's so honest and I love it. This cheesecake looks unreal.