The difference in produce between the Northwest United States and the Southwest United States is that in the Northwest, in the humidity, it is a natural area to grow fresh, plump and juicy raspberries. The Northwest has nutrient rich soil, ample sun, and humidity. The Southwest is very arid. It's different because, unless they are in a controlled environment, raspberry bushes naturally don't do well here.
Fresh foods are expensive in the Southwest because they are perishable. With the dry heat, imported foods mold quickly. Raspberries are no exception. Raspberries only have a shelf life of a few days. My rule is buy the produce and use it the day of because there's nothing worse than purchasing fresh fruits and fresh vegetables just to see them go bad (what a shame, what a waste). Here in the Southwest, most perishable goods have to be used immediately. These raspberries were used the day of purchase. Though these raspberries were purchased at the supermarket, I personally sorted through and hand picked the very best raspberries for this recipe.
Homemade Awesome Raspberry Cheesecake
10 Honey Graham cracker 10x4 squares each broken
4 Tbsp Butter or Margarine
2 packages of Philadelphia Cream Cheese
1 8oz package of Daisy Sour Cream
1 cup C&H Pure Cane Sugar
1 Tbsp Pure Vanilla
1 1/2 cups of fresh Raspberries
2 cups of water
1/2 cup C&H Pure Cane Sugar
1 Tbsp Cornstarch
Whipped Cream or Heavy Cream/Cool Whip (which ever is preferred)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Graham Cracker Crust:
I didn't do anything fancy. For this part, the graham crackers I bought were the equivalent of a honey graham. I tasted them, and they were plenty sweet. I did not add sugar. I recommend tasting the graham crackers first, and if they are sweet, leave them alone, but if the crackers are flavorless, add sugar. Mine were fine as is. I did not add any sugar.
We need some melted butter. I used the microwave to melt the butter because that was the fastest and easiest way. The stove top works fine too so long as the butter is melted.
Now we are going to add the graham cracker crumbs into a bowl and pour the butter over the top. I'm going to stir these two ingredients together.
Now I take a pie pan and push the graham cracker crust against the side of the pie pan. To create the graham cracker crust, I started out using a spoon. The spoon started to make holes it it so I used my fingers to build the crust. It seemed more logical to work my way around. I have about half of it the way I want. I worked the other half so that both were consistent.
Here are some of my most important ingredients, cream cheese and sour cream.
Let's not forget organic eggs and pure cane sugar.
I opened the cream cheese and I get these two beautiful white blocks of cream cheese. I put them into my mixing bowl.
I added a small 8 oz. container of sour cream.
I added 1 cup of C&H Sugar.
Mmm.. Vanilla... When I added the vanilla, I added 1 Tbsp. Some people would say that's too much, and I would argue, "No it's not! You can never get enough vanilla..." When I added this ingredient, it turned my mixture more brown. At first I thought I must have made some sort of mistake because cheesecake is traditionally white. Keep stirring. Keep blending. The color of the vanilla will dissolve. If the mixture turns brown because of the vanilla, it's okay, don't stress. It's supposed to be that way.
Something is missing? OMG! I forgot the eggs.
I blended this by hand. Forget body building, trying to muscle and stir cream cheese chunks down into a fine consistency took every ounce of arm strength and would probably break every gear in your blender. This was the especially hard part of making a cheesecake. I started to stir the ingredients together with a spatula and once the ingredients were broken down enough, I started to use a wire whisk.
The hard part about blending a cheesecake is that there is a stopping point. If you blend the ingredients too much, it can cause the cheesecake to crack. It's alright to leave some lumpiness to the batter. It will actually turn out a little better if you leave the lumps. At this point, I took a spoon and tasted it. If you follow my recipe, this cheesecake mix is absolutely delicious.
I poured by cheesecake mixture into the pie pan over the crust. The texture of the cheesecake appears to be a little lumpy, but when it cooks, it will flatten out and become smooth on the top.
Bake in the oven at 350 Fahrenheit for 35-45 minutes (mine took 40 minutes).
Oven tip: When cooking the cheesecake, leave a pan of water in the lower rack 1/4 of the way full of water in the oven. The humidity will make the cheesecake lighter and fluffier.
The cheesecake filling should be starting to turn slightly golden brown around the rim edges. I checked mine, and it was a little loose in the center, and that's okay. Once the cheesecake is pulled from the oven, it should be refrigerated 4-8 hours. When the cheesecake is cooling, it will harden on it's own so don't stress. If your cheesecake still looks a little like a pudding cake, it's alright, it will harden in the refrigerator.
This was my favorite part. There's nothing I love more than a good sauce over the top. It just makes everything taste better. When I was little, I lived in Northern California during the harvest times. We used to pick fresh raspberries and fresh blackberries off the vine. My mom would can various types of berry jams, a combination of blackberry and raspberry (razzleberry jam). Making this part takes me back to when I would watch my mom cooking in the kitchen.
I have 1 1/2 cups of raspberries. I picked through and found the best berries in the bunch. I also set some of the berries to the side just so that I could cook some of the berries for the sauce, and have some fresh berries left out for garnish.
I had 1 cup of sugar so I filled this half cup up twice.
I heated up two cups of water. I wanted the water warm so that it would dissolve the sugar. I poured my cup of sugar into the pan, and as you can see from the bubbles in the bottom of the pan, the water was quite warm when the sugar was poured. The sugar dispersed quickly.
Now one of my favorite parts, pouring the raspberries in. Raspberries are so tart, I'm glad I used a little extra sugar. It balances out the flavor. From some of the pics, it doesn't look like I have enough raspberries, but I will tell you, raspberries are very red and flavorful. A little bit of raspberries goes a long way. Here I go pouring the raspberries in.
I added a Tablespoon of cornstarch. Cornstarch is not my favorite to work with. It's flavorless and bulky. I don't like adding any more of this than I absolutely have to. It doesn't look right. It looks like powdered sugar, but it's not. The reason why cornstarch is needed for this recipe is for thickening. I prefer a thinner, sweeter raspberry sauce.
Look at all the beautiful colors. Stirring the cornstarch and sugar with the raspberries over heat turned the liquid part to a nice pink. I love watching the transformation of the colors. I keep stirring because I don't want this to stick or burn. I want it to turn to a nice syrup texture.
Here is the break down. After a few minutes on the heat, the raspberries will start to break apart, and that's okay. I used my spoon to stir and to break the berries down. Each picture is a gradual step towards the end result. It should end up a jam consistency.
At the end of cooking your raspberry sauce, you have a difficult choice. Your choice is to strain the raspberry sauce and remove the seeded parts or to leave it as is. I asked Nicole what she wanted to do, and she said, "I don't want ANY sauce!" So that made it even more difficult for me because now I have no feedback, no input, and I have to decide what I want to do?
I don't mind the raspberry seeds. I like them. I think it's healthier to leave them in. It's not a store bought syrup; this is homemade, and I should enjoy it. There's nothing I like more than a real, natural raspberry sauce. I'm going to leave it as it is.
This is a side view of the cheesecake. It's consistency is a little bit moist. With the moisture in the flavor, the taste is deceivingly light. I believe this was from placing a pan of water in the lower rack of the oven while cooking the cheesecake; without it, most likely the cheescake would be more dense. There is a slight brown color to the rim edges, and that's a good sign that the cheesecake was fully cooked. Look at how springy the texture of the cake is. Before I put it in the refrigerator, it looked like pudding, and now it's solidifying.
This is a plain slice of my Homemade Awesome Raspberry Cheesecake, and if you just like cheescake, you can eat it this way, just like this, plain. I know plenty of people like it this way. I like to dress it up a little.
I added a few spoonfuls of raspberry sauce. It thickened very nicely, and has a jam-like consistency. I did not strain it. If I had strained it, there would be no berries, only sauce. I like the berries though too so I left them. The raspberry sauce is very rich. It looks like a murder scene, but it's actually a good thing to put more raspberry sauce. With each bite of cheesecake, a person will be able to have the solidness of the cheesecake and the fluidity of the sauce. They go together well. I particularly liked this raspberry sauce. It's very much like a light and fresh raspberry jam.
Wait a minute though, I'm not finished. I need some whipped cream on top.
I need some raspberries to garnish this dish and make it complete.
Nicole and I go to other cheesecake venues from time to time with friends and family to have a plain piece of cheesecake, and I like restaurant style cheesecakes very much. I asked Nicole what she thought of our cheesecake, and she said our homemade cheesecake was much better than the restaurants. I think there is a difference between a cheesecake that is mass marketed to a home baked cheesecake. The flavors and textures are different. The home baked is fresh. It hasn't been sitting in a box for three days or traveled or worse set in a freezer. The flavors are fresh and the ingredients are fresh. Everything was baked with consideration and care. Even a child can decipher the quality of a food item. Nicole preferred the home baked cheesecake.
To make all of the components of this desert, it took a full day's worth of work so in a way, I think I anyone who is willing to put in that kind of effort into baking has earned the right to have that notoriety. A real cheesecake with all of the components, especially from scratch, it would take a very long time to make. I must say, with every bite, this Homemade Awesome Raspberry Cheesecake was worth the hard work.
I hope I get to make more of these delicious desserts. Until next time...