Do you know what I mean when I say, when you live abroad there are some things you miss with every fiber of your being? Things that end up being 100% wrapped up in the definition of the word “homesick?” Do you know what I mean when I say, “cheesecake?”
Cheesecake is an obsession for most of my family. It is omnipresent at every family get-together, no matter how small (I think this is rooted in some deep-seeded loyalty to Philadelphia Cream Cheese, but I don’t have any proof).
So imagine my surprise when I arrived in France and not only is there no cheesecake… but there’s no Philadelphia cream cheese! It was very, very worrying.
Thankfully, a few years ago some of the large Parisian grocery chains began importing Philadelphia. Now, you can find it in almost any grocery store. Yes, it’s slightly more expensive, but it IS available and it HAS changed everything. There’s even a cheesecake shop in Paris now, called She’s Cake.
I haven’t yet been to She’s Cake because… well, because I know I already have the best recipe: my grandmother’s. And I’m going to share this easy recipe with you because I want cheesecake to spread throughout France, far and wide!
Now, although Philadelphia cream cheese is finally in France, good luck finding Graham crackers in any but the most expensive ex-pat stores. So, I improvised. It’s all below:
- 20 crushed Graham crackers (or: Saint-Saveur Breton Galettes)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 1 lb cream cheese(450 g)
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 tsp vanilla
- 1 pint (16oz, 2 cups, 450g) sour cream
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
1. Grind your cookies!
I used a French cookie called Saint Sauveur – they’re a typically Breton cookie. Look for any cookie that is called a “Galette Bretonne” and you should be just fine. These were a little bit hardier than Graham crackers, but the taste isn’t too different and they made for a delicious crust.
Before we begin – preheat your oven to 375 F 190c.
Crush your Graham crackers/Breton cookies under a cup until you have a sand-like consistency in the crumbs. Pour the crumbs into a bowl and mix in the other crust ingredients. This part is the most delicious part of the recipe, in my opinion. So much so, that I always eat a spoonful or two (I’m sorry, grandma… quality control!).
2. Pack your crust
Pour the crust mixture into a spring-form mold and press down to tightly pack the crust. I used a glass to do this. A well-packed crust ensures that it doesn’t crumble into a pile when you serve the cheesecake.
Note: spring-form pans are pretty easy to find in Paris (I even saw one at Monoprix), but I didn’t have one. So I used my quiche mold, lined with buttered parchment paper and foil so that I’d be able to pull the cooked cheesecake out easily. This worked totally fine! So if you don’t have a spring-form pan… don’t worry, there is always a creative solution waiting for you.
Bake crust for 8 minutes at 375 F. You can start on step 3 at this point. When the 8 minutes are up, just take the crust out of the oven and set it aside.
3. Make the cheesecake batter
Combine all of the cheesecake ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix with an electric hand mixer or stand mixer until smooth. Don’t have an electric mixer? Guess you’ll be working those biceps, then…
When the mixture is smooth and homogeneous, pour it on top of the pre-cooked crust, and bake for 20 minutes (really more like 30, still a bit goopy inside). In the meantime you can make the topping.
4. The finishing touch
Turn your oven up to 475 F 245c. Pour that delicious, delicious topping mixture on top of the cheesecake and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the cheesecake from the oven to let cool before taking it out of the mold.
Since I didn’t use a springform pan, my edges were a little messy – a quick run around with a sharp knife fixed that right up. Was pretty yummy, too.
I had a leftover orange-chocolate sauce from some eclairs I made last week so… I drizzled some of that on top. You could also top this cheesecake with fresh fruits (blueberries, strawberries…), or with a fruit sauce (basically mashed up fruits with some sugar, heated). Honestly though, the best is just to eat it plain.
Cheesecake is coming to get you, France!