I actually made this recipe quite awhile ago, but I was waiting for the right time to share it with you. Um, wait. That's actually a lie. Two lies in fact.
Lets start again: First, I didn't really make this recipe alone, in fact it wasn't even my idea. This cheesecake is inspired by a version from Extraordinary Desserts, and the brilliant thought to recreate it at home came from my friend's boyfriend, Jeff. So second, I wasn't really waiting for the right time to share this with you; I was merely holding out until I could pay my most favorite dessert restaurant another visit. Which I just did, and I blogged about it, and seem to be continuing to shamelessly promote it. It is my favorite place, can you blame me?
So anyway, this cheesecake idea seems to have been born when dear Jeffery chose to have the lemon meringue cheesecake from Extraordinary Desserts. The heavens opened, pure sugary sunshine shone down on him, and it was love at first sight (or bite, I suppose). And although he didn't consciously realize it at the time, I believe the sneaky sweet spot in his brain started setting a plan in motion so he could enjoy it at home.
Time went on, as time does, and Jeffrey pined away after his cheesecake. But since he is a manly man, the pining really didn't last that long and he quickly took action. One day, I got a phone call from my friend Jenn, saying, "Hey you should come over, Jeff wants to make this cheesecake. He is really serious about it." And let me tell you, she was not kidding. After talking over this grand cheesecake venture with Jeff, I realized two things: he is really obsessed with cheesecake (I find this awesome), and he also painstakingly and strategically planned how he would create the perfect lemon meringue cheesecake.
Before even calling me, he had made at least two trial versions which were some mixture of success and failure; as a result, ingredients, measurements, and baking times were tweaked accordingly. The cheesecake recipe itself is a family treasure from his aunt, and according to Jeff, "It is the shit." (After tasting it, I have to agree with him. It is the shit.) He adapted the meringue from a Paula Deen version by upping the sugar a bit to balance the tartness of lemon in the cheesecake. Then there was the question of baking temperature and timing to allow the cheesecake to be cooked through as well as the meringue to set... Eventually he finally settled on a recipe that he was convinced could rival even the one from Extraordinary desserts.
I have to say, I was thoroughly impressed. I previously thought it was mostly food bloggers and chefs who have the dedication (read obsession) with recipes and baking to endlessly pursue perfection in the guise of sugar and flour. Clearly I was wrong, since both Jeff and Jenn have proved themselves to be bona fide foodies and wannabe chefs.
I bet you are wondering, was the lemon meringue cheesecake project a success? Hands-down, this dessert was knock-your-socks off good. Everything about it was amazing! The cheesecake was dense and creamy, the meringue had lift and the perfect pillowy texture, and the flavor was spot-on: Just sweet enough without being cloying, and the lemon flavor was prominent but not overpowering. Extraordinary desserts watch out. Here comes Jeff!
So, who here thinks that I should make Jeff my go-to man for cheesecake recipes? I do! I am trying to talk him into doing a little guest post here, but he says he will only do it if I take the photos for him. He recently made a banana cheesecake with chocolate ganache and peanut butter frosting. I am drooling. I think I will make a deal with him and pack my camera next time he bakes.
Lemon Meringue Cheesecake, Inspired by Extraordinary Desserts
Adapted from a Jeff's recipe for Northwest Cheesecake Supreme and The Food Network
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
2, 8oz packages of cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbsp flour
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tbsp vanilla
2 1/2 tbsp lemon juice, plus zest of 2 lemons
3 egg whites
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Crush graham cracker crumbs in a thick plastic bag, or use a food processor to grind them to a fine crumb. Combine with sugar and unsalted butter to mix well, and press graham cracker crust onto the bottom of a 9" round springform pan. Bake 10 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. (Crust can be made ahead of time and cooled.) Immediately reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
Meanwhile, make cheesecake filling. Combine cream cheese, sugar, and flour in the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat at medium speed until well mixed. Add eggs, one at time, mixing well after each addition. Blend in sour cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest, and pour entire mixture over cooled graham cracker crust. Bake at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour and 15 minutes. During this baking time, make the meringue topping. Whip the egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Add the sugar and beat again to peaks. Set aside, in the refrigerator if possible.
After the cheesecake has baked for 1 hour and 15 minutes, and you have made the meringue, remove the cheesecake from the oven and increase the temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread the meringue on top of the cheesecake, all the way to the edges, and create a decorative swirl pattern or peaks. Put the cheesecake back in the oven to bake for an additional 15 minutes at 325 degrees. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack at room temperature. Loosen cake from rim of pan, and then chill until serving.