This is the first in a series of articles I am sharing with you entitled, “Coffee with friends.” It is my goal to not only introduce you to some of the fascinating people that I am blessed to call friends but allow you to gather some wonderful Christmas recipes.
I am pleased to introduce you today to my friend, Judy Sullivan, from Chatham, New York. Judy is a plant propagator at Project Native, a native plant nursery in nearby Massachusetts. She describes herself as the “Head of Obstetrics and Pediatrics!” She is manic about native plants describing it as “both vocation and avocation.”
My famous friend
Judy is very well-respected and actually quite famous in New England. (You can Google “Judy Sullivan plants.”) My husband and I enjoy listening to Judy when she appears on radio programs which we stream live through our computer. She has a quirky sense of humor and a very upbeat way of explaining everything, and she loves to manipulate words to get an intended effect.
We get a charge out of the little remarks that Judy makes on the radio about something plant-related in “Tennessee ” to acknowledge our listening. My husband is the plant person at our house, and he usually has to translate much of what Judy is talking about to me!
Let them eat cheesecake
I would not classify Judy as one of my cooking friends, and I don’t even know how much real cooking she does. She will sometimes mention a meal of candy and chips of some kind. She can bake, though, and she can bake well. For instance, she mentions a “bain marie” not being required for this recipe. What in the world is a “bain marie” anyway, you probably ask! Judy explains that it is a water bath.
When Judy bakes, she bakes a lot, and cheesecakes and such are her specialty. Her mother taught her to only bake from scratch, so she is hours in the kitchen when she bakes anything. And, the kitchen is usually worse for the wear! After one baking marathon, the kitchen was so disheveled and piled with pots, pans, dishes, bowls, and batter that they couldn’t get in there to eat for a few days!
She explains some of her cooking “disasters” for us:`
Of course, most people are more accomplished bakers, and I strive to prove this by including at least one disaster per baking session. Forgetting at least one ingredient in the batter; a cooling rack that collapses and slides the cake into the garbage; tripping on a rough walkway and launching a key lime pie full force into a minivan full of shower gifts… These are but a few such events.
Judy refers to this cheesecake as “Noo Yawk style,” but I have persuaded her to visit with us later to share her “Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake with a Ganache Topping.”
- Cream Cheese: 5 (8 oz.) bricks of real cream cheese, no substitutions
- Sugar: 1 3/4 cups sugar
- Flour: 3 Tablespoons
- Eggs: 5 eggs + 2 egg yolks
- Lemon Zest or Orange zest: 1 Tablespoon (optional)
- Heavy Cream: 1/4 cup
- Vanilla: 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. vanilla (Use 1/4 if you add the optional zest, 1/2 if you don’t)
Crust ingredients for 9″ by 11″ pan or two 9″spring form pans
- Graham Crackers: 2 1/2 cups of crumbs
- Sugar: 1/4 cup
- Melted butter: 1/2 cup
For the 9 x 11, preheat to 450 degrees (yes that’s right). For the spring form, preheat to 550.
- Mix crumbs and sugar into the butter.
- Press into pan, but do not use a non-stick pan or the crust will burn.
Make Cheesecake filling:
- With your mixer on low-ish speed, mix cream cheese, sugar, and flour. Scrape the bowl often to get those big lumps mixed in.
- Add the vanilla and the zest (optional) and the cream (optional, but I think it adds a bit more moisture).
- Mix the eggs in one at a time. Again, keep the mixer on a lower setting.
- Using a 9 x 11″ baking pan or the 9″ spring form (It’ll hit the top on the spring form,) Pour the batter into pan and place in the oven that’s been preheated to either 450 or 550. I’d suggest tenting a piece of heavy duty foil over the top for the first 10 min. It tends to get a little brown.
- After 10 min, or as soon as the top puffs a bit, remove the foil and lower the temp to 250 for the 9×11 pan or 200 for the spring form. Bake for 1 hour. If your oven is well insulated, you may have to open it once for a couple of seconds during baking to let a little heat out.
- This one doesn’t do the clean knife test. “When done, it should still be a little jiggly in the middle when you turn on the oven light and shake the oven,” Judy explains. You can let it cool a bit in the oven with the door slightly ajar. If you don’t care about cracking, don’t worry.
- Cool and put in the fridge overnight. All cheesecakes are better after 24 hours!!
Judy’s tips for a New York Style Cheesecake:
- Bring your ingredients to room temperature first.
- Don’t mix on high speed, or else there will be too much air incorporated, making it too light.
She also shares her favorite quick and easy raspberry topping recipe:
Thaw a bag or two of raspberries (I always use at least 2. I could eat this stuff with a spoon!) Puree in the blender, add sugar to taste. Stir it through a screen if you don’t want the seeds.