What better way to celebrate Planet Cheese’s fifth birthday than with a cake? Cheesecake, of course. My favorite recipe (see below) comes from a food-stylist friend; the surface never cracks or sinks, and the texture is dreamy. Serve with a strawberry-rhubarb sauce and just try to stop at one slice.
Cheese has been good to me these past five years, and for years before that. To pay it forward, I’ll be marking Planet Cheese’s birthday by donating to five non-profits doing important work in the cheese or dairy realm. Please join me in supporting one or more of them if you can.
The American Cheese Education Foundation, established by the American Cheese Society, awards scholarships that allow cheesemakers, culinary students, chefs and retailers to attend the annual conference. The conference is a hugely valuable educational and networking opportunity, but many in the industry can’t afford to go.
California Artisan Cheese Guild. The guild supports my state’s artisan cheesemakers with educational activities and holds consumer events to grow the audience for high-quality cheese.
Daphne Zepos Teaching Award. This annual grant covers travel and living expenses for a young person pursuing an educational experience in cheese, typically abroad. The award’s objective is to build a cadre of educators to continue the work of the late Daphne Zepos, a passionate cheese advocate and mentor.
Farms for City Kids Foundation. Since the mid 1990s, this nonprofit has brought thousands of 8- to 12-year-old kids from inner-city schools to Vermont’s Spring Brook Farm for a week-long experience that merges academics with hands-on farming tasks. The youngsters milk cows, make cheese, build self-confidence and learn the power of teamwork.
Oldways Cheese Coalition. In recent years, this arm of the Oldways organization has mustered public support for raw-milk cheeses and traditional cheesemaking practices. It coordinates the annual Raw Milk Cheese Appreciation Day.
I know the next five years will bring many new cheeses and new challenges. Please continue to read and share Planet Cheese and let’s discover together what’s in store.
George Dolese’s Cheesecake with Strawberry-Rhubarb Sauce
Choose a natural cream cheese with no stabilizers or gums. I like Sierra Nevada and Gina Marie (same cheese; different packaging). George credits Martha Stewart with the recipe but the unusual baking method is his, and it works.
1 pint strawberries, cored and quartered
½ pound rhubarb, ends trimmed and cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
6 to 8 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for coating the pan
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of kosher or sea salt
1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 pound sour cream, at room temperature
3 large eggs
Grated zest of 1 lemon or Meyer lemon
2 teaspoons Madagascar vanilla paste (George’s preference) or pure vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher or sea salt
Make the strawberry-rhubarb sauce: Put the berries, rhubarb, orange juice and 6 tablespoons sugar in a medium saucepan. Set over moderate heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Cover, adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit softens and forms a sauce, about 10 minutes. Keep a close eye on the saucepan, reducing the heat if the mixture threatens to bubble over. Cool slightly, then taste and add more sugar if desired. Transfer to a bowl, cover and chill thoroughly.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly coat the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with butter.
Make the crust: In a bowl, stir together the melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Press the mixture firmly and evenly onto the bottom of the pan and about 2 inches up the sides. Work carefully to be sure the crust is not too thick in the corners. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Make the filling: Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium low and add the sugar gradually. Reduce to low and add the sour cream, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and salt. Beat until blended, 2 to 3 minutes.
Pour the batter into the chilled crust and place the pan on the middle rack of the oven. Immediately close the oven door and turn the temperature down to 250°F. Bake for 1 hour. Turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in the oven for 2 hours longer. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR AT ANY TIME DURING THE COOKING OR RESTING PERIOD. Transfer the cheesecake to a rack on the counter and let cool for another hour. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Use a thin-bladed knife to cut the cheesecake, rinsing it with hot water between each cut.
Makes 16 generous or 24 thin servings