WILSON’S LOCAL PRINT AND DIGITAL COMMUNITY INSTITUTION SINCE 1896

Celebrate with a pretty cheesecake

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“Cheesecakes are my favorite dessert to bake,” is not what you usually hear from someone who enjoys baking. Cupcakes, cakes or cookies are usually the go-to dessert for most.

I started baking cheesecakes because I knew how daunting the process was, and if I could master baking a cheesecake then I would be able to bake whatever my heart desired. I never imagined I would hone the craft of baking a cheesecake to the point where I am now, making multiple ones each month for other people to enjoy. When I am baking for others I imagine them sitting around a table with their loved ones enjoying a piece of the cake and a nice cup of hot coffee, just laughing and enjoying each other’s company. Just that image alone brings me so much joy to continue baking.

Baking a cheesecake for the holidays does not have to be elaborate by any means. I have realized that you can get away with making a simple cake recipe and spend more time on decorating it like I did with the sparkling cranberries and mint leaves pictured here.

I have three tips for baking cheesecakes.

• The first is not to worry about the cracks! Cracks will happen, but decorating will help in this department.

• The second tip is to cut a circle out of parchment paper and place it in the bottom of the pan. This will help tremendously when cutting individual pieces or if you have to remove the whole cake from the bottom of the pan.

• The third, but most important, tip is not to put your pan directly in a water bath. I fill a deep baking pan with about 1 inch of water and place it directly under the pan that the cheesecake will bake in. I do not care how many layers of foil you wrap around your pan, water will leak into the pan and will make the bottom soggy, and nobody likes a soggy bottom.

This cheesecake will be the hit of any party you take it to this holiday season!

I want you to succeed at making a cheesecake so much that I am going to share my go-to recipe and even my secret ingredient I add to make it even more delicious.

Azlynn’s Cheesecake

For a special holiday dessert, give Azlynn’s cheesecake a try.

Crust

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (secret ingredient)

1/2 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients. Melt the butter in the microwave and mix it in until the mixture is well combined. Press into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes.

Turn oven down to 325 degrees

Filling

1 cup sugar

24 ounces (3 packages) cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup sour cream

3 eggs

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar and cream cheese until smooth. Beat in the sour cream, and then beat in the eggs until smooth and well combined, but be careful not to over-mix the eggs or it will cause cracking. Stir in the salt and vanilla. Pour the filling over the cooled crust and bake for 50 minutes. When done baking, cut oven off, crack open oven door and let the cake cool for another 30 minutes. Place in fridge and let it chill for at least 5 hours. You can even speed up the process by placing it in the freezer.

Sparkling Cranberries For Decoration

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup water

2 cups fresh cranberries, room temperature

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (for rolling)

Place 1/3 cup sugar and water in small pot and heat until simmering (not boiling) and stir until sugar is dissolved.

Place cranberries in pan and submerge. Make sure cranberries are completely coated. Use a slotted spoon to transfer coated cranberries to a wire rack to dry for an hour. Separate cranberries as much as possible to avoid clumps of simple syrup that will lead to clumps of sugar.

Place sugar in a bowl and roll cranberries through sugar to coat a few at a time. Transfer coated cranberries to a clean surface like a baking sheet for further drying for about an hour. Decorate the cheesecake with the cranberries and mint leaves.

Azlynn Aycock Tyson, who grew up in Fremont and went to school in Wilson, now lives in Pitt County with her husband, Jordan. Follow her at accordingtoazlynn.blogspot.com.

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