Oh, President’s Day. A weekend when you get one more Monday off before the long stretch to Memorial Day and a weekend when you can buy any mattress for 50% off.
I’m not sure there are many President’s Day weekend traditions (except for the aforementioned mattress day sale at your local department store) but every President’s Day Weekend for as long as I can remember my mom has made a Cherry Pie. It wasn’t until recently that I put two and two together and realized she probably does this because of that George-Washington-and-the-Cherry-Tree story and not because she is a few days late celebrating Valentine’s Day.
I’m not usually a pie person. I think it is because a pie is so portion controlled. With ice cream, you can easily scoop an extra spoonful out. And with cake, it is quite easy (and rational) to trim the edges of your cake from where you just made a slice so it is even and then, subsequently eat the trimmings you just removed. With pie – if you even attempt to even anything out, it involves a knife and a spoon and by the time you are trying to keep the filling from continuously oozing out by scooping it onto your plate, someone has discovered you hovering over the pie plate with cherry filling smeared across your face. And then someone gets the next slice which has a third of the amount of filling as you have in your slice. And, as we learned from George Washington, you have to fess up because one cannot tell a lie.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
For the Crust
8 ounces finely ground graham crackers (Smitten Kitchen literally gives you the number of sheets you need and I just smashed them with my rolling pin because I didn’t want to haul my food processor down from overhead storage)
1 stick butter, melted
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
Stir together crust ingredients and press into the bottom and sides of a buttered springform pan until you have about one inch left open at the top of the pan. Pop it in the freezer while you assemble the filling.
For the Cheesecake
5 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened (I knew when I saw five packages that this cheesecake was no joke)
1 ¾ cups sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon orange zest
5 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
½ teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 550 degrees (as someone who is terrified of my gas oven, it took me ten minutes to work up the courage to even turn the oven up this high). Beat the cream cheese, sugar, flour and zests together with an electric mixer until smooth. Add vanilla, then eggs and yolks, one at a time, beating on low speed until each ingredient is incorporated. Make sure you periodically scrape down the sides of the bowl so all the ingredients are well-incorporated.
Place the springform pan in a shallow baking pan. Pour filling into crust and bake it in the middle of the oven for 12 minutes or until puffed. (I think I should’ve turned mine down a little once the cake started turning brown on the top. Apparently, this is perfectly ok to do so will do that next time.) Reduce the temperature to 200 degrees and continue baking about one hour more or until cake is mostly firm but the center still jiggles slightly.
Run a knife around the top edge of the cake to loosen it and cool it completely in springform pan on a rack. Loosely cover it, and chill it in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours. Once chilled, remove the sides of pan before serving (obvi.).
For the cherry topping
10 ounces sweet or sour cherries (frozen is fine)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
½ cup water
Place all ingredients together in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, cook it for an additional one to two minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely before serving (even though it will be tempting to just throw it on a slice immediately).