Editor's note: Columnist Philip Potempa is on leave for a death in his family. The death notice for his nephew is found in today's obituary section. His weekly food column, written in advance, therefore, still appears here.
I've heard from readers many times over the past seven years I've been writing this column, with many requesting the same recipe.
All desire the fabled recipe for a cheesecake sold at the bakery of the old Goldblatt's Department Store in Hammond.
After I wrote about this request in my column last month, I was fortunate to have readers aid me in my search.
Reader Alice Graban of Hammond knew someone who worked at the department store and was familiar with this recipe for the cakes sold there.
And though it took some searching, she was kind enough to send the recipe along to share. She said some versions were "plain without a crust" and others were sold with a "traditional graham cracker crust."
So, for this provided recipe, the filling can be baked in a springform pan with or without the prepared graham cracker crust, as desired.
Goldblatt's High Cream Cheesecake
Graham cracker crust:
10 ounces crushed graham cracker crumbs
2 ounces plus 3 ounces sugar (divided use)
1 teaspoon flour
4 ounces melted butter
1-1/2 pound cream cheese (3 of the 8-ounce packages)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 pint sour cream
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 eggs separated
* To make crust, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and flour. Use a fork to blend thoroughly. Add melted butter.
* Firmly press crumb mixture into a 9-inch pie pan, or, even better, a 9-inch springform pan.
* For this cheesecake, set unbaked prepared crust aside to prepare cheese filling. (Normally, when using this crust for recipes that call for an already cooked filling, you would bake the crust at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes.)
* To make filling, in a large bowl, cream the cream cheese and sugar together and then add sour cream.
* Add the egg YOLKS only, one at a time, to filling mixture.
* In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, and fold them into the filling.
* Pour filling into crust (or into plain, greased springform pan if making the crust-less version) and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
* After one hour, turn oven off and allow cake to remain undisturbed in oven and slowly cool for 1 more hour before removing.
* Makes 14 slices.
I was also informed by a few longtime faithful readers of The Times food section that I am not the first columnist faced with trying to find this famous cheesecake recipe, or at least helping others find a place that still sells this baked "bar of gold."
It seems my predecessor who wrote the column that occupied this space for years before I launched "From the Farm," also worked just as hard to locate this "slice of heaven" once sold at the Hammond Goldblatt's.
After being tipped off by readers who admit "they have kitchen drawers filled with old clipped columns and recipes," I discovered on Jan. 25, 1996, our former food columnist Maxine Ciminillo, whose column pen name was "Aunt Maxine," ran the following reader letter:
"Dear Aunt Maxine,
Can you help in my frustrated search? I have been trying every cheesecake recipe I have found for the past 25 years to duplicate or even come close to that bit of delight I experienced as a child in eating the cheesecake from Goldblatt's bakery department in Hammond.
The memory of its flavor and texture stays with me all these years. I need assistance to succeed in my search. Can you help me? "
Sincerely, Doris L., Whiting, Ind.
Aunt Maxine's published reply read:
"I'm not from the region, and I don't have a memory of that Goldblatt's cheesecake. Several individuals have told me that Goldblatt's didn't bake the cheesecake, as this was an item that they bought (company unknown) and resold."
Then, just a few weeks later, Aunt Maxine featured the following letter on Feb. 15, 1996, with her own "tribute" version of the Goldblatt's Cheesecake.
" In response to Doris L. of Whiting regarding Goldblatt's bakery (Hammond) cheesecake, I remember it well also!
It was a 'little bit of heaven.' It melted in your month.
For a long time, I found this same cheesecake at Dominick's in Lansing; however, they have not carried it for years. Later, I found this same cheesecake at the Orland Park Bakery, although they call it New York Style Cheesecake. They bake it exclusively on Fridays and you may order it beforehand and pick it up. I do it frequently because it is so good, they sell it out in a hurry. The Orland Park Bakery is located at 14250 Ravinia off La Grange Road. The phone number is (708) 349-8516. It is well worth the trip."
Sincerely, Robert R., DeMotte, Ind.
I contacted this Orland Park Bakery, and they still make the same cheesecake.
So here's Aunt Maxine's recipe version as well:
"Just Like Goldblatt's Cheesecake"
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or lemon extract
1/3 cup butter or shortening
1 very small egg, beaten with a fork, and a little milk if dough appears to dry after egg is added (should be the consistency of a medium cookie dough that can be rolled easily)
1 pound cream cheese
1/3 cup sifted all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Rind of small lemon and small orange (or 1 teaspoon lemon flavor)
1/3 cup egg yolks
1 cup cream, heated
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup egg whites
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar, combined with 1/3 cup hot water and cooked to 248 degrees.
* Sift dry ingredients together several times. Add vanilla or lemon extract and the butter. Cut through ingredients, using pastry blender, until they look like fine meal.
* Add beaten egg and a little milk, only if necessary. Blend with a knife or fork until dough leaves sides of bowl.
* Turn out onto a pastry cloth and knead gently a few seconds.
* Cut dough into two parts. Wrap one part in wax paper and refrigerate. Shape first piece of dough into flat round and place it on bottom of an ungreased loose-bottom springform pan that measures about 9 inches by 3 inches. Roll dough to fit pan. Trim edges evenly.
* Bake at 325 degrees 20 to 25 minutes or until crust is delicately brown and firm to the touch. Remove from oven and let cool.
* Remove other half of dough from refrigerator and cut it into 6 uniform pieces.
* With covered rolling pin, roll each piece about 3 inches wide and 5 inches long. Place pieces of dough on sides of the ungreased cooled pan, 1 piece at a time, and press well with floured fingers. (Cutting dough in small pieces facilitates handling).
* To make cheese filling, in a large 10-inch bowl, place one pound of cream cheese. Add the flour, cornstarch, salt, vanilla, rinds and egg yolks, a little at a time, beating with electric mixer until smooth and well-blended.
* Then add heated cream (warmed to about 150 degrees) and butter slowly, beating only until smooth. Let this mixture stand while preparing cooked meringue. Pour the unbeaten egg whites in an 8- or 9-inch bowl.
* In a very small saucepan (not more than 1-quart size), cook the granulated sugar and water until it reaches 248 degrees to make a syrup. This takes 6 or 7 minutes. For best results, a thermometer must be used.
* While syrup is cooking, wash sides of the pan with brush dipped in hot water, and do not stir after syrup begins to boil. As soon as it reaches 248 degrees, shut off heat and let saucepan remain on burner. Start to beat egg whites immediately until they cling to bowl, then beat 30 additional seconds.
* Now slowly, in a steady stream, add hot syrup to egg whites and continue to beat whites at high speed about 2 more minutes. Pour this meringue into cheese mixture and, with electric beater at low speed, beat only until smooth and no streaks appear.
* Pour into crust-lined pan, and bake at 325 degrees about 1 hour or until cake rises in center even with sides and takes on a very delicate color. Then bake about 10 minutes more or until surface cracks.
* Shut off heat and let cake remain in oven for at least 1 hour, keeping oven door partly open. Let cake cool on a rack away from drafts.
* Be sure to let it stand for several hours before cutting. It may be sprinkled thickly on top and sides with sifted confectioners sugar before cutting, or cover top with fruit. This cake will rise high and settle to original size after it is cold.
* Makes 14 slices.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at email@example.com or 219.852.4327.