A few days ago Emily Bell, my long-time friend and cooking assistant, pointed out that so far during the Covid19 crisis I hadn’t included many desserts on my blog. “Everyone needs a little sweet indulgence during these stressful times,” she continued, suggesting a recipe for No-Bake Lemon Cheesecake that we had worked on a while back.
As soon as I pulled out the recipe, I remembered how much I loved this cheesecake, a snap to assemble. The crust, prepared with shortbread cookie crumbs, gets baked for less than 10 minutes. A filling of cream cheese blended with purchased lemon curd (bound with gelatin) is added. Then the cheesecake goes straight to the fridge, bypassing the oven. At serving time, the cheesecake is sliced, then drizzled with warm blueberry sauce.
During these challenging times, you can certainly make substitutions. I ordered shortbread cookies online, but you can use graham cracker crumbs from your cupboard instead. And if you don’t have fresh blueberries for the sauce, frozen ones are fine. If regular cream cheese isn’t available, a reduced fat version is OK. I used Neuchatel.
Since my husband and I are empty nesters, I’m planning to share this dessert with others—the gardener, who continues to help us have fresh flowers, the seamstress who made facemasks for us, and the friend who helps us by shopping for groceries. I hope you’ll enjoy trying this cheesecake, and sharing it with others. Stay safe and well.
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No Bake Lemon Cheesecake with Warm Blueberry Sauce
A 4.7 to 5 oz package pure butter shortbread cookies such as Walker’s (See note.)
1/4 cup whole milk or Half and Half
1 packet (2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
24 ounces (three 8-oz pkgs) regular or reduced fat (not nonfat) cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup purchased lemon curd (See cooking tip)
2 teaspoons lemon zest plus up to 1 teaspoon extra if needed (1 to 2 cleaned lemons)
Blueberry Sauce (Recipe follows)
Fresh mint sprigs for garnish, optional
1.Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.For crust, place shortbread cookies in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until finely ground. In an 8-inch spring form pan press the crumbs in an even layer on the bottom and about 3/4 of an inch up the sides. Place in oven and bake 7 to 8 minutes or more until crumbs are lightly browned. Remove and cool completely.
3.Pour milk or Half and Half in a small saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over it. Let sit for a minute. Then place saucepan over low heat and whisk constantly until gelatin dissolves, a minute or two. Remove from heat and cool.
4.With an electric mixer on medium high speed, whip the cream cheese until fluffy. Then add the lemon curd and mix until blended completely with the cream cheese. Stop mixer and scrape down sides of bowl several times as necessary. Beat in the lemon zest. Then lower speed, pour in gelatin mixture, and beat just until blended. Taste and if you want a sharper lemon flavor, add up to 1 teaspoon more lemon zest. Pour batter into prepared crust and spread evenly with a spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight until completely set.
5.To serve, remove cheesecake from refrigerator and bring to room temperature for 30 minutes. Run a small sharp knife around inside edges of pan, then remove sides of pan, and transfer to a serving plate. Serve slices of cheesecake napped with warm Blueberry Sauce. Serves 8.
If you use pure butter shortbread cookies there will be enough butter in the cookies themselves so that you do not need to add melted butter to the crumbs for the crust. I like Walkers Shortbread Cookies, available in many groceries and on Amazon. If unavailable, substitute 1 1/4 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs mixed with 2 tablespoons or more melted butter (enough to moisten them).
Purchased lemon curd can vary in taste so in the directions (step 4) taste the cream cheese mixture, and, if desired, add extra lemon zest for a stronger citrus flavor.
1 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups fresh blueberries, cleaned and stemmed or 2 cups frozen blueberries, defrosted and patted dry
1.Combine water, sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch in a heavy, medium saucepan and whisk well until cornstarch is completely dissolved in liquids. Place over medium heat and stir for a minute. Add blueberries and continue to stir and cook until sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes. (If not using immediately, cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Reheat over low heat, stirring, when ready to use.) Makes about 2 cups sauce.
Adapted from The Big Book of Backyard Cooking (Chronicle Books 2004) by Betty Rosbottom