~ Philly's "Frog" Commissary Lemon Cheesecake ~
Back in the 1970's, I had occasion to be in Philadelphia often. My fiancee's mother was from Ardmore (a suburb in the west side of Philadelphia) and his father was an alum of the Thomas Jefferson Medical College. Besides great shopping, Philly is full of fantastic places to eat and we ate somewhere different every time we visited the City of Brotherly Love. All of the fancy restaurants aside, my favorite place to eat was simply named "Frog" (The Frog Commissary/Delicatessen) and is to date my all-time "#1 favorite memory restaurant". The original Frog no longer exists, but: The Frog Commissary Catering Company, now located inside The Franklin Institute's historic building, runs all of its dining services, including onsite eateries, seasonal restaurants, in-house caterings and special events caterings.
Everything edible in "the Frog" was so incredible. I never tasted anything I did not absolutely adore. From their appetizers to desserts, Frog served impeccably prepared and presented food. One item on their dessert menu was a must have for me every time I ate there: Lemon Cheesecake... lovely, light, creamy, not too sweet and an ideal foil for fresh fruit. Here I am, 30+ years later, going on and on about Frog with the same enthusiasm I had back in the '70's.
My love affair with my beloved Frog continues. In 1985, The Commissary Inc., published The Frog Comissary Cookbook, written by Steven Poses, Anne Clark and Becky Roller, with all the charming hand-drawn illustrations by Becky Roller. It's my favorite cookbook.
Those of you who know me have a copy of this book because I gave it to you as a gift. Over the years, I have bought at least 100 copies of it. I give it to new friends, old friends, new brides, people who know how to cook and people who want to learn how to cook. As a matter of fact, I have 8 copies of it on hand right now in my cookbook library. Each and every recipe in this book is fabulously delicious and each recipe comes with spot-on directions for complete success. Move over New York Cheesecake, here is Ann Clark's Philly's "Frog" Lemon Cheesecake!
For the crust:
2/3 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest, from 1 lemon (below)
For the filling:
2 pounds Philadelphia brand cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, not imitation
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) fresh lemon juice, from 2 large, fresh lemons
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest, from 1 lemon (above)
For the sour cream topping:
1 1/4 cups sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, not imitation
~ Step 1. To prepare the crust, in food processor fitted with steel blade, place the flour, sugar, butter and lemon zest.
~ Step 2. Using a series of 20-25 rapid on-off pulses, process the crust ingredients to very fine crumbs.
~ Step 5. Bake on center rack of 350 degree oven 15-18 minutes, until it's golden brown or "done". Cool completely about 45 minutes. While crust is cooling, prepare the filling according to the following directions:
~ Step 6. Using an electric mixer, in a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until very smooth. Add the sugar and beat until well-blended, stopping every once in a while to scrape the sides of the bowl using a large rubber spatula. Add and beat in the four eggs, one at a time.
~ Step 7. Using spatula, fold in sour cream, vanilla extract, salt, lemon juice and lemon zest. Mix until just combined. Mixture will be smooth and easy to pour into cake pan.
~ Step 8. Bake on center rack of preheated 275 degree oven for 2 hours & 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Center will not look done but it will firm up as it chills. Run a knife around the edge of pan, to a depth of 1/2 inch. This will help to prevent cracking. Place on cooling rack to completely cool, 3-3 1/2 hours. When the cake is cooled to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap, flush against the top of the cheesecake and refrigerate overnight (or at least 6-8 hours).
~ Step 9. To prepare the topping, whisk together sour cream, sugar and vanilla. With spatula, spread to within 1/4" of perimeter of the top. Bake on center rack of preheated 450 degree oven for about 6-8 minutes, watching carefully so that the sour cream does not brown at all (tiny bubbles will appear all over the surface). Cool 2-3 hours before serving. If the cake is to be kept longer, cover it tightly, but not flush, with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Philly's "Frog" Commissary Lemon Cheesecake: Recipe yields 10-12 slices.
Special Equipment List: food processor; microplane grater (for zesting lemons); electric stand mixer or electric hand mixer; large rubber spatula; 9" x 3 1/2" cake pan w/removable bottom; cooling rack; whisk; plastic wrap
Cook's Note: For perfect looking slices, wipe the knife with a wet cloth between each cut. A cheesecake WITHOUT topping on it can be made and refrigerated up to 48 hours prior serving as is (or topping and proceeding with recipe). A cheesecake WITHOUT topping also freezes quite nicely. Remember: a cheesecake always tastes best at room temperature!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)