If the grocery store isn't your favorite place, it should be. We're sleuthing for the best back-of-the-box recipes and each week we'll share our latest find.
Today: This choose-your-own-adventure cheesecake can be elegant or messy, but is delicious either way.
Earlier this week, while loitering in the cheese aisle (don’t judge me—I do my best thinking there), I found a recipe for cheesecake bars on the back of a box of Philadelphia Cream Cheese.
I’ve only baked a few cheesecakes before, maybe two or three. Before diving into this recipe, I searched online for “common cheesecake mistakes,” thinking a little research would be useful. Helpful tip: Do not do that. I skimmed a few articles and learned that cheesecake is terrifying and that mine would almost certainly crack and I should abandon the dream of a pretty, Martha Stewart-style result.
I gave myself a short pep talk full of affirmations—"Think positive thoughts! Cheesecake can’t get you down! It’s sunny outside! Use extra cream cheese!”—and proceeded. Armed with an extra 4 tablespoons of flour (one of the tips I picked up in my research), I baked. The cake turned out gloriously: Barely a crack, perfectly firm once chilled, and topped with a gorgeous swirl of blueberry sauce.
Make this cake for spring or summer celebrations. Make it for a birthday or a potluck or a picnic. Make it because it's a Sunday. The swirled blueberry topping is striking and virtually impossible to flub. I tried two different designs: The pretty circular design (baked in a round pan) and the random swirls (baked into bars in a 9- by 13-inch pan).
Intentionally messy-looking desserts are my jam, and they should be yours, too. However, if you want a more elegant, dinner party-worthy look, the neat, heart-shaped design is simple to create: Dot small dollops of blueberry sauce in circles on the surface of your cheesecake, then lightly drag a skewer through them.
I’ve adjusted the recipe slightly from the original. The original is very good, but this version is exceptional. Swapping Greek yogurt for sour cream gives the cheesecake a tangy, nuanced undertone that helps balance the sweetness. The blueberry swirl prevents the cake from tasting one-note, and I had a very hard time eating just one slice.
A note on the flour and the temperature: The original recipe doesn’t call for flour, and you can leave it out. I’d recommend using it though, as it stabilizes the batter and gives it a better texture.The original recipe also tells you to bake your cheesecake for 45 minutes at 350° F. After doing some research (and trial and error), I’d recommend you bake it as I’ve written in the recipe below. You reduce the temperature after 10 minutes, bake for 30 minutes more, then turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in for an another 30 minutes. This sounds fussy, but it helps eliminate the risk of cracks by slowly cooling the cake—cracks can form in the delicate batter when the heat changes rapidly.
Adapted from Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese
Makes one 9- by 13-inch cheesecake
For the cake:
32 ounces (4 packages) cream cheese, softened
1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 10 graham cracker sheets)
5 tablespoons butter, melted
For the blueberry sauce:
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1/3 cup water
Do you have a favorite back of the box recipe, or have you heard about a great one? Leave any suggestions in the comments, and I'll try them out and share them here!
Photos by Posie Harwood