The graduation party was a great success and I pretty much stuck to my menu except I didn't serve the hummus. Mike's mom, Clara, and sister, Kathy, bought some delicious smoked salmon spread at the Farmers Market and my ex, Michael's, mom, Diane, and dad, Tom, bought some Marin French Cheese pesto brie at the Petaluma Cheese factory that we served instead. Mike bought the tri tip from Angelo in Petaluma and it was amazing. His website is on my blog.
The only recipe I really used was for the cheesecake. Maida Heatter's recipes are incredibly detailed and if you follow them anything you make from them will come out perfectly. I made her cheesecake which is always a hit. I covered it with sliced strawberries, blueberries and raspberries I got at the Farmers Market, beautiful and delicious. I did not change anything about her recipe so this is Maida Heatter's cheesecake her way.
2 1/2 lbs. Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
pinch of kosher salt
5 eggs, graded large, at room temperature
Assemble a 9 inch by 3 inch springform pan. Cover the outside of the springform pan in foil to prevent water from seeping into your cheesecake. To do so, tear off two sheets of heavy duty foil, each about 15 inches long. Place in an "x" pattern on a flat surface. Place the assembled springform pan in the middle of the "x". Bring the foil up around the sides of the pan; flatten it to the shape of the pan, crimping and pleating as necessary. You can trim off excess with scissors. The entire outside of the pan should be swathed in foil up to the lip.
With softened, unsalted butter, butter the sides of your springform pan (Maida reminds you to butter the inside not the outside). It is not necessary to butter the bottom of the pan.
Have ready a pan that is longer and wider than your springform pan; it is important that this pan be shallower than your springform. If this pan is aluminum, sprinkle 1 teaspoon cream of tartar to prevent discoloration. Bring enough water to boil to fill the shallower pan to a depth of one inch. Keep ready. Put oven rack in the center position and preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Place cream cheese into large bowl of electric stand mixer. Beat at medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down sides of bowl and paddle with large rubber spatula. Continue beating cream cheese at medium speed only until perfectly smooth (don't overbeat as it will add alot of air to the batter). Add sugar, vanilla and salt; beat at low speed until smooth (can increase speed to medium if necessary briefly). Add eggs, one at a time, beating in each at a low speed until blended. Be sure to scrape down sides of the bowl and paddle frequently. When the eggs are are all in , the batter should be on the thick side but still pourable and it must be smooth. Set aside briefly.
Place shallower pan into the oven; add enough boiling water so that there's about 1/2 inch water in the pan. Close the oven door.
Pour cheesecake batter into springform pan. Smooth the top as best as you can. Use a toothpick to prick any air bubbles.
Carefully place springform pan into the shallower pan in oven. Working carefully add more boiling water to the larger pan so that it comes up to a depth of 1 inch. Don't get any water into the cheesecake batter.
Bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Check to see if too much water has evaporated. Add more boiling water if necessary. The cheesecake will rise above the top of the pan and the top will brown. (Depending on your oven you night need to put foil on the top to prevent it browning too much-like my oven. Butter the foil slightly or it will stick to the cheesecake.) However, if the pan is tapped or shaken very gently, the center will still appear to be slightly liquid. This is ok. Do not overbake.
Remove to cooling rack and gently remove foil from outside of springform pan. Allow cheesecake to cool for 2 1/1 to 3 hours undisturbed. It will sink down. Remove the sides of the springform pan carefully, gently loosen the sides with a knife if necessary. Place the cheesecake still on the bottom of the pan on a plate and chill for at least 4 hours before serving.
To cut, use a large heavy knife. Run the blade under hot water and shake off. Do not dry. Do this before every cut. Can be stored up to 10 days in the refrigerator tightly wrapped (it won't last that long).