Baked Cherry Cheesecake—Prototype 6:
The Beams were relocating, and Living Hope Church decided to have a send-off meal in their honor. So I sought input from them, including Bonnie—who had been one of our pastors—and her husband Jeff, in regard to a cheesecake flavor. Jeff expressed a particular interest in cherry, which I had done back around the late 1980's. I had yet to make my first cherry prototype in the 21st century.

This meant coming up with a starting cherry prototype number for these more recent times. After checking my late-1980's cherry prototypes (under the names "Prototype 13", "Prototype 14", "Prototype 16", "Prototype 17" and "Prototype 18"), I decided to go with number 6. However, I avoided using Kool-Aid mix. Rather than use that product from my earlier era, I sought something more natural. Cherry butter, an ingredient which was used in my chocolate cherry HiFi Buddy bars before I got more into my 21st century cheesecakes, was my first choice, but I more recently could not find any. I ended up settling for preserves—but I would have to come up with some thickness strategies. One of them would involve an installment approach, which I have previously used on cookie type cheesecakes.
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 2 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 16 ounces (1 pint) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

2 oz. melted, white chocolate
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall. Carefully wrap the pan in heavy foil afterwards (do not wrap it earlier—otherwise, this increases leakage risks).

4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup arrowroot
5 cups (40 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
13 oz. cherry preserves—if pits are (or might) be present, try to filter them out through a strainer (also, see comments below)
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
4 eggs

Expect almost 8 cups of the resulting batter, but do not add this to the pan all at once. Rather, this needs to be done in four installments (this is so that the cheesecake can be baked long enough to help get it reasonably firm, yet without overcooking its top surface).

For each of these four installments, gently scoop about 1 3/4 to 2 cups of batter into the pan. After adding an installment, bake the pan with its contents for 15 minutes, at 325 degrees. For the first three installments here, bake with the pan in a tub filled with at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch of boiling water, but (to reduce spillage risks) do not fill the tub all the way at this point, because the whole tub-and-pan assembly is going to need to be removed from the oven (in order to comfortably add more batter to the pan) between installments. For the fourth (and final) installment, fill up the tub more generously (or nearly full) with boiling water.

After all this is done, there should be 60 minutes of baking time, at 325 degrees, reached at this point (15 minutes for each of these four installments). Now, with the cheesecake remaining in the oven, reduce the temperature to 300 degrees and continue baking this cheesecake for another 75 minutes (based upon usage of a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool it down while it is still in the oven (with this oven shut off) and in the tub with the oven's door slightly ajar for 60 minutes. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down in pan at room temperature for another 2 hours, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Cherry Cheesecake—Prototype 6

It was probably at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods where I got cherry butter in the past, but this time around I couldn't find it. After looking into alternatives, I finally picked up, at Whole Foods, a 13-ounce jar of Bonne Maman cherry preserves—a "gourmet-looking" product from France—and used that for this prototype.

The top of the cheesecake had some cracks in it. While not ideal, this seemed to be an encouraging sign to me that the batter would not end up being too soft, an issue that I had with my first two pecan cheesecake prototypes. And, after finally slicing this cherry cheesecake, it looked like my thickness efforts had paid off—this prototype came out sufficiently firm!

That was the good news. Unfortunately, I could hardly pick up the cherry flavor. If only I could still get that cherry butter (without too much effort) like I used to in the past!

Another issue had to do with the type of meal served at the church. Nearly every time we had a community-style meal following Sunday services, it was "potluck style"—i.e., people would bring in their own foods to enjoy and to share with others. Of course, I would nearly always bring cheesecakes on such occasions. However, it was decided that the meal in honor of the Beam family would be a more formal, "host provision-oriented" one—where the supplying of the food, including dessert, was left solely to the church. So I was caught off-guard on that one (particularly in light of the fact that we had a send-off cookout the prior year for the MacKay couple, yet attendees were encouraged to bring, at least, their own desserts). The "official" desserts included a beautiful-looking double-layer sheet cake from a local independent grocer—Henry's, of North Beverly—and ice cream. (The only other Sunday community meal that I could recall as solely-church-provided at Living Hope was a rice-and-beans supper during last year's Lent, in order to give the guests a "taste" of what it was like to live in an underdeveloped or "Third World" country.)

Therefore, I held back on this cheesecake until everyone seemed to get a reasonable chance to enjoy the more formal desserts. I then offered, in somewhat subdued fashion, my cherry prototype for interested individuals who still had room in their stomachs. Not much of my dessert ended up being taken. It seemed that some guests each took a little bit to bring home for later. Well over half of this cheesecake was left, and I took that back home with me.

But I did not get stuck with having to finish it all off. I only ate a little more, and the rest of it was brought to The Home Depot for my coworkers to enjoy.

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