I have been without a food processor, of any size, for about a year now. My little processor, which I love for making pesto, Mexican sauces, grinding nuts, mayonnaise, and any number of other small and 1-person-family tasks, actually died some time before that, so before it passed I had been doing everything in my larger one, not always with optimal results. My “big” machine was, oh, maybe 28 years old or so—a 7-cup Cuisinart® classic workhorse. A number of years ago the bowl cracked, so I ordered another, content with the machine, even though the switch had required me to hold it down to operate it for at least 10 years. Then last year I sort of killed it myself. I didn’t burn out the motor, which I’m convinced would have kept going forever, much like my Acura. I cracked the stem on which the blades fit—I can’t remember now how I did it, but it was while doing some utterly simple task like shredding carrots—rendering the loyal motor powerless (ha) to perform. I put the bowl and blades aside, figuring I’d try to see if I could just order the base with intact stem.
I kept putting off calling to see if that was possible, then began to look at full machines, thinking I’d buy one if the price to come down, but then becoming sidetracked by the bigger and shinier models that have since been introduced (over 30 years, that happens…), which of course are more expensive. So waiting for them to come down again…and hence, no food processor for a year. I reverted to doing lots of stuff by hand that I usually do with the machine—pastry, pizza dough, etc. OK, in small batches. But I also stopped doing things that are quick work with the machine and otherwise require pounding with a mortar, so last millenium, which meant that I stopped eating certain things.
Then, for my birthday this August, two boxes arrived from my son: a GIANT, beautiful 14-cup Cuisinart®, and a SMALL, cute 4-cup Cuisinart®. And guess what? The 7-cup bowl fits the large machine, essentially giving me the momma, papa, and baby bear of food processors. A few years ago my son also gave me a second bowl for my Kitchen Aid® standing mixer: happiness for the cook is multiple bowls for efficiency and minimal washing between tasks. We’re easy to please.
As you can imagine, pent-up demand took over immediately. Over the course of a single afternoon, I made 3 quarts of gazpacho (a snap in the new poppa machine), five different Mexican sauces in various quantities in the baby, a huge batch of fresh bread crumbs (once, and only once, did I sieve bread by hand during my processor lacuna—not recommended), and some pizza dough for the freezer. I made myself a fresh-chopped hamburger.
All this food processor richness reminded me that, among my outsized cookbook collection, I had a book that focused on making traditional pastry using the food processor and other “new” shortcuts, published in the 1980s when food processors were starting to make inroads in this country (coincidentally, at the time I worked for the brother of the prescient guy who founded Cuisinart®). The book was The New Pastry Cook: Modern Methods for Marking Your Own Classic and Contemporary Pastries by Helen S. Fletcher. I had never used it—in fact, I made pastry completely by hand for years after getting my first food processor before transitioning almost entirely to the processor—but had held onto it when culling my collection a few years ago. I decided to pull it out now, and christen my new Cuisinart with one of Fletcher’s pastry recipes.
I decided to make the Mürbteig pastry, a Viennese short dough that is very rich with butter and egg yolk. It is a breeze to make with the food processor, much trickier by hand. I used this pastry to make her European-style (what I would call “old New York”) cheesecake, which is sensational and authentic—the cheesecake of once upon a time. Here is the full recipe, with some minor changes and rewriting/updating of directions and additional notes. If you can find the book online, I recommend it—it is very well done, and Ms. Fletcher, considering the time, was a pioneer in giving weights in metric and U.S. standard measures for dry ingredients.
Helen Fletcher’s Cheesecake
This recipe calls for an 8” spring form pan. Naturally, I have a 4”, 6”, two 9”, and a 10”, but not an 8”—the story of my life in a nutshell. I used a 9”, and trimmed the pastry walls down about 1/3”. I really think the 9” is the right size for the amount of filling. Those of you who grew up in the area of New York City will recognize the very dark, shiny top of the cheesecakes of your childhood (for me, those from the gone-but-not-forgotten Claremont Diner). This is not baked in a water bath. Serve it on the day it is made if you can; you will not believe the texture. It is good for many days, if a little different. Serves 10 (Fletcher says 8).
The finished dough will weigh about a pound and a half; you will need a pound (2/3) for the cheesecake. I suggest you divide it accordingly and freeze the rest, well-wrapped, which you can use to make rolled cookies or a few little tartlets.
Using a microplane, grate the lemon into the sugar in the bowl, fitted with the steel blad. Whiz to combine. Add the flour and process for 5 seconds. Cut each stick of butter into four pieces (8 total); arrange it in circle in bowl and process for about 20 seconds until completely incorporated but the mixture remains powdery. Add the yolks in a circle and process another 20-30 seconds until the dough forms a circle. Process another 10 seconds. Chill thoroughly.
2/3 recipe of Mürbteig pastry, divided in half, chilled.
2 tea citrus zest, half orange, half lemon
1 ¼ cup sugar
¼ cup a-p flour
2 cups (16 oz) cream-style cottage cheese (I used 4%)
1 lb (2 8-oz pkgs) Philadelphia cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces, softened
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream (I used homemade)
¾ cup heavy cream, unhomogenized if available
1 T Grand Marnier or similar*
1 tea pure vanilla extract
Lightly spray an 8” x 3” springform pan with oil. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
To finish the pastry case
Place a piece of chilled dough between two sheets of wax paper and roll to a circle to fit the pan, lifting the wax paper carefully to smooth out any wrinkles if needed (I did not); turn it over occasionally as you roll. Carefully peel back one sheet of the wax paper and turn it over to ease the dough into the pan, peeling off the second sheet of paper. What I did is remove the bottom, turn the dough directly onto the bottom, peel back the paper, then re-insert the bottom into the ring. Bake for 18-20 minutes (I did 20+) until pale gold and thoroughly baked/firm in the center. Remove to rack to cool; can be done the night before and left on the counter in a cool, dry spot.
Divide the other half of the dough, and keep one piece in the refrigerator while you roll the other between wax paper into a strip about 13 x 3 ¾”. Place it on a baking sheet; refrigerate; and repeat with the other piece of dough. The strips will be very thing. Remove the first strip from the refrigerator, trim it neatly to 12 ½ x 3”, lift and lightly replace one sheet of paper, turn it over, remove the other sheet of paper, and then gently lift and fit the strip along one side of the inside wall of the pan. If the dough becomes too soft, refrigerate again after trimming. Repeat with the remaining strip, overlapping the edges slightly, and pressing the walls gently into the bottom crust to ensure a seal. You can patch if needed with any scraps; trim the top edge even with the pan. Chill while you make the filling.
Grate the zest with a Microplane and pulse it with ½ cup of the sugar until combined. Add the flour and pulse 20 seconds. Add the cottage cheese and process until you have a smooth mixture (about 30 secs). Place the cream cheese sections in a circle around the bowl, and do likewise with the eggs (in the photo, 3 cage-free brown eggs and 1 conventional white egg, an obvious difference). Process another 30 seconds or so, til smooth. Add the remaining ¾ cup sugar, the sour and heavy creams, the Grand Marnier, and the vanilla. Process 10 seconds; scrape down; and process 10 more seconds til smooth.
Pour the filling into the chilled pastry and bake for 70 minutes. Turn off the oven, prop the door ajar with the handle of a wooden spoon, and leave the cake in the over for an hour. Remove it to a rack to cool completely. The top will be a dark coffee-caramel color. Refrigerate.
To serve, remove from the refrigerator at least ½ hour before serving; it should not be too cold when eaten. Slice with a serrated bread knife; it slices beautifully. Accompany with black and blueberry sauce if you have any hanging around, or just as is. You could fill the center indentation with something colorful, like raspberries standing up with whipped cream piped between them or Amarena Fabbri cherries if you don’t have your own preserved cherries in syrup.
*Fletcher calls for 3 T Grand Marnier. I thought this was too much, possibly a typo. I started with a tablespoon, generous, and decided it was enough.