Cheesecake is one of my very favorite desserts. The only thing that has displaced it is creme brulee.
I know cheesecake. I know how to make cheesecake. I’ve made many, many cheesecakes. When I was younger, single, and childless, I even took a fun all-day cheesecake class at the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan. Over the years I’ve learned the in’s and out’s of making spectacular cheesecakes. (And I do, if you don’t mind my saying so.) Dorie’s recipe is very good.
A water bath is super important when making cheesecake. There are several schools of thought on baking cheesecake–temperature, time in the oven, etc. (This depends on if you want a NY style cheesecake or not.)
I followed Dorie’s directions for the most part. I turned my oven off when the center of the cheesecake was 150 degrees F on an instant read thermometer. I can’t even remember how far into baking that was. (That tip comes from Cooks’ Illustrated.) Then I let my cheesecake sit in the oven, door propped open a bit, until it cooled to room temp. My cheesecake didn’t even have as much as a tiny crack down the middle. It was perfect–nut brown on top, creamy white below.
My husband doesn’t love cheesecake (except for the Orange Ricotta Cheesecake I made him last year). He actually used the word “love” to describe how he felt about Dorie’s cheesecake. I asked him if it was “good” and he said no. Then went on to elaborate that “good” doesn’t even cut it. The cheesecake is PERFECT, he said.
This is a picture of the very last piece. We took it over to Aunt Khali’s so everyone there could enjoy it, too. They did. Everyone loved this cheesecake–even after holiday treat overload.
I made it as the recipe says except that I used a vanilla bean instead of extract, and made a shortbread crust in place of graham cracker crumbs. We loved the delicate flavor. It totally complimented the super creamy texture.
Tall and Creamy Cheesecake
from Baking: From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan
For the crust:
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
For the cheesecake:
2 pounds (four 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sour cream or heavy cream, or a combination of the two
Butter a 9-inch springform pan—choose one that has sides that are 2 3/4 inches high (if the sides are lower, you will have cheesecake batter leftover)—and wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil; put the pan on a baking sheet.
Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Pour over the melted butter and stir until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. (I do this with my fingers.) Turn the ingredients into the buttered springform pan and use your fingers to pat an even layer of crumbs along the bottom of the pan and about halfway up the sides. Don’t worry if the sides are not perfectly even or if the crumbs reach above or below the midway mark on the sides—this doesn’t have to be a precision job. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven.
Center a rack in the oven, preheat the oven to 350°F and place the springform on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Set the crust aside to cool on a rack while you make the cheesecake.
Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
Put a kettle of water on to boil.
Working in a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is soft and lives up to the creamy part of its name, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition—you want a well-aerated batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the sour cream and/or heavy cream.
Put the foil-wrapped springform pan in the roaster pan.
Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that nothing has been left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape the batter into the springform pan. The batter will reach the brim of the pan. (If you have a pan with lower sides and have leftover batter, you can bake the batter in a buttered ramekin or small soufflé mold.) Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the roaster to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, at which point the top will be browned (and perhaps cracked) and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven’s heat and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour.
After 1 hour, carefully pull the setup out of the oven, lift the springform pan out of the roaster—be careful, there may be some hot water in the aluminum foil—remove the foil. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.
When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and chill the cake for at least 4 hours, although overnight would be better.