Cheesecake has my undying love. Even poorly made cheesecakes are delightful to me, in their own way. This New York style cheesecake, brought to life by the wonderfully quirky, scientifically-minded folks who comprise America’s Test Kitchen, is sublimely beautiful. I could use all manner of gushing superlatives to describe this cheesecake, because it is the quintessential New York style cheesecake in a shadowy world of wanna-be’s. This cheesecake is creamy, it is fantastically rich, and it needs to be on a plate before me right now. The texture is so – well – creamy at the center, graduating to a lightly cakey texture around the outside edges, just as a New York style cheesecake should do. I tried to document the texture of this mouthwatering cheesecake in the photograph below, but it doesn’t really portray the incredible, fluffy softness of the cheesecake.
I made this for our friend Gasoline (remember, he of the bunny bookmark?) for his birthday, and I loved it so much that I made it again for Husband and me. Husband doesn’t like to eat dessert the way I do, but he and I were scrapping over the last piece of this cheesecake! I’m including photographs of both Gasoline’s birthday cheesecake, covered in cherries and ringed in rich whipped cream, and of Husband’s and my cheesecake, which I iced in ganache roses. Piping ganache can be a pain in the ass, but the results are utterly worth all the trouble. If you’ve never had cheesecake with ganache, you’re missing out!
A few notes:
The recipe specifies that the bowl be scraped after every single addition. Do the scraping. It helps keep all the ingredients at the same “stage” of beating. The recipe also dictates that you check the temperature of the cheesecake with an instant-read thermometer, but I did not do this as I was afraid of cracks forming – perhaps an unfounded fear, but I didn’t want to take the risk. I used visual clues to tell when the cheesecake was done: edges lightly browned, the center two inches still a bit wobbly, browning on the top. (Sadly, I never could get that beautiful brown top that is supposed to be on every New York style cheesecake, but the taste was still unbelievably awesome!)
Last but not least, use room-temperature ingredients. The goal in beating cheesecake batter is to get the creamiest possible texture while incorporating the least amount of air. If ingredients are cold to start with, they require more beating to achieve the requisite creamy texture, which thereby incorporates too much air into the batter. This leads to cheesecakes falling, cracking, and overbaking, and makes the texture of the finished cheesecake too thick, not creamy enough, and not as appealing or flavourful. There are a few baking standards at which I scoff, because they make no difference at all to the finished product, but this is one baking standard in which I whole-heartedly believe.
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New York Style Cheesecake
Yield: 1 9″ cheesecake
For the crust:
1 stick unsalted butter, melted*, + 1 – 2 TBS unsalted butter, melted, for brushing the sides and bottom of the springform pan
4 oz. whole graham crackers
1 TBS sugar
For the cheesecake:
5 packages cream cheese (8 oz. each), cut into 1″ chunks, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 large eggs + 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
For the crust:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Brush the bottom and sides of a 9″ springform pan with about half of the 1 TBS melted butter. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper round and brush with a bit more of the 1 TBS butter.
Using a food processor, process graham crackers until fine crumbs form. Alternatively, use a potato masher to crush crackers into fine crumbs.
Combine the crumbs and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and stir until evenly incorporated. If necessary, add more melted butter, 1 TBS at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.
Press crust mixture evenly onto the bottom of the springform pan. (The bottom of a glass measuring cup works well for this.) Bake crust until fragrant and beginning to brown around the edges, around 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack while making the filling.
For the filling:
Increase oven temperature to 500°F.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the cream cheese at medium-low speed to break up and soften it slightly, about 1 minute. Scrape the beater and bottom and sides of bowl well with a rubber spatula. Add about half the sugar and beat at medium-low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape bowl. Add remaining sugar and beat until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape bowl.
Add sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla, and beat at low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape bowl. Add egg yolks and beat at medium-low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape bowl. Add remaining eggs, two at a time, beating until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute, scraping bowl between additions.
Brush sides of springform pan again with melted butter. Set springform pan, with crust fully cooled, onto a rimmed baking sheet to catch any leaks or spills. Pour filling into cooled crust and bake 10 minutes. Without opening the oven door, reduce the oven temperature to 200°F and continue to bake until the cheesecake registers 150°F on an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center, OR the edges have lightly browned and the center two inches are still wobbly, about 75 – 90 minutes.
Transfer cheesecake to a wire rack and immediately run a sharp paring knife around the edges, pressing the knife against the pan rather than the cheesecake. Cool on rack until barely warm, 2 1/2 – 3 hours. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate 12 hours.
Take plastic wrap from top of cheesecake and set aside upside-down, so that the side that was touching the cheesecake is facing up. Release pan sides. Run bottom of cheesecake, still on springform bottom, over hot stovetop for 10 – 15 seconds. Lay the plastic wrap back onto the top of the cheesecake, and place a large, flat plate over the top of the cheesecake. Carefully flip cheesecake upside down so that the top of the cheesecake is against the plate. Using an extremely sharp knife, loosen crust from springform bottom. (You may have to reheat the bottom of the pan if it is being stubborn.) Flip cheesecake onto serving platter. Remove plastic wrap from top of cheesecake.
To serve, let cheesecake stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, then cut using a hot, dry, sharp knife, wiping knife clean between slices. Serve with fruit topping, whipped cream, and chocolate ganache for a decadent treat!
*The original recipe calls for 5 TBS butter, but I found that amount to be inadequate. Start with 5 TBS butter and add more butter, 1 TBS at a time, if you feel the crust should be more moist.
Source: The New Best Recipe by the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated, 2004