Creamy Cream Cheese Cheesecake
For the crust:
- 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
- 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
To make the crust:
- 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.
Cheesecake for the non-cheese eater
Raw, Vegan Strawberry Vanilla Cheesecake
IngredientsFor the crust:
- 1 1/2 cups raw almonds
- Pinch sea salt
- 2 cups pitted medjool dates
- 3 cups cashews
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 2/3 cup melted coconut oil
- 1 vanilla bean, cut in half, seeds scraped out for use, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 cup agave nectar
- 1 cup strawberries
- Soak the cashews in water overnight or for three or more hours. Drain them of water and set aside.
- Place the almonds and sea salt in a food processor and grind roughly. Add the dates and process until the mixture is uniform and sticks together when you squeeze a bit in the palm your hand. Press mixture evenly onto the bottom of a 9" springform pan.
- Use a high speed blender or food processor (high speed blender is preferable) to blend all filling ingredients except for the strawberries thoroughly, until silky smooth. If you're working with a processor, you may need to stop often to scrape it down.
- Pour just more than half of the filling mixture into the springform pan. Use an inverted spatula to smooth it over. Transfer to the fridge for thirty minutes or more to let this layer set.
- Blend the strawberries into the remaining filling mixture. Set it aside in a bowl while the first layer is setting. Once the first layer has been in the fridge for thirty minutes or longer, spread the strawberry layer over the plain vanilla layer. Transfer whole cheesecake to the fridge and let it sit for two hours or longer before slicing and serving.
For your inner Italian...
Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake
- 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup cold solid vegetable shortening, divided into 3 pieces
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1 1/2 pounds ricotta (3 cups)
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 1/2 tablespoons anise liqueur
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water)
- In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and salt and pulse several times. Add the shortening and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the eggs and milk and pulse until lightly moistened. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead a few times until smooth. Form the dough into 2 disks, 1 slightly larger than the other. Wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes or for up to 3 days.
- In a food processor, combine the ricotta, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, anise liqueur and vanilla and process until smooth.
- Preheat the oven to 375°. On a lightly floured work surface or between sheets of plastic, roll out the larger disk of dough to a 13-inch round. Line a 10-by-1 1/2-inch pie plate with it. Patch any cracks. Spoon in the filling. Roll out the remaining disk of dough to an 11-inch round. Brush the pastry pie rim with water and set the round on top. Press the edges together to seal. Trim the overhanging dough and crimp decoratively. Make 3 small slashes in the top and brush with the egg wash. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the pastry is golden; cover with foil if it browns too quickly. Let cool on a rack to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled.