Thursday, February 16, 2012

New York-Style Cheesecake

Oh my.  This was our Valentine's Day treat this year and holy cow, will it be hard to top.  Jeremy claims it is the best cheesecake he's ever eaten, and I think I have to agree.  It was just perfect.  Smooth and creamy with a great flavor and texture.  This comes from America's Test Kitchen, so it's no wonder that it turned out so well.  I followed the recipe to a "t" and it was amazing!  No cracks, no problems.

If you are a cheesecake lover, you need to try this recipe!  I don't think I'll ever try another.  It was that good.  I was so surprised by how easy it was.  This was my first real cheesecake and I think I had put off making one because it sounded so hard.  Well, it really wasn't any harder than any other cake!  This could be a dangerous revelation, because now I'm sure I'll make it all too often.  (Except for the fact that it is so not low-cal).  We've enjoyed eating this every night since lover's day.  In fact, I just finished off a piece and it was amazing!

This cheesecake is plenty delicious on its own, but we ate it alongside a simple raspberry sauce which tasted divine!  I used this recipe here, from a Valentine's dessert I tried a few years ago (recipe at the bottom). 

New York-Style Cheesecake

8 whole graham crackers, broken into rough pieces
1 T. sugar
5 T. unsalted butter, melted

2 1/2 pounds cream cheese (5 packages), cut into 1" chunks and softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/3 c. sour cream
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. vanilla extract
6 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
1 T. unsalted butter, melted

For the crust:  Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.  Process graham cracker pieces in food processor to fine crumbs, about 30 seconds.  Add sugar and melted butter, and pulse until evenly moistened (or combine in a bowl).  Empty crumbs into 9-inch springform pan and, using bottom or ramekin or dry measuring cup, press crumbs firmly and evenly into pan bottom, keeping sides as clean as possible.  Bake crust until fragrant and beginning to brown around edges, about 12-13 minutes.  Let crust cool in pan on wire rack while making filling.

For the filing:  Increase oven temperature to 500 degrees.  Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat cream cheese on medium-low speed until broken up and slightly softened, about 1 minute.  Scrape down bowl,  add 3/4 cup sugar and salt and beat on medium-low speed until combined, about 1 minute.  Scrape down bowl, then beat in remaining 3/4 cup sugar until combined, about 1 minute.  Scrape down bowl, add sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla, and beat on low speed until combined, about 1 minute.  Scrape down bowl, add egg yolks, and beat on medium-low speed until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute.  Scrape down bowl (again!), add whole eggs, 2 at a time, beating until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute, and scraping bowl between additions.

Being careful not to disturb baked crust, brush inside of pan with melted butter and set pan on rimmed baking sheet to catch any spills in case pan leaks.  Pour filling into cooled crust and bake 10 minutes; without opening oven door, reduce temperature to 200 degrees and continue to bake until cheesecake registers 150 degrees, about 1 1/2 hours (I chose not to use a thermometer to check since I read a few reviews saying it cracked where the thermometer was inserted; so I just trusted my gut - and the recipe time - and it turned out great!  If you're unsure though, go with the thermometer).  Let cake cool on wire rack for 5 minutes, then run paring knife around cake to loosen from pan (but don't remove yet).  Let cake continue to cool until barely warm, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours.  (Cake can be refrigerated for up to 4 days).

To unmold cheesecake, wrap hot kitchen towel around pan and let stand for 1 minute.  Remove sides of pan.  Slide thin metal spatula between crust and pan bottom to loosen, then slide cake onto serving platter.

*The flavor and texture is best if you let the cheesecake sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.  When slicing, have a pitcher of hot tap water nearby.  Dip the blade of the knife into the water and wipe it clean with a towel after each cut to get neat slices.
Source: Cook's Illustrated Cookbook

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