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Classic New York Cheesecake

With this recipe, a creamy, gorgeous, crack-free New York-style cheesecake is totally doable, even for beginners!


Photo by Vladislav Noseek


Cheesecake is my husband, Michael’s, favorite dessert. In fact, the first time I met my future mother-in-law over 20 years ago, she told me the way to her son’s heart was through his stomach – and whenever she wanted him to do anything as a child, she bribed him with a slice of NY cheesecake. A traditional lady she may be, but I got the message loud and clear: learn to make a good cheesecake!


Though the ingredients are simple, cheesecake can be a little intimidating to make. Because cheesecake is a custard, it needs to be baked gently in a water bath, and you have to worry about the surface of the cake cracking, as well as over or undercooking. However, with the right recipe and a few pointers, a creamy, crack-free, perfect NY-style cheesecake is totally doable, even for beginners. This is the only cheesecake recipe you’ll ever need.


WHAT YOU’LL NEED TO MAKE A CLASSIC NEW YORK CHEESECAKE



This recipe makes a classic New York-style cheesecake with a buttery graham cracker crust and rich, dense filling made from cream cheese, eggs, sugar, sour cream, vanilla, a hint of lemon, and a few tablespoons of flour. The flour might seem like an unusual addition, but it’s the secret to success: a little starch helps prevent the cake from cracking and also makes the filling just a bit lighter.



The springform pan features sides that can be removed from the base, so you can release the cake easily without having to flip the whole pan over (this would be a disaster with cheesecake). Springform pans, however, are notorious for leaking. Since the cheesecake bakes in a water bath, the foil prevents the water from seeping in during baking. If you’d like to try another technique that doesn’t require wrapping the pan in foil, you can place your springform pan inside a larger cake pan (see how it’s done here) or purchase a silicone wrap for your pan.


STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS


Step 1: Preheat the Oven and Prep the Pan


Preheat the oven to 375°F.


Wrap the springform pan with one large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, covering the underside of the pan and extending all the way to the top. Repeat with another sheet of foil for insurance. Spray the inside of the pan with nonstick cooking spray.



Step 2: Make the Graham Cracker Crust


In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar, and salt.



Stir until well combined.



Press the crumbs into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, until set. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.



Step 3: Make the Cheesecake Batter


In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or beaters, combine the cream cheese, sugar, and flour.



Beat on medium speed until just smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to be sure the mixture is evenly combined.



Add the vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt; beat on low speed until just combined.



Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed until incorporated, scraping the bowl as necessary.



Mix in the sour cream.



Make sure the batter is uniform but do not over-mix.



Pour the batter on top of the crust.



Step 4: Bake


Set the unbaked cheesecake in a large roasting pan. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until it comes about one inch up the side of the cake pan. The water bath (also called a bain marie) regulates the temperature and keeps the cheesecake baking at an even, low heat. The steam/humidity created by the water bath also protects the cheesecake from drying out and cracking.



Bake until the cake is just set, 1 hour and 30 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes. The cake should not look liquidy at all but will wobble just a bit when the pan is nudged; it will continue to cook as it cools.



Step 5: Cool


Carefully remove the roasting pan from the oven and set it on a wire rack. Cool the cheesecake in the water bath until the water is just warm, about 45 minutes. Remove the springform pan from the water bath, discard the foil, and transfer the cheesecake to the refrigerator to cool for at least 8 hours or overnight.



Remove the sides of the springform pan. You can serve the cheesecake right from the base of the springform pan. Or, if you’d like to transfer it to a serving platter, run a long, thin spatula between the crust and the pan bottom, and then use two large spatulas to transfer the cheesecake to a serving dish. Slice with a sharp knife, wiping the knife clean between slices. Serve with berry sauce, if you like.



Classic New York Cheesecake


By Jennifer Segal


With this recipe, a creamy, gorgeous, crack-free New York-style cheesecake is totally doable, even for beginners!


Servings: 8 to 10 Prep Time: 30 Minutes Cook Time: 1 Hour 55 Minutes Total Time: 2 Hours 25 Minutes, plus at least 8 hours to cool


INGREDIENTS


For The Crust

  • 1½ cups graham cracker crumbs, from 12 whole crackers

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • ⅛ teaspoon salt

For The Filling

  • 32 oz (four 8-oz blocks) cream cheese, at room temperature

  • 2 cups sugar

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 1 teaspoon packed lemon zest, from 1 lemon

  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, from 1 lemon

  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  • 6 large eggs

  • ½ cup sour cream

  • Special equipment: 9- or 10-inch springform pan; 18-inch heavy-duty aluminum foil (see Pro Tip)

  • Berry sauce, for serving (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS


FOR THE CRUST

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and set an oven rack in the lower middle position. Wrap a 9- or 10-inch springform pan with one large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, covering the underside and extending all the way to the top so there are no seams on the bottom or sides of the pan. Repeat with another sheet of foil for insurance. Spray the inside of the pan with nonstick cooking spray.

  2. Make the crust: In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar, and salt. Stir until well combined. Press the crumbs into an even layer on the the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, until set. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside.

  3. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Set a kettle of water to boil.

  4. Make the batter: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or beaters, beat the cream cheese, sugar, and flour together on medium speed until just smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to be sure the mixture is evenly combined. Add the vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt; beat on low speed until just combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed until incorporated, scraping the bowl as necessary. Mix in the sour cream. Make sure the batter is uniform but do not over-mix.

  5. Check to make sure your oven has cooled to 325°F, then set the cheesecake pan in a large roasting pan. Pour the batter on top of the crust. Pour the boiling water into the large roasting pan to come about 1 inch up the side of the cake pan. Bake until the cake is just set, 1 hour and 30 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes. (If the cheesecake starts to look too golden on top towards the end, cover it loosely with foil.) The cake should not look liquidy at all but will wobble just a bit when the pan is nudged; it will continue to cook as it cools. Carefully remove the roasting pan from the oven and set it on a wire rack. Cool the cheesecake in the water bath until the water is just warm, about 45 minutes. Remove the springform pan from the water bath and discard the foil. If necessary, run a thin-bladed knife around the edge of the cake to make sure it's not sticking to the sides (which can cause cracks as it cools), then cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to cool for at least 8 hours or overnight.

For serving: Remove the sides of the springform pan. Serve the cheesecake right from the base of the pan; or, to transfer it to a serving platter, run a long, thin spatula between the crust and the pan bottom, and then use two large spatulas to carefully transfer the cheesecake to a serving dish. Slice with a sharp knife, wiping the knife clean between slices. Serve with berry sauce, if you like.

Make Ahead: The cheesecake can be made and stored in the springform pan in the fridge, tightly covered with plastic wrap, up to two days ahead of time.

Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The cheesecake can be frozen for up to 3 months. To freeze, place the cake in the freezer briefly, unwrapped, to firm it up. Then double-wrap it tightly with aluminum foil or plastic freezer wrap, or place it in heavy-duty freezer bag. Thaw in the refrigerator the night before you plan to eat it.

Pro Tip: Springform pans are notorious for leaking. Since a cheesecake bakes in a water bath, the foil prevents the water from seeping in during baking. Please do not attempt to use standard 12-inch (30cm) aluminum foil – you can’t have any foil seams on the bottom or sides of the pan. No matter how well (or how many times) you wrap the pan, if there are seams exposed to the water, the water will find a way in. Even when wrapped properly, you can occasionally get some condensation inside the foil. If this happens, don’t worry – the crust is likely just a bit moist around the edges. Simply remove the sides of the springform pan before refrigerating and let it dry out in the refrigerator.

NUTRITION INFORMATION


Per serving (10 servings)

  • Serving size:1 slice

  • Calories:659

  • Fat:43 g

  • Saturated fat:24 g

  • Carbohydrates:59 g

  • Sugar:49 g

  • Fiber:1 g

  • Protein:11 g

  • Sodium:464 mg

  • Cholesterol:233 mg

Special thanks to Jennifer Segal, for the recipe and images. You can support Jennifer by purchasing her cookbook, "Once Upon a Chef, the Cookbook," featuring over 100 delightful recipes.

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