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 springform pan in a water bath – more on that below – and you have to worry about the surface of the cake cracking, as well as over or under-cooking. However, after baking umpteen cheesecakes over the years, I’ve found with the right recipe and a few pointers, a creamy, crack-free, 100% perfect NY-style cheesecake is totally doable, even for beginners.
What you’ll need to make new york-STYLE cheesecake
Before we get to the recipe, you’ll need a 9 or 10-inch springform pan and 18-inch heavy-duty aluminum foil. The springform pan features sides that can be removed from the base, so you can release the cheesecake easily without having to flip the whole pan over (this would be a disaster with a cheesecake!).
However, springform pans are notorious for leaking. Since the 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 aluminum foil; you can’t have any foil seams on the bottom or sides of the pan. I can tell you from experience that 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.
If you’d like to try another technique that doesn’t require wrapping the pan in foil, you’ll find some guidance here.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Next 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.
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 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.
Make the batter: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or beaters, combine the cream cheese, sugar, and flour. Flour might seem like an odd addition, but a little starch prevents the cheesecake from cracking as it cools.
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.
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 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).
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.
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- Cheesecake Bars
- Ricotta Cheesecake with Fresh Raspberries
- Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust & Caramel Sauce
- Baileys Cheesecake-Marbled Brownies