This cheesecake recipe is one that crosses all cheesecake regions. It’s neither New York, nor Chicago, nor even Philadelphia. Rather, it takes elements of many regions of cheesecake flavor and texture to bring you a rich, tangy, firm-but-not-dense, light and creamy body that rests on a shortbread crust. It is, simply, to die for.
I’ve told the story before of how I obtained my own mother’s cheesecake recipe (and how my sister and I discovered her true method), but it bears repeating because it’s so darned funny.
I was living away from home and returned for a visit. Knowing my mother’s reluctance to share recipes (especially a cheesecake recipe that someone else had shared with her), I asked if I might go through the recipe box and copy out a few favorites. In a strategy to confront her recipe sharing reluctance head on, I asked if there was anything in her box she didn’t want to share. Of course, faced with a direct challenge to it (she would never admit she didn’t share recipes), she said there wasn’t.
The very first recipe I went for was her cheesecake. She followed into the kitchen shortly, and saw what I was writing down. “Not the cheesecake!” she exclaimed. Well, it didn’t really matter that I had copied what was on that card. The method for making it was incorrect. And the oven temperature was incorrect. And the time for baking was incorrect. She was pretty sneaky.
After my sister had her first child, our mother visited her. She baked a cheesecake because my sister claimed she was going to bake one. Since our mother didn’t want that cheesecake to fail (my sister’s in-laws were also there), she baked the cheesecake. But my sister sat on a stool in the kitchen, surreptitiously taking notes.
Since then, I have continued to tinker with the recipe. I have added ingredients, I have changed the method for combining the ingredients and I have completely changed the method for baking it. So, this isn’t her recipe. I think it’s much better.
There are two very important factors for this recipe’s success. First, the ingredients must be at room temperature. It will make all the difference in the world to a smooth and creamy texture.
Second, you’ll be placing a pan of hot water into the oven on the rack below the cheesecake when it’s set in to bake. Once the cheesecake goes into that oven, you do not open the door. At all. Ever. Until not only the baking time is complete, but the cooling time also. So, for two hours and ten minutes, there can be absolutely no opening the door. Once removed from the oven, the cheesecake will need even more time to cool. Then it must be refrigerated to chill.
If you follow these instructions, you will have a cheesecake that is flawless. Smooth, creamy, crack-free, dense but light, this cheesecake will be perfect.
I’m happy to share. I hope you’ll try it!
- FOR THE SHORTBREAD CRUST:
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 8 tablespoons butter
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- FOR THE CHEESECAKE FILLING:
- 2 pounds cream cheese
- 1½ cups sour cream
- 1½ cups granulated sugar
- 3 rounded tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 5 large eggs + 2 additional egg yolks (very lightly beaten)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- FOR THE CRUST:
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Grease the sides of a 10" springform pan.
- In a medium-sized bowl add the flour, sugar and butter and cut together using a fork, or pastry cutter.
- Add the egg and stir to combine well.
- Press the dough into the bottom of the prepared springform pan.
- Using a fork, prick holes all over the surface of the crust.
- Place into the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.
- Remove from the oven to cool on a rack.
- PREPARING THE OVEN FOR THE CHEESECAKE:
- Increase the oven temperature to 475°F
- Place a rack at the center of the oven.
- Place another rack below it.
- On the bottom rack, place a 9 x 13" pan filled half way with boiling water (or extremely hot tap water).
- FOR THE CHEESECAKE FILLING:
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, place the cream cheese and beat on the lowest setting for 5 minutes. You are just stirring the cream cheese to soften it further.
- Add the sour cream and beat on the lowest setting for 3 minutes.
- Scrape down the sides and beat on the lowest setting for 2 more minutes.
- Add the sugar, flour and salt and beat on the lowest setting for 2 minutes.
- Scrape down the sides.
- Add the vanilla to the very lightly beaten eggs and extra yolks.
- Pour, the egg and vanilla mixture, a little bit at a time, into the cream cheese mixture, beating slowly between each addition, and scraping down the sides.
- Once all of the egg has been added, be sure to scrape not just the sides, but also the bottom of the mixing bowl to make sure there are no lumps of cream cheese sticking to the sides of the bowl.
- Beat very slowly until smooth.
- Add the heavy whipping cream and beat on the lowest setting just until combined..
- Pour the filling over the cooled crust.
- Gently run a knife through the crust in an S shape to release any trapped air bubbles. Allow the cheesecake to sit for 5 minutes and repeat this procedure.
- Place the cheesecake into the 475°F oven. Close the door and do not open it.*
- Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature for 200°F. Do not open the oven door.
- Bake for one hour. Turn the oven off. Do not open the oven door.
- Cool in the oven, which has been turned off, for one hour, without opening the oven door.
- After the cheesecake has cooled in the oven for an hour, remove it to a rack to cool completely.
- You will notice that the center of the cheesecake is wiggly. This is fine. It will set.
- Once the cheesecake is cool to the touch on the sides of the springform pan, cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap against the top surface of the cake and place the cake (still in the pan) into the refrigerator to chill over night.
- Once completely cold, run a thin knife, or spatula, around the sides of the pan, to make sure it' has released. Pop the sides off the pan in order to slice.
- Store in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic wrap. It will keep for at least a week.