I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve made this cheesecake and variations of it for family, friends and sometimes total strangers. It’s truly a foolproof recipe and technique that ensures a smooth texture with no cracks. That’s right. Perfect, creamy and velvety texture with no cracks each and every time. Cheesecake pictured with my Raspberry Grand Marnier Sauce.
It’s important to have the cream cheese and eggs at room temperature, and all the other ingredients measured and ready to go before you start. As a general rule, I’ll either leave the items out the night before or mid-morning, depending when I’ll be baking.
Start by lining the bottom of a standard spring-form pan with parchment paper and wrap the pan in two layers of extra wide aluminum foil. Lightly butter the spring-form pan and set aside. Position oven rack in the middle and pre-heat oven to 350°F.
Note: I use two layers of foil out of an abundance of precaution and a bad past experience during Christmas. You can do just one layer and if you don’t have extra-wide foil, try a crock-pot liner or Reynolds oven bag as a substitute.
In a food processor, add the graham crackers, granulated sugar and cinnamon. Pulse until crackers resemble bread crumbs. With the processor on, slowly drizzle in the melted butter and pulse until well combined. Dump it into the pan and press evenly throughout the pan. You can use your fingers, the bottom of a measuring cup or the bottom of a flat glass.
Tip: If you don’t have a food processor, place the crackers in a plastic bag and hit it with a mallet until you have crumbs. Add the butter and mix well to combine.
Bake the crust in the oven at 350°F for 8 minutes. Cool on a wire rack while you make the filling.
In a standing mixer or large bowl with a hand-held mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Blend in the milk and combine. Add one egg at a time, mixing just to incorporate and scrape the side of the bowl as you go. In a separate small bowl, mix together the sour cream and flour until smooth. Add it to the cream cheese mixture along with the vanilla extract and blend until smooth.
Tip: By adding the flour to the sour cream you ensure all the flour gets incorporated into the filling.
Pour the creamy mixture through a sieve into a separate mixing bowl and fold in the lemon zest with a spatula. Pour the filling into the prepared graham cracker crust, tap a few times on a kitchen towel over the counter to remove any air bubbles and place the spring-form pan in a roasting pan. As a safety precaution, position the roasting pan in the oven first and then fill the roasting pan with hot water. Have a pitcher of very hot water near the oven. Pull the rack out and positioned the roasting pan. Slowly pour the hot water into a corner of the roasting pan until the water reaches slightly over half the way up the side of the pan.
Tip: Pouring the filling through a sieve ensures a creamy texture free of any egg and cream cheese particles that didn’t incorporate well.
Tip: To ensure no cracks, the cheesecake bakes and cools in the oven! Process is at least 3 hours. So worth it!
Bake in the water bath (bain-marie) at 350°F for one hour. Turn the oven off and allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven for at least two hours. Sometimes during the final 30 minutes, I wedge oven mitts on the side of the oven door and allow the heat to escape. Once the oven has lost its heat, remove the cheesecake from the water bath and place it on a wire rack. Carefully remove the roasting pan and discard the water.
Note: I love to make my cheesecakes the day before in the evening. I bake it around 8 pm and watch a movie at home while it bakes and cools. When my movie is over and I’ve had some down time, I wrap it up and refrigerate it until the next day.
When I’m ready to refrigerate the cheesecake, I place a paper towel on top of the cheesecake (to catch the condensation moisture) and wrap it in foil or plastic wrap. Place it in the refrigerator overnight or at least 8 hours to finish setting.
Prior to serving, remove all the wrapping and paper towel. If necessary, run a thin, hot knife around the cheesecake to separate the it from the pan and release the pan’s spring mechanism. Remove the rim and invert the cheesecake on a flat plate, remove the parchment paper and pan bottom and revert onto a serving plate. Serve with my Raspberry Grand Marnier Sauce and fresh fruit lightly tossed in the sauce. Enjoy!
How to cut a perfect cheesecake slice? The best way to get those perfect pie slices is with a hot knife. Prepare a pitcher of very hot tap water and have a clean kitchen towel on hand. Dip the knife, wipe off the excess water and make your slice clean through until the graham cracker breaks. Slide the knife straight out, not up. Clean your knife in the hot water and repeat the process until all your desired slices have been cut.
Note: While some might recommend dental floss, it doesn’t really cut through the crunchy crust. Use a knife.
Lemon NY Style Cheesecake
This is a beautiful creamy and flavorful NY style cheesecake that any deli would be proud to serve. A family favorite and highly requested recipe.
- Graham Cracker Crust
- 2 ½ – 3 cups graham crackers, broken in pieces (1 ½ sleeves)
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Cheesecake Filling
- 4 8-oz packages of regular cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- ¾ cup whole milk
- 4 extra large eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup sour cream
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- zest of 2 Meyer lemons
- pitcher of hot water for water bath (bain-marie)
- assorted berries for garnish
- Raspberry Grand Marnier Sauce
Pre-heat oven to 350°F and line a spring-form pan with parchment paper. Lightly butter the sides and bottom. Set aside.
In a food processor, crumble the graham crackers, sugar and cinnamon. With processor on, drizzle melted butter and process until crackers look like sand. Pour mixture into spring-form pan. Distribute evenly and press down using a measuring cup, flat bottom glass or fingers. Bake at 350°F for 8 minutes. Cool on a baking wire rack while you make the filling.
In a standing mixer, mix the cream cheese with the sugar until texture is smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl to ensure it's all incorporated. Blend in whole milk and then one egg at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl again.
In a separate small bowl, whisk the sour cream and all purpose flour. Add to the cream mixture along with the vanilla extract and blend until smooth.
Pour mixture through a sieve into a large mixing bowl and fold in the Meyer lemon zest. Pour into the spring-form pan. Tap twice to remove air bubbles.
Place the spring-form pan the roasting pan and position the roasting pan in the oven. Add hot water at the corner of the pan until the water level is slightly more than half the way up the side of the pan.
Bake at 350°F for one hour. Turn oven off and allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven for two hours. Do not open the door. Remove cheesecake from the oven and place on a wire rack. Discard water in roasting pan.
Wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours so the cake can set.
Unwrap, invert to remove the parchment paper and pan bottom and revert onto a serving plate. Garnish with berries and serve with Raspberry Grand Marnier Sauce.