Now there are a lot of really great things that New York is justly famous for (as well as some not-so-great things) but, at least when it comes to food, cheesecake is arguably the most unique. There are actually several different versions. Everyone has their favorite and, predictably, everyone will tell you theirs is both the best and the most classic variation. But this is my post, so we won't worry about any of those other versions. They're not as good anyway.
Once, a long, long time ago I actually lived in New York--so I know from where I speak. But, even before that, I lived in New Jersey where my mother made The Best Cheesecake Ever. And, yes, that's exactly what we called it.
My parents loved to host dinner parties and my mother made that cheesecake a lot. Many, many people asked for the recipe and most of them ended up making vastly inferior cheesecake-like desserts from said recipe. Not because there's anything inherently difficult about it. As it happens, cheesecake is a surprisingly easy thing to make. Trust me. I've done it. It is, arguably, the closest thing to a completely fool-proof product that the baking world has ever produced.
The ingredients are simple, obvious and not persnickety. The directions are even more straight-forward. So why do so many people fail at it? Because to make a perfect cheesecake you must accept one unalterable fact of cheesecake life: Cheesecake is not now, nor ever will be a health-food. It's dense. It's massive. It's packed with calories, sugar, fat and carbohydrates. It's as white a food as you can possibly find. It is not lactose-free. It is not gluten-free. It's not heart-healthy or diabetic-friendly. It isn't vegan.
I'm sure you can make more-or-less palatable versions of something close to cheesecake that are all those things, but it won't be the same and, at that point, all bets are off. Seriously.You wanna mess with perfection? You go right ahead and do it. Just know that you're on your own with that and I take no responsibility for how it turns out.
New York Cheesecake
For the Crust
For the Crust
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 1/3 cup sugar
For the Filling
- 40 oz cream cheese (5 80z pkgs) (yes, you read that right. You must use two-and-a-half pounds of cream cheese. This is not negotiable.)
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 3 tablespoons flour
- grated zest of two lemons
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 egg yolks
- 5 whole eggs
- preheat oven to 475F
- mix cracker crumbs and sugar in bowl to combine.
- add melted butter to crumb mixture
- press crumbs into buttered 9" (24 cm) springform pan (covering the bottom and partially up the sides)
- place pan in refrigerator or freezer to cool (set) until needed.
- in a very large mixing bowl combine first five ingredients (cream cheese, sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla) and beat with an electric mixer until smooth.
- add eggs and egg yolks a little at a time until it is all incorporated and uniform. It might be necessary (or helpful) to stop several times to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl.
- take pan from 'fridge and place on cookie sheet (or baking pan)
- pour filling carefully into pan.
- place on center rack of oven and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until center of cake looks puffy. Do not allow cake to get too brown yet.
- reduce temperature to 200F and continue to bake for an additional hour, or until cake is mostly firm. Center will be slightly sunken at that point and will jiggle slightly if pan is shaken.
- remove cake from oven, but do not remove from pan! Allow cake to come to room temperature then place in refrigerator and cool for an additional 6 hours before serving.
- remove sides of pan and place cake on a plate. Serve plain or with any topping of your choice.
Be sure to check out the following blogs for more tasty treats: