Cheesecake is a top ten favorite American dessert, always drawing oohs and aahs when served. The origins of cheesecake, European or American? That is up for debate. The main ingredient is cream cheese, and the big maker of the cheese is Kraft. They developed a recipe in the 1930’s for cheesecake, so they are in part responsible for the dessert’s wide appeal. Today, recipes call for a variety of cheeses besides cream cheese.
Cheesecake may look difficult to make, but it is easy and uses few ingredients. To make it perfect, there are some very simple steps to follow. It almost always is baked in a springform pan, a two-piece baking pan with a spring or hinged clamp to secure the sides of the pan to the bottom. The pans range in size from 6 to 12 inches. Our latest favorite pan is the Kuhn Rikon Push Pan.
The biggest baking issue is to keep the cheesecake from cracking when it bakes and cools. Baking in a water bath is recommended, however, cheesecakes, like children, can be a bit testy at times. We have made many cheesecakes using a water bath as directed and still, on occasion, it’s cracked on the top. If so, top with your favorite sliced fresh fruit and no one will be the wiser.
1-1/4 cup graham crackers crumbs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons butter, melted
4 packages (8-oz. each) cream cheese, softened (2 pounds)
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9-inch springform pan with butter; set aside.
2. Make crust: Combine graham cracker crumbs and 1/4 cup sugar in a bowl; add the melted butter and stir until crumbs are moistened. Press mixture into the bottom of the springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Wrap the bottom and up the sides of the pan with heavy duty foil. (This prevents water from seeping into the pan.) Set aside.
3. Make filling: Beat the cream cheese in a mixer bowl on medium speed until the cheese is smooth and lump-free, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add the 1-1/4 cups sugar and flour and beat just blend.
Add the vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until incorporated and smooth. (Do not overbeat.) Stir in the sour cream. Pour filling into prepared crust-line pan. Place the pan in a large roasting pan and add enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
4. Bake for 60 minutes. Turn off the oven and let cheesecake stand in the oven 1 hour (do not peek by opening the oven door). Remove from the water bath and cool the cheesecake on a wire rack for 1 hour. Cover cheesecake and refrigerate 6 hours or overnight.
5. To serve, remove the sides from the pan. Transfer cake to a serving plate. Garnish, if desired, with fresh fruit or sour cream. Makes 12 to 16 servings.