New York Style Cheesecake

I love cheesecake. It is one of my most favorite dessert treats. It is also a perennial favorite of my family too. I usually make cheesecake several times per year for birthdays and holiday dinners.

Most people are afraid of tackling this fussy dessert, because it tends to be labor-intensive, and time-consuming. So if you do make this cheesecake be sure to set aside 3 to 4 hours, but don't worry, most of that time is hands-off as the cake is simply baking at a very low temperature (275F).

Cheesecake is, in fact, a cream cheese custard and should be treated as such. What is a custard? The most basic definition is; A dessert made of milk, eggs,and sugar that must be carefully cook at a low temperature so as not to curdle the eggs.

But cheesecake is especially difficult because even though the eggs don't curdle, if you over-bake your cheesecake it will crack and split. If this happens to you, don't panic. Simply top your cake with fruit or sour cream to cover the cracks. After all: People do love topped cheesecake, and no one but you will ever know!

For the sake of full disclosure, I will tell you up front that this recipe came originally from the Joy of Cooking cookbook. I have altered it over the years, and what I have come up with is a foolproof method that produces a gorgeous cheesecake every single time. YES, it is a lot of steps, but I promise you, dear reader, that if you follow them faithfully you will have a perfect cheesecake every single time! So, let's get baking!

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

First thing you will need to do is to prepare a 10 inch springform pan. Line the outside of the entire pan with two layers of aluminum foil, line the bottom of your pan with  parchment paper circle cut to fit, and LIBERALLY coat the inside wall of your pan with nonstick spray (I mean, seriously, go to town on that bad boy!!!)

Preheat your over to 525F....Now on to the baking:

 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
4 ounces butter
Melt the butter in a microwave-safe bowl until just liquified. Mix in your graham cracker crumbs and pat into the bottom of your prepared pan.

Into a food processor with the blade attachment in place add:
2.5 Lbs cream cheese (I buy a 3Lb. block at CostCo, and use the extra 1/2Lb. for bagels)

1 3/4 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean's scrapings (save the pod for later/see note below)
5 eggs
3 yolks

Pulse the machine a few times to get the mixture going. Scrape the sides of the bowl to prevent lumps. Then hit the on switch and let the whole mess puree for a minute or two, until it is smooth and glossy.  Then add:

3 Tbs. of all purpose flour
1/2 cup heavy cream or sour cream-depending on your personal taste

Pulse the mixture a few time to incorporate everything, and then pour into your prepared pan. Tap the mixture a few times on the counter to release any extra air bubbles trapped in the batter. Cover the pan top with another sheet of foil (this prevents over-browning and drying), and bake on the center rack for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes remover the foil topper and turn the oven to 275F. Allow your cheesecake to bake, undisturbed for 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

You will know your cheesecake is done when it jiggles slightly when shaken. Turn off the oven and hold the oven door ajar with a wooden spoon. Allow your cheesecake to cool for 30 minutes. Then remove your cheesecake from the oven and place under a large mixing bowl and let stand for 3-4 hours until it is completely cooled.

Wrap the pan very tightly with clingfilm and chill-allow two days in the fridge for the flavors to fully mature before serving.

Congratulations! You've made a cheesecake that will wine you awards!

NOTE: What do you do with that vanilla bean pod? Well...I like to store mine is a little tub full of sugar. Then I have vanilla scented sugar for all my baked goods, and occasionally my coffee! Or you can place it into a full bottle of vodka for vanilla vodka for your martinis etc...

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