But before I dive into cheesecake, I better tell you what I had for dinner, because it was absolutely wonderful. And easy. I bought 2 Prime New York Strip steaks from the grocery store - the Albertsons, to be precise - as well as a loaf of Pugliese, some fresh local corn on the cob, and some Romaine. We threw some charcoal on the grill, some Kosher salt on the steak, some freshly smashed garlic and butter on the bread, and put it all together. Okay, not really all together. Mark grilled the bread and the steak (to perfection, I might add, with the steak just barely medium rare), while I boiled the corn for five minutes. I also cut up a tomato from my garden and tossed it with the Romaine. All in all, it was a delicious dinner, especially followed by a few bites of that strawberry ice cream I just told you about. In fact, I would say it was a perfect summer meal.
That was quite the little digression, so let's get back to the cheesecake. I like a dense cheesecake, New York Style, that is really smooth and creamy. I also don't like cheesecakes with sour cream in them. I don't like my cheesecakes to taste sour, just creamy. In fact, I'd love to try working with mascarpone sometime, but it would be hard to stray from this recipe, as I've discovered a cheesecake that is just exactly what I want. If you make it, you will discover that it is also just exactly what you want. Don't trust me on this. You'll have to test it to be sure.
I also prefer a graham cracker crust. No cinnamon.
1 1/2 c. fine graham cracker crumbs (a food processor works great, or a rolling pin over a Ziploc bag)
6 T. melted butter
1/4 c. sugar
2 lbs. Philadelphia cream cheese (don't use cheap brands, they're more sour)
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 T. flour
1 t. vanilla
2 egg yolks
1/2 c. heavy cream
Spray a 9-inch sprinform or cheesecake pan (mentioned in this blog) with cooking spray, then line with parchment paper on the bottom and most of the way up the sides. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees
For the crust, combine the ingredients and press into the bottom and slightly up the sides of the prepared pan. If you want to keep the crust crispier, you can brush it with a beaten egg white at this point. I don't bother with that, but you can.
In a stand mixer or with an electric beater, beat the cream cheese until nice and creamy. Add the sugar, flour, and vanilla, then beat until smooth, scraping down the sides partway through. Then, one at a time, add the eggs and egg yolks, scraping the sides down and thoroughly incorporating each before moving on to the next one. After completely mixing in the eggs, mix in the cream on a low setting, as you don't want to whip the cream.
Scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl and make sure one last time that the filling is consistent throughout, then pour into the crust. Bake at 500 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees and bake for one hour more. Turn the oven off, prop the door open just barely with the handle of a wooden spoon, and leave the cheesecake in there for 30 minutes. Remove it to a rack and let it cool completely to room temperature before unmolding.
All of these precautions, if done carefully, should leave you without large cracks in the cheesecake, and will ensure that the filling has cooked slowly, creating a very smooth texture. Just like scrambled eggs, proteins in general are creamier the slower they are cooked. I like to make my cheesecake at least one day in advance, as this gives it plenty of time to cool completely to room temperature and then to be refrigerated. It can also be covered completely and frozen, and it freezes very well. I prefer to leave the cheesecake at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving, as the flavor comes across better.
And, by the way, a half recipe is just the right amount for a 6" cheesecake.