I'm now going to make a confession now that's going to horrify many a dessert lover out there: I don't really like cheesecake. In fact, the only cheesecake I really like is the kind at the Cheesecake Factory, and then it's because theirs are so light and fluffy that they barely taste like cheesecake. (My favorite, by the by, is Craig's Crazy Carrotcake Cheesecake. It's DELISH.)
I'd never even had the remote desire to make my own, until this recipe. Something about it called to me. And now I know why. It's a creamy, light, and delicious cheesecake that is very like CF's. By light I don't mean light in calories -- no, I don't fool myself about that -- I mean it isn't dense and heavy, like most cheesecakes I don't care for.
It tastes better cold than at room temperature, and I made a strawberry sauce to go with it that can be served at any temperature. In fact, I highly recommend making the sauce; its fruity tartness complements the cheesecake really well.
The trick to a cheesecake without cracks is baking it for an hour, then leaving it to cool in there for 5-6 more hours, without ever opening the oven. That means it's not a dessert you can pull together at the last minute. Immediately after removing it from the oven, I covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight. I didn't remove the springform pan until I was just about ready to serve.
The one "negative" -- but this is about personal taste -- is that the crust was a bit more cakey than crusty. The next time I make this I'll try baking the crust for 10-15 minutes first, then filling it.
Cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce (recipe adapted from chumas at LiveJournal)
For the crust:
- 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 1/8 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
For the filling:
- 32oz cream cheese (4 8oz packages)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup milk (I used 2%)
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsps all-purpose flour
For the strawberry sauce:
- 1 10oz package frozen strawberries
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- To make the crust, mix all the ingredients together and press into a buttered 9-inch springform pan.
- Place a rack on the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Make sure all filling ingredients are at room temperature; that will help ensure a smooth batter. Heat a kettle of water.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese with the sugar until it's smooth. Don't overmix. (This can all be done by hand as well, if you prefer.)
- Switch to the whisk attachment and blend in the milk. Add the eggs one by one, mixing just enough to incorporate. Don't overmix.
- Add in the sour cream, vanilla and flour, then blend until smooth. Don't overmix. Small lumps are okay, big ones are not.
- Pour filling onto the prepared crust.
- Set the cheesecake on a sheet pan and slide it into the oven. Take the kettle of water you heated and pour hot water into the sheetpan, covering the sides of the springform pan by about 1/2 inch or more.
- Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour. Turn the oven off and let it cool in the oven with the door closed for 5 to 6 hours; this prevents cracking. You can turn the pilot light on to peek at the cake, which will be lighly browned on top, but do NOT open the oven.
- At the end of that time, carefully take the tray out of the oven (there will likely still be some water in it, so you don't want to spill it). Wrap the cheesecake -- springform pan and all -- with some plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge until chilled. Before serving, carefully remove the springform pan.
- To make the strawberry sauce, heat all the ingredients in a small saucepan until it boils. Turn the heat down so that the sauce is simmering gently. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and crushing the strawberries down to pulp. Serve warm or cold with cheesecake.