New York-Style Cheesecake from Cook’s Illustrated
Published March 1, 2002.
Why this recipe works:Our best New York–style cheesecake recipe started with a classic graham cracker crust. We used 2 1/2 pounds of cream cheese for adequate height, flavored the batter with 1 1/2 cups of sugar and 2 teaspoons each of lemon juice and vanilla for the perfect balance of sweetness and tang, and used six whole eggs plus two yolks for a texture that was dense but not heavy and firm but not rigid. Finally, we baked our cake New York–style: at 500 degrees for 10 minutes and then at 200 degrees for 90 minutes. (less)
Our best New York–style cheesecake recipe started with a classic graham cracker crust. We used 2 1/2 pounds of cream cheese for adequate height, flavored the batter with 1 1/2 cups of sugar and 2 teaspoons each of lemon juice and vanilla for t…(more)
Makes one 9-inch cheesecake, serving 12 to 16
For the crust, chocolate wafers (Nabisco Famous) can be substituted for graham crackers; you will need about 14 wafers. The flavor and texture of the cheesecake is best if the cake is allowed to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. When cutting the cake, have a pitcher of hot tap water nearby; dipping the blade of the knife into the water and wiping it clean with a kitchen towel after each cut helps make neat slices.
Graham Cracker Crust
- 1cup graham cracker crumbs (4 ounces, 8 whole crackers, broken into rough pieces and processed in food processor until uniformly fine)
- 1tablespoon granulated sugar
- 5tablespoons unsalted butter , melted, plus additional 1 tablespoon melted butter for greasing pan
- 2 1/2pounds cream cheese , cut into rough 1-inch chunks and left to stand at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes
- 1/8teaspoon table salt
- 1 1/2cups granulated sugar (10 1/2 ounces)
- 1/3cup sour cream (2 1/2 ounces)
- 2teaspoons lemon juice from 1 lemon
- 2teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 large egg yolks
- 6 large eggs
1. For the crust: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Combine graham cracker crumbs and sugar in medium bowl; add 5 tablespoons melted butter and toss with fork until evenly moistened. Brush bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan with most of remaining melted butter, making sure to leave enough to brush pan in step 3. Empty crumbs into springform pan and press evenly into pan bottom. Bake until fragrant and beginning to brown around edges, about 13 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling.
2. For the cheesecake filling: Increase oven temperature to 500 degrees. In standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese at medium-low speed to break up and soften slightly, about 1 minute. Scrape beater and bottom and sides of bowl well with rubber spatula; add salt and about half of sugar and beat at medium-low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape bowl; beat in remaining sugar until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape bowl; add sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla, and beat at low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape bowl; add yolks and beat at medium-low speed until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Scrape bowl; add whole eggs two at a time, beating until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute, and scraping bowl between additions.
3. Brush sides of springform pan with remaining melted butter. Set springform pan on rimmed baking sheet (to catch any spills if springform pan leaks). Pour filling into cooled crust and bake 10 minutes; without opening oven door, reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees and continue to bake until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of cheesecake registers about 150 degrees, about 11/2 hours. Transfer cake to wire rack and cool 5 minutes; run paring knife between cake and side of springform pan. Cool until barely warm, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours. (Cake can be refrigerated up to 4 days.)
4. To unmold cheesecake, remove sides of pan. Slide thin metal spatula between crust and pan bottom to loosen, then slide cake onto serving plate. Let cheesecake stand at room temperature about 30 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve.
From Cooks Illustrated-
Most cheesecake recipes call for wrapping a springform pan with foil before placing the cake in a water bath. The foil is meant to keep the water out, but sometimes water leaks in anyway and you wind up with an unappetizing, soggy crust. Here is an easy solution. Simply place the filled springform pan in a large oven bag (the kind used for baking ham) and pull the bag up the sides of the pan, leaving the top surface of the cake exposed. When the pan is placed in a water bath, it is sure to stay dry.
Why do cheesecakes crack and how does a water bath prevent overbaking?
Some cooks consider a cracked top an integral part of cheesecake, but we disagree and believe that it is actually an indication that the cake is overcooked. Two months of making cheesecakes proved that cakes baked beyond 160 degrees almost always cracked. The best way to prevent cracking is to use an instant-read thermometer to test the cheesecake’s doneness (and to use a water bath—see below). Take it out of the oven when it reaches 150 degrees at the center to avoid overbaking. If you don’t have a thermometer, the cake should be done when a 3-inch circle in the middle of the cake wobbles slightly. Although it still looks uncooked, residual heat will continue the cooking, and, when chilled, the cheesecake will have a perfectly smooth consistency.
However, one important note. If you take the temperature of the cheesecake multiple times you can do more harm than good. Puncturing the surface multiple times will weaken the structure of the cheesecake and can cause cracks. Consequently, we recommend that you take the temperature of the cheesecake only once or, if necessary, take the temperature again through the initial thermometer hole at the center of the cake. You can eliminate this risk altogether by taking the temperature of the cheesecake from the side, approaching the center through the part of the cheesecake that rises above the pan.
There is a second opportunity for the cheesecake to crack, this time outside of the oven. During testing, a perfectly good-looking cake cracked as it sat on the cooling rack. Evidently, the cake shrank during cooling and clung to the sides of the springform pan. If the cake clings tenaciously enough, it splits at its weakest point, the center. To avoid this type of late cracking, free the cheesecake from the sides of the pan with a paring knife as soon as it comes out of the oven.
Benefits of a Water Bath
Many cheesecake recipes specify that the cake be baked halfway submerged in a water bath, or what the French call a bain marie. The theory is that a water bath moderates the temperature around the perimeter of the pan, preventing overcooking at the edges. To figure out exactly what’s happening, we prepared two identical cheesecakes and baked one directly on the oven rack and the other in a water bath. Both were removed from the oven when their centers reached 147 degrees. The cake that had been baked in a water bath was even-colored and smooth; the other cake was browned and cracked. A quick comparison of the temperature at the edges of the cakes confirmed what we suspected. Upon removal from the oven, the cake that had had the benefit of a water bath was 184 degrees at the edge, whereas the cake baked without the water bath had climbed to 213 degrees.
Why was the cheesecake baked in a water bath 30 degrees cooler at the edges than the cake baked without a water bath? Although in both cases the oven had been set to 325 degrees, a water bath can never exceed 212 degrees, as this is the temperature at which water converts to steam. Why was the cheesecake baked in a water bath even and smooth while the other was browned and cracked? More than half of the water in the bath had evaporated, resulting in quite a humid oven that further insulated the cake.