New York Style Cheesecake

Today is Lauren's birthday (Happy Birthday!) and the (ridiculous) tradition at her work is that you bring in a treat for the office on your birthday. That seems like a kick in the crotch to me, but whatever. We debated making mini-cheesecakes (Lauren's specialty) but decided against it because of the rather large amounts of cooling and storage space needed to make enough for an office. Instead we settled on one 10 inch New York Style cheesecake. My problem with it is that it is so rich that about 25% of it gets wasted by people whose eyes are bigger than their stomach. It doesn't matter how many times you warn them, at least one person cuts into it like its a slice of pizza.

Its been since Christmas since we've made a cheesecake, a fairly long drought by our standards. So I really want a piece of this one. Lauren has agreed to cut us a slice after she presents it to her office. On to the recipe:

To make a New York Style cheesecake you're going to want to use a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer. Other recipes can be made with a powered hand mixer, but this one is so cream cheese intensive that you'll risk burning out your motor. Trust us, its happened before.

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 7 packages cream cheese (8oz, room temperature)
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream (room temperature)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 large egg yolks and whites (separated)
  • 1 stick (4oz) unsalted butter (melted)
  • 1 sleeve graham crackers (crushed)
  • 1 sleeve/row Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies (crushed)
  • Large sheet, heavy duty aluminum foil
  • 1 disposable turkey roasting pan (or 13 x 9 in glass pan)
  • 1 10 inch spring form pan
Preheat the oven to 350, and boil a large pot of water (approximately 6 quarts). Wrap the exterior bottom of a 10 inch spring form pan with your aluminum foil in a such a way that you believe the seams of your pan are "sealed" from water. Basically you want to wrap one solid layer on the bottom of your pan around the seams, and then 2-3 more sheets half way around the bottom and up the sides so that your flat sheet is insulated from the water. When you get to the water bath step you're going to want your water about halfway up the side of your pan, so wrap your foil above that area. Mix the cookies and graham crackers with the melted butter and press into the bottom of a foil wrapped 9-inch spring form pan. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes-15 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Take your 7 blocks of cream cheese, add them to your mixing bowl and beaten until no lumps remain. The beaten cream cheese will be sticky and firm, like spreadable cream cheese. Whisk together your flour and sugar, then on low speed add the sugar mixture to your beaten cream cheese in a slow steady stream (or multiple installments). As this mixes in, the batter should become softer and smoother. Remove the bowl from the mixer and scrape the sides, checking for any lumps of unmixed cream cheese.

Next add the sour cream and vanilla, mixing on low speed until smooth. Add the egg yolks one at a time on low speed, until just mixed (you see no yellow streaks). Be careful not to overmix at this point, lest your cake become dense, heavy and prone to cracking.

Transfer your cheesecake filling to a large mixing bowl and clean out your stand's mixing bowl. Using the whipping attachment, whip your egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. By hand, fold the egg whites into the cheesecake filling.

Transfer your completed cheesecake filling into your spring form pan, leaving a small amount of space (1/8th inch) between the filling and the rim of the pan, so your cake can crown early in the bake without overflowing. Shake the pan side to side a little to remove any large air pockets. If you have extra filling that will not fit, that is ok. Sometimes it all fits, other times it does not. It sort of depends on how much air you leave in the batter. In batter form this cheesecake filling may not taste as sweet as you might expect. That is normal. Your finished cheesecake will not taste exactly that way.

Take your boiling water and pour it into your roasting pan. You'll want the water to rise halfway up your spring form, or at the very least not higher than your aluminum foil. If you are not using a roasting pan or your spring form will not fit, pour the water into a 13 x 9 inch pan and place that pan on the rack below your cheesecake. Should you decide to use a glass pan, make sure the water and the glass are of a similar temperature before you pour the water in. Also worth noting is that if your cheesecake and water bath are separate, make sure you use a little less water so that it still boils off and evaporates. The moisture from the evaporating water will keep the cake moist.

Bake your cheesecake in the center of the oven at 350 for 45 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 325 for an additional 30 minutes. When the top is golden brown and the center is firm but slightly jiggly to the touch, turn the oven off, leave the oven door ajar and let the cheesecake sit for one hour. After one hour remove the cheesecake, let it cool completely (about 2 hours, uncovered). Refrigerate the cake (in the pan) for 4-6 hours or overnight. Before removing the spring form ring, run a knife around the outside of the cake to prevent sticking.

You'll notice the lack of baking soda, baking powder and (relatively speaking) flour. The absence of these things makes cheesecake baking a fairly inexact science. It is entirely possible that your cheesecake may require closer to double the amount of baking time. That is fine. It is pretty difficult to overcook a cheesecake. So long as your top isn't splitting while its baking, you can give or take an extra 20-30 minutes of bake time in lieu of resting it in the oven with the door ajar. If your top starts browning severely, lay some aluminum foil over the top of it. If you notice your cheesecake growing a top hat (aka separation between the crowned filling at the top of the spring form ring exposing the pure interior around the edges, don't worry. As the cake cools, the top will deflate and the "hat" will disappear.

Further proof that cheesecake is an inexact science lies in these pictures. The rich, dark brown top you're seeing is the result of a mistake with the oven. "We" set the temperature to 425 for the first hour, before realizing the temperature should be 325 or 350. The result was an overdone top, but as you can see that didn't affect the lower portions of the cake. The superficial remedy for this mistake was to fill the center of the cake with sauteed/caramelized apple slices and decorate the outer edges with whipped cream (not pictured).

I am sure there are dozens more tips and tricks I could offer, but this is neither the first nor the last cheesecake I'll have on this blog, so for now I'll just leave this post as is.


Anonymous said...

Interesting recipe; will definitely give it a whirl. I thought I had the ultimate NY Cheesecake recipe until I read your post. I had also heard about folding in whipped egg whites to the batter, which presumably gives a lighter, fluffier cake. Also, I had heard various oven temperatures being used, but like your idea of 350 for 45 minutes, then 325 for an additional 30. I recently baked a 10-inch cake at 350, gave it 1 hour to cook, then checked for wiggles. I then baked it an additional 20 minutes. Given that the top was lightly browning and the center looked reasonably wiggle-free, I took it out of the oven to cool (bad mistake; I usually do this but should have left it in the oven for an additional hour, door ajar, with the heat off). What was a seamlessly beautiful, uncracked top left me with a cheesecake almost fully cooked except for the bottom inch above the crust, which was an uncooked, gloppy mess. It still tasted good, except for the bottom. Not sure what I did wrong, as I usually make this cake without any error for doneness. Should have used the wooden skewer to test, but it gave me cheesecake underconfidence as a result. Will try your recipe for the Memorial Day weekend, and hope I succeed....this recipe looks awesome!