Monday, February 18, 2013

The Best New York Cheesecake

 New York Cheesecake

 Confession: I'm not much of a cheesecake fan. It always seemed too dense, too rich, liable to sit in my stomach like a brick for about a day. When a Cheesecake Factory opened up locally, I tried a slice once or twice, but overall, remained unimpressed. 

Then, recently, I stumbled upon a recipe for New York Cheesecake from Ruth Reichl, and my interest was piqued. As a big fan of the food writer and former editor of Gourmet magazine, I knew if anybody could share a good recipe for cheesecake, it was this long-time New Yorker. 

I was not disappointed. Cream cheese made without gum was expensive, so I only did 1 part of that to 2 parts of traditional cream cheese. Someday I'll splurge and make the whole thing with that creamy, crumbly, heavenly substance, but even a little natural, gum-free cream cheese made a huge difference.

I served my cheesecake at a New York-themed book club party and everyone voted it the best cheesecake ever, from the crispy-sweet crust to the creamy, smooth, double-layered filling. We devoured it happily and quickly. Thanks, Ruth! I knew you wouldn't let me down!

New York Cheesecake
Recipe by Ruth Reichl
Serves 12-16

For the crust
1½ cups chocolate wafer or graham cracker crumbs (about 6 ounces)
½ cup melted butter
¼ cup sugar
pinch salt

For the filling
1½ pounds cream cheese, preferably without gum, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla paste

For the topping
2 cups sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste

Bake the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the cookie crumbs with the sugar and the melted butter and press into bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Put into the freezer for 15 minutes (it will keep here, covered, for a couple of months). Bake for 10 minutes, just to crisp the crust. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees, and set the springform pan in a larger pan to catch any drips.

Make and bake the filling: Beat the cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Pour into crust and bake 50 minutes, or until the cheese is set on the edges, but still a bit wobbly in the middle. (Depending on your oven, this can take up to an hour or more; just be patient and check every 5 minutes or so.) Remove from the oven (leave oven on) and cool for about 10 minutes on a wire rack.

Top and bake again: Stir together the sour cream, sugar and vanilla and spread over cooled cake. Return to oven for 12 minutes until glossy. Topping will set as the cake cools.

Chill: Cool completely, cover, and chill in the refrigerator at least 8 hours.

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