New York Cheesecake
(American Mid-Atlantic cream cheese dessert)
Rich and creamy. Dense yet light. A late-night favorite of the Golden Girls. Cheesecake is an iconic American dessert. The best cheesecake in America comes from New York. And the quintessential New York cheesecake is made at Junior's, a Brooklyn dining institution since the 1950s. Junior's original version sports a spongecake crust. This recipe uses an easier-for-the-home-cook-and-just-as-tasty graham cracker crust.
If you crave something fancier than plain-Jane, check out some of the more popular variations below.
6 to 8 servings
- Graham cracker crumbs -- 2 cups
- Sugar -- 1/4 cup
- Unsalted butter, melted -- 1/2 cup
- Cream cheese, room temperature -- 4 (8-ounce) packages
- Sugar -- 1 1/4 cups
- Cornstarch -- 1/4 cup
- Eggs -- 3
- Egg yolks -- 2
- Heavy cream -- 1/3 cup
- Lemon zest -- 1 tablespoon
- Vanilla -- 1 teaspoon
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter until well blended. Press the ingredients into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of a greased 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, then chill well.
- Preheat the oven again to 350 degrees. Add the softened cream cheese, sugar and cornstarch to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs and egg yolks one at a time until each is fully incorporated. Finally, beat in the heavy cream, lemon zest and vanilla. Take care not to overbeat the filling, as this could lead to cracking when the cheesecake is baked.
- Pour the filling into the chilled crust. Place the springform pan on a baking sheet and then place the sheet in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 300 degrees and bake for another 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until the cheesecake is baked through but still a little wobbly in the center.
- Remove the cheesecake from the oven, and run a sharp knife around outer edge. Let the cake cool completely and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours before adding any toppings and serving.
Cheesecake Notes and Variations
- To make your own graham cracker crumbs: Place graham crackers into a plastic bag with a zippered lock. Run a rolling pin over the bag until you have fine crumbs. You can also use a food processor, but that usually produces crumbs of uneven size.
- Cookie dough crust: Use a simple sugar cookie crust instead of a graham cracker crust if you like. Simply make up a batch of your favorite sugar cookie dough and press in into the bottom of the springform pan to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in a 375-degree oven. Remove and cool completely before continuing with Step Two above.
- Baking in a water bath: Adding a warm water bath around your baking cheesecake mitigates the heat of the oven and is said to minimize cracking in the filling. Before baking, add the filled springform pan to a baking pan instead of a baking sheet, and fill the pan with warm water to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Place carefully in the oven and bake as directed. When done, remove the springform pan from the water bath to cool completely.
- Cheesecake toppings: The most common topping for plain cheesecake is basic canned fruit pie filling: cherry, strawberry, blueberry. For a lighter touch, use fresh fruit instead. Raspberry preserves is nice too. Or try a simple drizzle of chocolate syrup.
- Sour cream topping: For an elegant, tangy and lightly sweet sour cream topping, mix together 1 cup of sour cream, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. Spread the mixture evenly over the top of a chilled cheesecake just before serving.
- Pumpkin cheesecake: A favorite for Thanksgiving tables. For the crust, replace 1 cup of the graham cracker crumbs with crumbled ginger snaps. For the filling, use only 3 packages of cream cheese and add 1 cup of pumpkin puree, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of cloves and a big pinch of nutmeg. Eliminate the lemon zest. Top slices with dollops of lightly sweetened whipped cream.
- Chocolate cheesecake: For the crust, use crushed chocolate wafers. For the filling, reduce the sugar to 3/4 cup and mix 1 cup (8 ounces) of melted semi-sweet chocolate chips into the filling after the egg, but before the heavy cream.
- Chocolate chip cheesecake: Toss 3/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips with 1 tablespoon of flour and stir into the finished filling batter from the main recipe. Pour the batter into the crust, and then sprinkle the top of the filling with another 1/4 cup of chocolate chips. Bake as directed in the main recipe.
- Raspberry swirl cheesecake: Makes a beautiful presentation. First make a raspberry puree. Process 1 1/2 cups of fresh or frozen raspberries in a blender until smooth. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve to remove the seeds, and then mix with 2 tablespoons of sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-low flame and cook for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat to cool while you proceed with the recipe above. After you add the cream cheese filling to the crust, drop spoonsful of the raspberry puree onto the top of the filling. Use a toothpick, skewer or knife to swirl the puree into the batter. Bake as directed in the main recipe.