Friday, December 23, 2016

My Christmas Labor of Love

Every year for the past I don't know how many years, I make two cheesecakes.  One is for my little family to enjoy on Christmas Eve and the other I bring to my mom and dad's house to share with everyone.  They are delicious, cheesecakey goodness, and at this point, I think people would be rather irritated with me if I didn't bring it.

One of my pet peeves when making a cheesecake is when they crack.  Yeah, it still tastes delicious, but an uncracked, home-made cheesecake is the epitome of cheesecake baking and every one I would make would crack.  Irritating!  About 10-12 years ago, I came across a recipe that is long, a bit complicated, but usually comes out crack free if you follow it exactly.  It is a plain, New York style cheesecake on a shortbread crust.  I like plain cheesecake because you can jazz it up with whatever you like.  I usually get get a bag of frozen mixed berries and simmer them down with 1/2 cup of sugar, blending it with my immersion blender.  I also prefer the shortbread over graham cracker, because, let's face it!  What is there not to like about buttery shortbread?

I've been asked for the recipe and am going to share it.  I originally found it on the Recipezaar site which I think is now  Be prepared, it really is a labor of love and is putzy, but so worth it!  I usually am one who will tinker with a recipe, but this one I follow to the letter, every single time.  Only when I have done something a bit differently have I had a cracked cake.  I usually bake it in the evening because the house is a bit quieter and not as much running and bouncing around.

New York Style Cheesecake on Shortbread Crust

3 1/2 hours/1 hour prep

Crust Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 egg, beaten

Cheesecake Ingredients:
2 1/2 pounds cream cheese (5 8-ounce packages)
1 3/4 cups white sugar
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (adjust to taste)
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream


  1. As with all baking, have all your ingredients at a cool room temperature
  2. Get a couple quarts of water boiling on the stove.
  3. Arrange racks in your oven so there is one on the lowest and one in the middle. If you do not have a center position, then go mid-lower.
  4. Have a clean 10x14x2 inch (give or take) roasting pan ready.
  5. Preheat oven to 400º F.

  1. Gently combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 egg, and 1/2 cup butter in a medium bowl.
  2. Spread to the edges of the springform pan
  3. Prick all over with a fork, then bake 10-15 minutes at 400º F until lightly browned.  Allow to cool on a rack.

  1. Increase oven temperature to 475º F. 
  2. Turn oven light OFF (trust me on this one), place roasting pan on bottom rack and fill with boiling water.
  3. In a large bowl (I use a stand mixer), very gently beat cream cheese until smooth.  I use the slowest setting for 5 minutes.
  4. Scrape down sides of bowl.
  5. Gradually add the salt, 1 3/4 cups sugar, and 3 tablespoons flour--continue to beat SLOWLY until well combined, scrape down sides of bowl.
  6. In a small bowl, gently beat the vanilla, 5 eggs, and the 2 yolks.  Gradually add eggs to the cream cheese mixture.
  7. Continue to stir until combined and smooth, stop mixer occasionally and scrape down sides.
  8. VERY IMPORTANT! Stop mixer, remove bowl and give it a good scraping (some of the cream cheese will stick to the sides and bottom of the bowl), replace bowl on mixer and stir until all lumps are gone.
  9. Add cream and mix only enough to blend.
  10. Gently pour filling over crust, run a thin knife around the filling in a "S" pattern to remove any trapped air bubbles.  Let sit for 5 minutes and do it again.  I also tap the pan on the counter to work any air bubbles to the top. 
  11. Bake for 10 minutes at 475º F. 
  12. Reduce temperature to 200º F and continue to bake for one hour
  13. Turn oven off, but leave cake in for another hour
  14. DO NOT TOUCH THAT OVEN DOOR! You have created a nice, humid environment that will help prevent cracks and produce a perfect, professional, New York style cheesecake assuming you didn't mess it up by changing the atmospheric conditions
  15. It may appear a little jiggly in the center and will have a  golden appearance around the edges. 
  16. Allow to cool on a rack for a several hours, release the latch slightly on the sides of the pan after 20 minutes, rotate sides to be sure the cake is free (but don't take it off yet), you can remove the sides after an hour (or so) if you want to admire your work, but replace it quickly or the cake may fall.
  17. After it's cool, wrap completely with plastic wrap, there should be a layer stuck to the top of the cake.
  18. Chill overnight in the refrigerator (Yes, this is required).
  19. The cake will stay at peak flavor for several days so long as you keep it wrapped and cold.
What could go wrong? If the cake cracks, you either had your ingredients too cold, mixed the filling too vigorously, opened the oven door while the cake was cooking, or didn't have a pan of water in the oven.

If it does crack, don't despair--just cover it with a dark fruit or layer of cookie crumbs.

This is a fabulous cheesecake.  Delicious just as it is or with a fruit compote or drizzle of chocolate or caramel syrup.  If you are willing to put in the time and follow the directions, you will have a delicious cheesecake as an end result! Enjoy!