New York Cheesecake

I’ve had two amazing cheesecakes in my life. The one passed down from my paternal grandmother (recipe coming later this year) and this one. Words simply can’t describe the absolute deliciousness of this cheesecake. The center is satiny and creamy, graduating to a velvety texture, then cake-like at the edges, just like a New York cheesecake should be. The flavor is sweetly tangy and rich and nothing beats a graham cracker crust. The fresh raspberry filling is literally and figuratively the icing on the cake. No cracks in the top of this cheesecake either!

serves: 12-16
cheesecake slightly adapted from: The New Best Recipe | berry topping: mine

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter for the pan
8 whole graham crackers (4 oz), broken into rough pieces and processed to fine crumbs
1 tablespoon sugar

2 ½ pounds (five 8 oz packages) cream cheese, cut into chunks, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks, plus 6 large eggs, at room temperature

For the crust; adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Brush the bottom and sides of a 9 inch springform pan with ½ tablespoon of the melted butter. Combine the graham cracker crumbs and sugar in a medium bowl; add 5 tablespoons of the melted butter and toss with a fork until evenly moistened. Empty the crumbs into the spring form pan and press evenly into the pan bottom. (You can use the bottom of a measuring cup to evenly press the crumbs. Use a small rubber spatula to neatly press the crumbs into the edge of the pan to create a clean edge.) Bake until fragrant and beginning to brown around the edges, about 13  minutes. Cool on a wire rack while making the filling.

For the filling; increase the oven temperature to 475 degrees. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the cream cheese at medium-low speed to break up and soften it slightly, about 1 minute. Scrape the beater and the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl well with a rubber spatula; add the salt and about half of the sugar and beat at medium-low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl; add the remaining sugar and beat until combined: about 1 minute. Add sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla, and beat at low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl; add the egg yolks and beat at medium-low speed until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl; add the remaining eggs, two at a time, beating until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute, scraping the bowl between additions.

Brush the sides of the springform pan with the remaining ½ tablespoon melted butter. Set the pan on a rimmed baking sheet (to catch any spills). Pour the filling into the cooled crust and bake 10 minutes. Without opening the oven door, reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees and continue to bake until the cheesecake registers about 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center, about 1 ½ hours. (The center should barely jiggle.) At this point turn off the oven, open the oven door completely, and let the cheesecake cool in the oven for about 30 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and let sit at room temperature for another 2 ½ to 3 hours, until completely cooled. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours. The cheesecake can be refrigerated up to 4 days.

To unmold the cheesecake, run a paring knife between the cake and pan sides. Remove the sides of the pan. Slide a thin metal spatula between the crust and the bottom of the pan to loosen, then slide the cake onto a serving plate. Alternatively, leave the springform bottom on for serving. Let the cheesecake stand at room temperature about 30 minutes, (the flavor and texture is best when this step is followed) then cut into wedges* and serve with fresh berry topping if desired.

Fresh Berry Topping
2 half-pints fresh berries (I used one raspberry and one blackberry)
1 cup raspberry jam
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

In a small food processor, process the jam until smooth. Transfer to a small saucepan. Bring the jam to a simmer over medium-high heat; simmer, stirring frequently, until the jam turns dark and is no longer frothy, about 3 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice; pour the warm jam over the fresh berries and stir. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours. To serve, spoon a bit of sauce over each slice of cheesecake.

* To make clean slices, dip the blade of the knife in hot water, and wipe it after each cut.

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