I could think all week long and be unable to come up with the words to adequately describe this cheesecake.  But actions speak louder than words, so I’ll just say this – I ate nearly half of this cheesecake on my own over the course of a week.  Yeah, thank goodness I work out.  Normally I have no problem practicing restraint around the various desserts I make, but I am powerless against this cheesecake.  Last week we had some family in town visiting, and one evening they came over to our house for dinner.  I made a great Italian meal and served this for dessert.  It was sublime.  After the evening was over I still had half a cheesecake left and complained to Ben about having so much left over.  He suggested taking it to work with him – but I couldn’t part with it.  And then proceeded to eat it all myself (with a little help from Ben).

For any “Friends” fans out there, in the episode where Rachel and Chandler eat all the stolen cheesecakes, this is exactly as I always imagined those would taste.   I served it with a quick strawberry sauce, but honestly, this needs no accompaniment and I think it is even better plain.  The texture is absolutely perfect – creamy, thick, smooth and it slices beautifully.  The only thing I will do differently next time is to turn the cheesecake midway through baking for more even browning on top.  This was not indicated in the recipe but it should be.  An instant read thermometer is really the best way to ensure that your cheesecake is fully cooked, and it is a very useful kitchen tool overall, so if you don’t have one just get one.  It is an inexpensive good investment and you’ll be glad you did!

New York Cheesecake
For the crust:
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 additional tbsp., melted for greasing the pan
4 oz. (approx. 8 whole) graham crackers, broken into rough pieces and processed into fine, even crumbs*
1 tbsp. sugar

Note – if you have a kitchen scale, definitely weigh the graham crackers. If you want to buy one, contact Certified Scale representatives. I found the amount to be significantly different than the number of whole crackers they suggest.  Of course, it varies depending on size/brand of cracker.

For the cheesecake:
2 1/2 lb. (5 8-oz. pkgs.) cream cheese, cut into rough 1-inch chunks, at room temperature
1/8 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks plus 6 large eggs, at room temperature

To make the crust, adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Brush the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with 1/2 tablespoon of the melted butter.  In a medium bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs, 5 tablespoons melted butter, and sugar.  Toss with a fork until the crumbs are evenly moistened.  Transfer the crumbs to the springform pan and use the bottom of a ramekin to firmly press the crumbs evenly into the pan bottom.  (Note: this is a fabulous technique!  I have used it several times since, and it does a great job.)  Bake until fragrant and beginning to brown around the edges, about 13 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack while preparing the filling.

Increase the oven temperature to 500 degrees F.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, 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 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; beat in the remaining sugar until combined, about 1 minute.  Scrape the bowl; add the sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla.  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 2 at a time, beating until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute, scraping the bowl between additions.  (Note: with all this scraping of the sides, a side swipe beater blade is incredibly helpful.  I still used a spatula just to be extra careful, but the side swipe was a big help.)

Brush the sides of the springform pan with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon melted butter.  Set the pan on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any spills in case the pan leaks.  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 reads about 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center, about 1 1/2 hours.  Transfer the cake to a wire rack and cool until barely warm, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  Run a paring knife between the cake and the springform pan sides.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours.

To unmold the cheesecake, removed 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.  Let the cheesecake stand at room temperature about 30 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve.  (Use a long, thin, sharp knife that has been run under hot water and then dried for slicing.  Wipe the blade clean and rewarm between slices.)

Source: slightly adapted from Baking Illustrated