Jim’s favorite dessert is probably cheesecake. I like cheesecake, but not as much as he does. This might be due to the bad cheesecakes I have had throughout the years. Don’t get me wrong, to eat their own, but the no bake Philadelphia recipes that are mixed with cool whip and way too overly sweet, just don’t do it for me, and I can pass right by them. Now, a not too sweet, dense, New York style cheesecake? Well, that’s a different story, and it’s definitely worth the extra time at the gym. I’ve tried cheesecake once since we’ve been together, and it didn’t go over as well as I had hoped that it would, and that’s being kind, and I would really like to find an alternative to the $4 per slice awesomeness from The Fresh Market, so I knew I had to knock it out on this one.
I went to the internet to find some suggestions, and didn’t need to venture much further than, one of my favorite blogs, The Way the Cookie Crumbles, and her post on Dorie Greenspan’s Tall & Creamy Cheesecake. Now, while she did super mini versions in mini-muffin tins, I wanted to utilize the 4½” pans that we had received for our wedding. Not only do these make the cutest little cheesecake, they also help a little with portion control. So, instead of a great big cheesecake sitting on the counter until we eat our way through it, I can make 4 of these, we can enjoy one, and then I can stash the rest in the freezer for another day.
I am seriously excited to say that these were a total hit. I served it with a generous drizzle of caramel sauce, but it would be great on its own or with whatever your favorite cheesecake topping might be. Oh, and don’t be stingy with the foil step. I only went for one layer, and my crusts got a little damp. Thankfully, it didn’t ruin the final product, but I will definitely be using the two layers the recipe calls for on my next attempt.
- 7 oz. Graham Crackers, 1 pack
- 2 Tbsp Sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 2 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, melted
- 16 oz. Cream Cheese, room temperature
- ½ cup + 2 Tbsp Sugar
- ¼ tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 2 Large Eggs, at room temperature
- ½ cup + 2 Tbsp Sour or Heavy Cream, or a combination of the two
- Butter 4 4½” springform pans and wrap the bottoms in a double layer of aluminum foil, and place them on a baking sheet.
- In a food processor, pulse the graham crackers until they are made into crumbs. Pulse in sugar and salt until combined. Pour in melted butter and pulse a few more times until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. Divide the ingredients into the buttered springform pans and use your fingers to pat an even layer of crumbs along the bottom of the pan and about halfway up the sides. Don’t worry if the sides are not perfectly even or if the crumbs reach above or below the midway mark on the sides—this doesn’t have to be a precision job. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven.
- Center a rack in the oven, preheat the oven to 350°F and place the springforms on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Set the crusts aside to cool on a rack while you make the cheesecake.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
- Set a pot of water on to come to a boil.
- Working with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese at medium speed in a medium bowl until it is soft and lives up to the creamy part of its name, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the mixture is light. Beat in the vanilla, and add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition. You’re looking for a well-aerated batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the cream(s).
- Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that nothing has been left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape the batter into the springform pans. The batter will reach the brim of the pan. (If you have a pan with lower sides and have leftover batter, you can bake the batter in a buttered ramekin or small soufflé mold.)
- Place the foil-wrapped springform pans into the roasting pan. Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the roaster to come halfway up the sides of the springform pans.
- Bake the cheesecakes 55 minutes, at which point the tops will be slightly browned, and perhaps cracked, and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven’s heat and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecakes to set in their water bath for another hour.
- After 1 hour, carefully pull the setup out of the oven, lift the springform pans out of the roaster—be careful, there may be some hot water in the aluminum foil—remove the foil. Let the cheesecakes come to room temperature on a cooling rack.
- When the cakes are cool, cover the top lightly and chill for at least 4 hours, although overnight would be better.
Remove the sides of the springform pan— I use a hairdryer to do this (use the dryer to warm the sides of the pan and ever so slightly melt the edges of the cake)—and set the cake, still on the pan’s base, on a serving platter. The easiest way to cut cheesecake is to use a long, thin knife that has been run under hot water and lightly wiped. Keep warming the knife as you cut slices of the cake.
Wrapped well, the cake will keep for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or for up to 2 months in the freezer. It’s best to defrost the still-wrapped cheesecake overnight in the refrigerator.