Start to Finish: 10 hours, including 8 hours cooling and chilling time Servings: 12 Difficulty: Intermediate
New York cheesecake is rich and creamy with just the slightest tanginess. It is denser and less airy than French cheesecakes, which rely on whipped egg whites for lift. It is a special-occasion dessert that requires some planning ahead and a specialized pan, but the work is all worth it when you bite into your very own homemade cheesecake. This recipe is adapted from the classic served at Junior’s on Flatbush Avenue in New York.
Crust 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg 1/3 cup melted butter
Filling 32 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature 2 cups sugar 1/4 cup cornstarch 1/4 cup sour cream 1 tablespoon vanilla extract 2 eggs 1/2 cup heavy cream 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (optional)
Make the Crust
Mix the graham cracker crumbs, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl.
Pour the melted butter over the crumb mixture. Use a fork or your fingers to combine. The mixture will seem dry. Break up any clumps and continue to work the mixture until it holds together when pressed.
Press the moistened crumbs into the bottom and sides of a springform pan. The crumbs should come 3/4 to 1 inch up the sides of the pan.
Chill the crust while you make the filling.
Make the Filling
Beat the cream cheese in a stand mixer using the paddle attachment until creamy. Add the sugar and cornstarch and continue to beat on low speed until light and fluffy.
Add the sour cream and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until combined, then scrape down the sides.
Add the eggs to the mixture, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Pour in the heavy cream and lemon zest (if using) and beat on medium-high speed until just blended. The filling should look fluffy and airy.
Bake and Cool the Cheesecake
Set the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove the crust from the refrigerator. Gently spoon the filling into the crust. It will fill the pan past the level of the crumbs.
Set the springform pan inside a large roasting pan. There should be at least an inch of space between the springform pan and the edges of the roasting pan. Place the nested pans on the center rack of the oven.
Pour an inch of warm water into the roasting pan.
Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the top is barely golden brown and the center only slightly jiggles when you shake the pan. Don’t worry that the center isn’t fully set. It will continue to bake through residual heat after you remove it from the oven.
Remove the springform pan from the roasting pan. Set it on a wire rack to cool for 2 hours or until it reaches room temperature.
Cover the pan with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Classic New York cheesecake is served plain, but bakeries and restaurants often offer versions topped with garnishes such as strawberries or cherries.
If your cheesecake develops a crack in the top, cover it with whipped cream, fresh berries or even a chocolate ganache.
Do not overmix when adding the cream, or it will congeal into butter.
Be careful when removing the springform pan from the oven. Leave the roasting pan with water in the oven after you turn it off. Remove the pan of water only once it has cooled.