Up until yesterday morning we weren’t making my dad a cake for his birthday. “Too much cake, too many sweet things,” my mother said. And I agreed. Then she changed her mind, saying that we had to do something traditional. She had this vision of cheesecake with berries that had been served for years at my grandfather’s birthday. So, we went with it. Despite not really wanting any more sweets, I do adore cheesecake.
This is a recipe from The New Best Recipe, from the editors of Cook’s Illustrated. I have extolled its virtues before, and here again it wowed us with its perfect texture and flavor. It’s not as heavy or dry as many cheesecakes are, even though there are 2.5 pounds of cream cheese nestled inside. I added a sour cream topping on which I could place some sliced strawberries for a little more contrast and to keep the cheesecake from overwhelming everything.
Now, though it’s encouraged by the recipe writers to keep the cream cheese at room temperature, you don’t have to so long as you beat it in the stand mixer by itself for a while first, scraping down the sides as you go. As you add each new item, keep scraping down the bowl, and keep making sure that the mixture is homogenous with no lumps whatsoever. I didn’t have an instant read thermometer to test for when the cheesecake reached 150 degrees on the inside, but I took it out after 1 hour 32 minutes and it was perfect.
New York Style Cheesecake with Strawberries
Adapted a little from The New Best Recipe
Serves 12 to 16
4 ounces graham crackers, about 8 crackers, crushed and then pulsed in a food processor until fine. In my case I made it gluten-free and found pre-crushed graham cracker crumbs. I used about a cup of these.
5 Tablespoons salted butter, melted, plus 1 more tablespoon melted butter to grease the pan
1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, 5 8-ounce packages
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/3 cup sour cream
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups sour cream
2-3 Tablespoons confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
About 3/4 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced thinly
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Mix together graham cracker crumbs, butter, and sugar. Press into the bottom of the pan with the bottom of a ramekin. Bake for 13 minutes, then remove to cool. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
In a stand mixer beat cream cheese on medium-high, scraping down and around the bowl until it is smooth. Add the salt and reduce to medium-low. Add in half of the sugar and continue to beat and scrape around the bowl. Do the same for the other half of the sugar. Add in sour cream, vanilla, and lemon juice. Beat until evenly dispersed, scraping around the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add in egg yolks and beat for a minute. Then add in eggs, two at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. Keep scraping around the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure the mixture is smooth.
Butter the sides of the springform pan and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour in the cheesecake mixture and place everything on the middle rack of the oven. Bake at 500 for 10 minutes, then without opening the oven reduce the temperature to 200 degrees and cook for 1 1/2 hours, or until the cheesecake reaches 150 degrees with an instant-read thermometer. Don’t worry if the cheesecake seems to be getting really brown in the first part of baking, it won’t get much darker. I didn’t bother with the instant-read thermometer, but they encourage its use. They say that if the cheesecake gets over 160 it can crack.
After you remove it from the oven, let the cheesecake cool for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, so that it is only slightly warm. Then place in the fridge for at least 3 hours or for as long as four days.
Once cheesecake has served its time in the fridge, prepare the sour cream. Whisk together sour cream, sugar, and vanilla. Remove the cake from the springform pan by running a knife along the edge and then taking off the sides. Run a sharp knife under the crust of the cake to transfer it to a cake stand or platter. Spoon the mixture over the top of the cake and spread to the edges. Arrange the strawberries in concentric circles on top. Let the cheesecake sit for half an hour outside of the fridge before you serve it. It also says dipping a knife into hot water between slices will help make them neater. I didn’t abide by either, but you could give them a try!