Cheesecake is my go to dessert. I have made many, many flavors. From classic, to the ever popular roasted strawberry, to the Thanksgiving favorite pumpkin, to the key lime that nearly crippled my fingers from juicing so many tiny limes. When I considered what to make for Christmas dessert (yes, still backed up posts to Christmas here at AHWA), I naturally landed on cheesecake. I have a couple tricks for ensuring they are always perfect and delicious.
My secret weapon in the food processor. Use it to the make the crust, then give it a rinse and use it to make the filling. It ensures everything is evenly mixed and a lovely smooth consistency. My second trick is to bake in a water bath. It can be a bit of a pain to wrap your pan in foil and fill up the roasting pan, but it keeps the top from cracking, so it's completely worth it.
modified from Tyler Florence
2 cups finely ground graham crackers (about 6-7 sheets)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
16 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 pint sour cream
Zest of one lemon
1 dash vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Wrap the bottom of a springform pan, and up the sides, with foil.
Use a food processor to grind graham crackers.
Pour cracker crumbs in a bowl and mix with cinnamon and melted butter.
Press into the bottom and up the sides of the springform pan. My pan is nonstick, if yours isn't, you might want to coat it with cooking spray first.
Bake for 10 minutes and remove to cool on a wire rack.
In a food processor, process cream cheese until smooth.
Pour in sugar and lemon zest and mix well.
Add eggs, one at a time, pulsing to mix after each addition.
Add in sour cream and vanilla and process until well combined. Scrape down the sides as needed.
Pour mixture into prepared crust and place springform pan in a roasting pan.
Boil water in your tea kettle and pour into the roasting pan, making sure not to splash any into the cheesecake.
Bake for 1 hour. The middle should be barely set.
If you live anywhere north of Miami, you have spent most of this winter in an arctic tundra. Removing your hot cheesecake and putting it on your cold counter will cause cracks. If you don't have toddlers running around, open the door of your oven with it turned off to let it cool slowly. If you do have reasons not to leave your hot oven door open, remove the roasting pan and allow the cheesecake to cool for 15 minutes in the pan before transferring to a rack.
Chill for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator, preferably overnight, before serving.
Top with fruit or chocolate, if you like.