I am at a writing conference this weekend, so the obvious thing to do is post a cheesecake recipe here. Why? I make cheesecakes, and people enjoy them. They frequently ask me how I make them. There’s no secret – I think this is very similar to the recipe on a cream cheese box. I wrote down the directions as I did the process once, so you could have it officially.
The number one rule of making a cheesecake: relax. Everyone who asks me how to do this assumes it is challenging to do and there’s a high risk of failure. They clearly haven’t thought about my cooking skills. I have managed to make this cheesecake multiple times each year for at least fifteen years, and each attempt has been successful. Sure, there may be some slight imperfections, but if anybody complains, you take their cheesecake and eat it yourself.
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
3-5 tablespoons butter, melted. Apparently, you can use margarine, but why would you do that to yourself. This is not the time to cut calories.
4 – 8oz. packages Philadelphia Brand cream cheese softened. I do recommend going name brand here, but any will likely work. If you get the low fat or low calorie or otherwise diet product, please don’t tell me and don’t tell your guests you got the recipe from me. You’re eating cheesecake. It isn’t diet food.
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour. I suspect any type will work.
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 – 21oz. can cherry or strawberry filling
1. Make sure you have a springform pan. This is important because once you make one cheesecake, people will want you to make more. You’ll leave the leftovers with them, either because you’re nice or you want to avoid all the unholy calories yourself. Either way, you’ll only get your pan back about half the time. If your sister still has yours, go buy a new one. The original directions say 9 inch, but mine is 10 and works fine.
2. Open up the cream cheese packages and put the cream cheese in the mixer bowl. Cover it with a towel or a plate and set it to the side so they can soften.
3. Set the oven to 325.
4. Start melting the butter. I’d always use a bit more butter than you think you need. Too much or too little and the crust may not attach properly, but you’re still going to end up with graham cracker, sugar, and butter so it’ll be fine. See the end of rule one if someone complains.
5. Make some graham cracker crumbs, or buy them. I make mine in the Ninja, but you can also stick them in a plastic bag and hop up and down on it. This is especially useful if you’re stressed. Either way, one sleeve is about one cup or a little more. More is fine. Nobody complains about too much cheesecake crust.
6. Mix the crumbs, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and the melted butter in a mixing bowl with a fork. It should be the consistency of slightly damp, fluffy sand.
7. Take this delicious mix and dump it in the springform pan. Smash it out with your palms, so it is packed down and flat. This is where the 10 inch versus the 9 inch pan starts to be noticeable. Just add more stuff!
8. Take some sort of oven-safe bowl or dish and add at least two cups of water to it. Set the dish on the bottom rack of the oven. This has nothing to do with the crust, but you’re probably waiting for the oven to finish heating at this point so might as well get moving. The water will help the cheesecake not crack later.
9. Put the pan with the crust in the oven at 325 for 10 minutes.
10. While it is going, you can get started on the cheesecake batter, but there’s no rush here as you’ve got to wait for the crust to cook and then for the oven to heat more before you can put it in anyway. Lick the fork and mixing bowl with the crust crumbs while you wait.
11. Onward and upward! So you have your mixing bowl with the cream cheese. Add the cup of sugar and the 3 tablespoons of flour. In theory, you should now be able to mix these ingredients together with a stand mixer until they’re “well blended.” I have never been able to do that. I suspect I’m not waiting long enough for the cream cheese to soften. There appears to be no effect on the final product. So just mash it all together for a bit. The instructions say medium speed on the mixer, but I’d start slow unless you want cream cheese flung about your kitchen. No licking the spatula yet.
12. Start adding eggs, one at a time. Or two. You do you. Mix well after each addition. You’re going to want to take a spatula around the edge of the mixing bowl to make sure you have everything in there. Stop the mixer before you do that part though. Also, I break the eggs into a bowl first, so I don’t lose the eggshell into the batter.
13. Somewhere in here, the timer will ding on the crust. Pull it out, and set the oven to 450.
14. Once the eggs are in, use the spatula one more time to make sure you have all the edges. Don’t lick the spatula yet. You still need it.
15. Blend in the sour cream and vanilla into the mix. Use that spatula again. We’re trying to get rid of any stray chunks of cream cheese that are hiding, though nobody will complain if one or two are in the batter. The batter should be smooth and pourable. Still, no licking the spatula.
16. Pour the batter on top of the crust in the pan. Use the spatula to get more out, as well as smooth it around so it is flat in the pan.
17. You’ll probably need to wait for the oven to heat up. Cover the batter with a towel or plate. You probably have other small or tall humans or animals in your house that will want to start licking things, so covering it is for their own good.
18. Once the oven is all warmed up to 450, put the cheesecake in for ten minutes. Don’t be hasty here; we really want the oven good and hot.
19. Carefully unplug the mixer and remove the blades. Collect all the items dirtied by batter. Lick all the things.
20. After ten minutes, reduce the oven temp to 250 for an hour.
21. After an hour, your cheesecake should jiggle slightly when it is shaken. There may be some brown spots around the edges.
22. Take a small knife and separate the cheesecake from the pan. Open the pan, and then shut again. We want to make sure the walls of the cheesecake aren’t attached to the pan. This will help prevent cracking.
23. At this point, your cheesecake is done, and you can throw it in the fridge to cool overnight.
24. If you’d like to do more to help prevent cracking, leave it in the oven (turned off) for another half hour. After that, you could put it on the counter for another half hour, if none of the humans or animals in your house would disturb it. All these things do is help the cheesecake to cool slowly and hopefully, not crack. It probably still will crack, and that’s normal. You’re going to cover it up with a topping anyway. And if anyone complains — see rule 1.