For a recent birthday party for a friend, Beaker, I volunteered to make the Cheesecake and over the course of a few hour party I saw almost all of it disappear. Now I thought it was delicious and I was told it was delicious by someone I respect but the real proof is in that it got eaten. As a cook nothing makes me happier.

This is a classic New York style cheesecake with strawberry sauce. Nothing fancy here except, well, cheesecake!

This is a slightly modified version of Luscious Cheesecake from Flour by Joanne Chang.

Here is the order of operations for making all this:

  1. Make vanilla sugar the night before.
  2. Make cheesecake. This takes roughly an hour to make, an hour and a half to cook, an hour to cool in the oven, an hour to cool on the counter and 3 to 4 hours in the fridge. This means your total time commitment for the cheesecake is roughly 7 hours, most of which is cooling time but you still need to know that its a long process that has to start the night before.
  3. When cheesecake goes into the oven, make strawberry sauce because it needs to cool.

I know the number of steps make this seem difficult but it is actually more tedious than difficult. Just follow the steps and it will all work out.

And to make this gluten free just use gluten free graham cracker cookies instead of big graham cracker sheets.

Ingredients - Vanilla Sugar

  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla overflowing
  • Ziplock bag

Note: In Europe you can buy this off the shelf. I haven’t ever seen it in the states.

Steps - Vanilla Sugar

  1. Combine sugar with vanilla in ziplock bag and knead it until thoroughly incorporated.
  2. Spread it out on a rimmed baking sheet to dry overnight.
  3. Force the sugar thru a sieve to get rid of clumps. This can be done right over the stand mixer when you add the sugar to the cheesecake batter.

Ingredients - Cheesecake

  • 175 grams of graham crackers (this can be 12 full cracker sheets or any gluten free graham cracker cookie that measures out to 175 grams)
  • 3/4 stick salted butter, melted (or 86 grams)
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature ideally but you’re not actually going to remember to take it out in time and it is ok. This is 3 8 ounce packages.
  • 1 1/2 cups vanilla sugar (or 300 grams)
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice (about 1 1/2 lemons)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/3 cups sour cream or creme fraiche. I suspect greek yogurt would work also but I haven’t tried that.

Steps - Cheesecake

Note: This is a cheesecake so the oven temperature really, really matters. If you haven’t checked your oven’s calibration lately, I recommend it.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and set the rack to the center most position.
  2. Butter or spray with pam the sides and bottom of a 9” springform pan. If you are using pam then make certain that you don’t miss any spots. This is particularly hard on the vertical sides of the pan. Line the bottom of the springform pan with parchment paper.
  3. In a food processor grind up the graham crackers to crumbs. Take 2 to 3 tbsp of the crumbs out to dust the sides of the pan. Add the melted butter and granulated sugar to the crumbs and process until it comes together. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan being damn careful to never touch the sides of the pan. This might be easier to do before you put the springform base into the pan but I didn’t try that.
  4. Bake the crust for 15 minutes / until lightly browned. Put on a wire rack to cool (or on the back porch if you are in the middle of a shite Indiana “spring” and it is still in the 40s; sigh) and turn the oven down to 325 degrees.
  5. With the paddle attachment of a stand mixer in place, add the cream cheese and beat on medium speed for at least 1 minute until smooth. Add the vanilla sugar and beat for 15 seconds or until combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl at this point. Add the eggs and beat for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice, vanilla, salt and sour cream and beat for 1 to 2 minutes longer. Scrape the sides and then beat on medium for 20 seconds or until smooth. Pour the mixture into the baked crust.
  6. Opinions differ here but personally I’m a believer in wrapping my spring form pans in tinfoil at this stage to avoid water leaks from the next step (baking the cheese cake in a water bath or bain marie). You never feel its necessary until you have soggy crush and then you believe …
  7. Place the springform pan in a deep roasting pan and fill the roasting pan with hot water until half way up the spring form pan. Depending on your roasting pan this may be as much as 8 to 10 cups of hot water.
  8. Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until the sides are set and the center wobbles a bit when the cake pan is jiggled. Turn off the oven and leave in the oven for an additional hour.
  9. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack for 1 hour. Place in fridge and cool for 3 to 4 hours before serving.
  10. Remove side from spring form pan and cut into wedges sliding off them off the parchment. Make the slices small as this is very, very rich.

Ingredients - Strawberry Sauce

  • 1 lb strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon (1 tbsp)

Steps - Strawberry Sauce

  1. In a medium saucepan combine strawberries, sugar and lemon juice.
  2. Place over medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently.
  3. Reduce heat and then simmer for 15 to 18 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate.