“Just make regular, plain cheesecake!” Okay, honey, calm down, I’ll bake a plain cheesecake. It’s not what I set out to do, but love makes you do crazy things. Especially when your spouse becomes very upset at the idea of a fancy cheesecake with fruit sauce, or heaven forbid, chocolate and marshmallows. And since I was in line to eat cheesecake regardless, I conceded and settled on simple. And I hate to admit it, but hubby was right.
Pure, unadulterated cheesecake is delightful and rich and needs only a fork. But like any kitchen venture, there are a few key points essential to success. The most important is to be sure your cream cheese is room temperature so it will beat to a smooth texture – otherwise you’ll have a lumpy, bumpy cheesecake. And whatever you do, scrape down the mixing bowl and the beater or paddle often while mixing.
The last essential step is to bake the cake in a water bath. Set the cake pan inside a large roasting pan, and fill with very hot water until it comes at least halfway up the side of the cake pan. This will properly regulate the temperature of the cheesecake, and prevent it from curdling, or again, becoming lumpy and bumpy.
As for those infamous toppings – strawberries or blueberry sauce or creamy caramel – you can really add anything your heart desires to the batter (or slices) and achieve success and sweet succulence. But don’t knock a pure cheesecake until to try it. Because to quote: “I didn’t know you could make this good of a cheesecake.” I know, his faith in my skills is inspiring.
- 1½ cups graham cracker crumbs (premade, or about 22 small, square crackers ground up)
- 2 Tbs light brown sugar
- 5 Tbs butter, unsalted, melted
- 1 lb mascarpone cheese, room temperature (two small tubs)
- 4 oz cream cheese, room temperature (one half of a standard block)
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 egg yolk
- ¼ cup sour cream, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Pinch salt
- Grease springform pan with baking spray or shortening. Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine graham cracker crumbs and brown sugar. Add melted butter and mix with a fork. Press crust mixture into bottom of pan. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until crust just begins to darken in color. Lower oven temperature to 325° F.
- For batter, beat cream cheese and mascarpone on medium speed until smooth. Add sugar and sour cream and beat two minutes more, scraping bowl once. Gently whisk together eggs, yolk, vanilla and salt. In four additions, slowly add egg mixture to cheese, scraping the bowl and beater/paddle often. Once batter is completely smooth, pour over crust and tap pan on counter to eliminate air bubbles (don’t be gentle!). Wrap foil around bottom and up sides of springform pan.
- Bring a tea kettle of water to a boil. Place cake pan in a large roasting pan and set on oven rack. Pour water to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until cheesecake jiggles when shaken, but moves as one cohesive mass without rippling. Cool in water bath, unmold and refrigerate overnight to set. Garnish with graham cracker crumbs, whipped cream or fresh berries, just to name a few.