Many commercial cheesecakes are huge and overflowing with a host of strange ingredients like peanut butter cups or chocolate chip cookie dough. One piece will ruin your cholesterol for a year. This recipe keeps it real, so the true flavor of the cream cheese comes through, with only a little lemon zest in the mix. If you must doctor it, top it off with a simple strawberry sauce.
Game plan: The following baking method may seem time-consuming and (admittedly) strange, but it results in a smooth cheesecake without having to use a water bath.
If time permits, make this cake a day in advance. It’s best after being refrigerated overnight.
1 1/4 cupsgraham cracker or vanilla wafer cookie crumbs, such as Nabisco Nilla Wafers
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick), melted, plus more for coating the pan
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
4 (8-ounce) packagescream cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (from about 1 lemon)
1 teaspoonvanilla extract
1/4 cupheavy cream
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
Heat the oven to 325ºF and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with butter. Place wafer crumbs and melted butter in a medium bowl and mix until thoroughly combined. Pour the crumb mixture into the pan and, using the bottom of a cup, press evenly into the bottom and slightly up the sides.
Mix together sugar and flour in a medium bowl and set aside. Place cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until smooth. With the mixer running, slowly pour in the sugar mixture and beat until incorporated. Stop the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle as needed.
With the mixer on low, add lemon zest and vanilla and then slowly pour in cream; mix until just combined. Add egg yolk, then whole eggs one at a time, allowing each egg to incorporate completely before adding the next. Stop the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle as needed.
Pour the filling into the prepared crust and bake until the edges of the cake are browned and the center is barely set, about 45 to 60 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the cake cool in the oven for 1 hour.
Remove the cheesecake from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Cover with a baking sheet and let cool until the pan is lukewarm to the touch, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove the baking sheet, loosely cover the cheesecake, and refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 3 days. To serve, run a knife around the inner edge of the pan, remove the sides, and slice.