My husband’s birthday is the day before Christmas, which means that Christmastime is basically a celebration of him in our household as neither of us are religious. We put up a tree and give gifts and celebrate the season — that is, the tilt of the Earth’s axis and the solstice. My husband’s favorite dessert is cheesecake. He loves it so much that we almost had it at our wedding. He grew up eating Snicker’s pie on his birthday made lovingly by his mother, and while it’s delicious I find that I can’t stomach much more than about a half a slice simply because it’s so rich. I was also eager to start creating our own Christmas/birthday traditions. I had never made a cheesecake before, so I went to Alton Brown for his recipe as they are fool-proof although sometimes complicated.
Note: I used a springform pan because it’s the only round cake pan I have. I would recommend against it, however. Alton Brown says not to do it because this particular recipe is cooked like a custard, that is, in a water bath, which can cause the water to seep into the pan. Reviews of the recipe included people recounting their success with springform pans so long as you wrapped heavy-duty foil around it. I tried this but I believe my foil wasn’t wide enough as I had to make a few layers to get it to wrap around completely, which caused some slight leakage. So, best not to do this at all. I also recommend watching the video on the Food Network site because it’s from Good Eats which means it’s not only informative but also enjoyable.
No matter how it turns out (mine was a little messy, as you can see) it will be DELICIOUS. I promise. It’s the lightest, best-tasting cheesecake I’ve ever had. And let’s be honest, I’m not crazy about cheesecake (until now?) precisely because I find it to be too dense for continued enjoyment. Not this one – the flavor is spot-on and the texture is perfect. Enjoy!
Sour Cream Cheesecake
33 graham cracker squares, crumbled (SQUARES, not the full rectangles most crackers come in. I messed this up initially)
1 stick unsalted butter, melted, plus additional, for brushing the pan
1 tablespoon sugar
20 ounces cream cheese (about 2 1/2 packages)
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup heavy cream
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Brush some of the melted butter around a 9 by 3-inch cake pan. Adhere parchment to the bottom and the sides. (This is where I recommend watching the video. Alton shows you how to make a round piece of parchment that will fit the interior of your pan perfectly.)
Place your graham crackers in a large ziploc bag and crumble them up with your hands. You want them to be in different sizes, not a fine, even mash. This is why it is recommended that you do it yourself rather than in a food processor. In a small bowl, combine coarsely crumbled graham crackers, the remaining melted butter, and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Using the bottom of a heavy glass, filled with coins or some other heavy object, press 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of the parchment-lined pan. Place remaining crumbs on a sheet pan and bake both the crust and the remaining mixture for 10 minutes. Cool. Reserve additional crumb mixture for sides. (The pan and cracker crust must be completely cool before you pour anything into it.)
In a mixer with a paddle attachment, beat sour cream for 10 seconds. Add the cream cheese and sugar and mix on low for 30 seconds and then turn up to medium. Scrape the bowl.
In a separate container, combine vanilla, eggs, yolks, and heavy cream. With the mixer on medium, slowly pour the liquid mixture in. When half of it is incorporated, stop and scrape. Continue adding the mixture until the rest of the ingredients are incorporated.
Once completely combined, pour into the cooled crust.
Give the cake pan a little jiggle back and forth so that any bubbles rise to the top. Lower oven temperature to 250 degrees. Place cheesecake into a preheated water bath, in the oven for 1 hour. (I boiled water in a kettle and poured it around the pan, which should be placed in another, larger vessel, like a roasting pan. The water should come up about 1/2 way.) After 1 hour, turn the oven off and open the door for one minute to let some of the heat out. Close the door for one more hour and let the cheesecake remain in the oven with it off. Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and place in the refrigerator for 6 hours to completely cool before serving.
When ready to serve, place the entire cake pan into a hot water bath for about 15 seconds. Unmold onto a cake round or serving dish. Take the remaining graham cracker mixture and press into the sides of the cake. (Or, if you used a springform pan, this will be easier but good luck with the water situation.)
To slice, place your knife into a hot water bath and wipe dry each time you make a pass through the cake.