Introduction: Cheesecake

Let me start off my saying cheesecake is not cake, it is indeed a pie.

"Cheesecake is a large family of sweet, cheese-based pies. Cheesecakes are generally made with soft, fresh cheeses. Other ingredients such as sugar, eggs, flour, and cream are often mixed in as well. Typically, the filling covers a crust, which may be pastry, cookie, or digestive biscuit."

The following Cheesecake is a recipe based off the recipe from the show Good Eats. I simplified it a bit, and made it fit the common size the ingredients come in. Its VERY rich and EXTREMELY high in calories. So don't read any further if you happen to like cheesecake and happen to be on a diet. I'll just leave out the part where its going to be the best cheesecake you will ever eat...

Step 1: Collect Ingredients

1 Spring form pan (glass Pyrex or ceramic/porcelain cookware works too. read later step)
Parchment paper

2 packages Graham Crackers
1 Stick butter
1 tablespoon sugar

3 packages of cream cheese (24oz)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon French vanilla extract (you can add regular vanilla extract instead)
2 whole eggs
3 egg yolks (save the whites for angle food cake)
1/3 cup heavy cream (half-n-half works if you can't find heavy cream/ whipping cream)

Here's a copy of the recipe here. Print it out in notepad if you plan to make the cheesecake.

Step 2: Graham Cracker Crust

A regular pie crust just doesn't work well with cheesecake. You need a cookie crust made from graham crackers or Oreos.

The crust consists of 2 packages of graham crackers smashed up and coated with a whole stick of butter and a bit of sugar.

Dump the crackers into a zip lock bag and smash them up. Don't smash them up into a powder and don't leave big chunks either. While you're doing this, place a stick of butter in a large frying pan on medium heat. When the butter melts add about a tablespoon of sugar and dump the graham crackers in. Stir until the crackers are fully coated with butter. The crackers will toast up quickly, so don't let them burn. Don't do something else while the crust is on the stove.

After a couple minutes, turn off the heat and proceed to pan prep.

Step 3: Pan Prep

I been making this cheesecake for a couple years and only recently invested in a pair of spring form pans. Don't feel obligated to buy one for your first cheesecake. A glass Pyrex dish or a ceramic dish work fine. I used both with similar results. The awesomeness of the spring form pan is the easy removal and the pretty cheesecake puck. You can even use smaller dishes for a single serving, but haven't tried it yet. Maybe around Christmas time or Thanksgiving I'll give it a shot and make another instructable.

So what you want to do is cut a piece of parchment for the bottom and another one for the side of the pan. If you have a round pan, cut a square of parchment and fold it in half. Fold it in half again and again. Place the tip of the parchment in the center of the pan, and cut the other end. When it unfolds, you'll have a perfect round piece of parchment.

For the sides you just cut a long strip and trim it to fit. Use butter or no stick spray to stick the parchment to the pan. Yes, no stick spray works to stick parchment to the pan.

Step 4: Toasting Crust

OK, final step for the crust. Dump most of the graham crackers into your pan and smash it down with the bottom of a glass. This will compact the crust and keep it all together.

Stick it in the oven for about 5-10 minutes at 300 degrees. The crust should dry out some and become crunchy again.

When you take the crust out, reduce heat to 235 degrees.

Step 5: Combine the Cheeses

While the crust is toasting, combine the following ingredients into a large bowl. If you have a counter top mixer use that, if not, an electric hand mixer works fine too.

3 packages of cream cheese (24oz)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup sugar

Stick the cream cheese, sour cream, and sugar in a bowl and mix on medium for a couple minutes. I recommend taking the cream cheese out of the fridge and hour or so before you start so it can soften up. If you don't, you might get chunks of cream cheese in your cheesecake. It happened to me the first time I made cheesecake. Since then I been letting it get to room temperature before mixing.

Step 6: Sepperation of Eggs

If you never separated eggs before, this is the easiest way to do it. Crack the egg and split the shell in half. Pass the yoke back and forth between the 2 shells, and the white should just fall off. You can use the egg shell edge to kinda cut the egg white.

You will need to separate 3 egg for the cheesecake. Save the whites for a lean scrambled egg or make an angle food cake. The whites should last a couple days in the fridge in an airtight container.

Step 7: Cheesecake Liquids

Combine the following ingredients and add them SLOWLY to the already mixed cheeses.

1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon French vanilla extract
2 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup heavy cream

A note on the French vanilla extract. I happened to find it in my local store and thought it would go well with the cheesecake. It happens to smell awesome and adds a rich smell and flavor to the cheesecake. Feel free to use regular vanilla extract instead. But make sure it is REAL vanilla extract, and not some fake crap. The real stuff is so much better. Some day I plan to make my own, when I get around to ordering some vanilla beans.

Step 8: Mixing

SLOWLY add the eggs, cream, and extract. Try to add one yoke at at time and let it fully integrate before adding another one. When everything is mixed, you'll need to scrape the bowl with a spatula and then mix it again for about a minute. When everything is done, it should look like the last picture. It should have a nice creamy texture with a light yellow color.

Step 9: Baking

Dump the bowl into your pan. Shake and smooth the pan out before sticking it in the oven. Set your oven to 235 degrees and bake for about 1 1/2 hours. Your cook time will vary on the size of your pan. After an hour, open the oven door for a minute and turn the oven off. Close the door and let the cheesecake sit in the oven for another hour. Don't worry if it doesn't look done yet, that's because its not. If you shake the pan, the center should still wiggle a bit. That extra hour should be enough for it to firm up.

Pull it from the oven and let it cool on the counter for an hour. When it cools, stick it in the fridge over night.

A note on water baths:
Some recipes call for placing the pie pan in a warm water bath while it cooks. The purpose is to slow the heating process so the eggs don't coagulate or something like that. Other recipes might want you to put a pan of water in the oven on a different rack to release some steam in the oven. I've tried both methods and never noticed a difference. I think my rather low cooking temperature negates the need for it. Other types of cheesecakes might benefit more from a water bath. But feel free to experiment yourself and see how it comes out.

Step 10: Pan Removal

Now is the beauty of the spring form pan. Just unlatch the side and off it goes. Place it on a plate or something so you don't cut the cheesecake on the pan bottom.

Step 11: More Crust

Take the leftover crust and smash it up into finer pieces. Now take a handful and press it into the side of the cheesecake.

All whats left is to cut it up and enjoy! Cut it into small pieces, trust me its really rich. Feel free to eat 2 though.

Step 12: Berry Topping

One last step to make it super awesome. Pick your favorite berry (strawberry for me) and get a ton of sugar to make a strawberry caramel sauce.

Strawberries have a lot of moisture in it so don't and any water. Take a handful of berries and throw it in a pan on medium heat. Dump about a cup of sugar on top and let the strawberries get mushy. When some of water comes out, add even more sugar. Keep stirring and let it thicken up.

I normally throw it into a blender when I'm done, but I broke mine a couple weeks ago.

Try to scrape off some of the foam while its cooking. When it gets to a syrup consistency, its done.

Step 13: Eat

Drizzle on some of the syrup and eat.
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