How do you feel about cheesecake? Do you love it? Have you ever tried to make it? I have a small confession, I go through these food fear phases. Where I'm terrified to cook with a certain ingredient or make a certain dish. First it was yeast, then cheesecake, it's currently pie crust that I'm trying to avoid, but that's for another time. At some point the inevitable happens and I must face my fear. I've conquered yeast, and now cheesecake too. I was always so nervous that the temperamental custard filling would crack or dry out or become leathery on the outside and be undercooked on the inside. (Yuck, yuck, yuck!) But this easy recipe changed everything. It made putting a cheesecake together so simple! There's not many ingredients, but the flavor and texture are exactly what I want in a cheesecake. Smooth and dense and delicious. Seriously, if you're a cheesecake fan (let's be honest who isn't) you've got to try this! The most important thing you must keep in mind when making cheesecake is not to over beat the batter. Over beating causes too much air to be whipped into the batter, thus causing cracks. (No bueno, ya hear?) The key is to only beat until the ingredients are BARELY incorporated. You really should feel as if you're under beating. If you keep that little tid bit in mind you'll breeze through this recipe like a champ.
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 1/2 cups finely ground Graham crackers, about 35 squares (Pulsed in a food processor works best for me, but you could do this the old fashioned way too - zip lock bag and rolling pin)
2 Tbsp sugarCustard:
2 (8-ounce) blocks cream cheese, at room temperature (VERY Important that the cheese is at room temperature, otherwise you'll get serious lumpy cheesecake!)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 lemon, zest finely grated (optional)
1 pint sour cream
Start by spraying a 9'' spring form pan, dust with sugar set aside and prepare your crust. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. In a medium sized mixing bowl mix butter, sugar and cracker crumbs until all crumbs are moist. Press crumb mixture into prepared pan all across the bottom and about an inch to two inches up the sides. Using fingers or a measuring cup with straight sides and large bottom surface pack the crumbs together, try to keep the crust even across the bottom and sides. Once your crust is all pressed, cover the spring form pan with a clean kitchen towel and place it in the refrigerator while you prepare the custard.
In a large mixing bowl place room temperature cream cheese in mixing bowl. (If your cream cheese is not up to room temp, microwave it for 10 to 15 seconds to soften it up.) Use a hand mixer and beat the cream cheese for 30 seconds to a minutes until it's broken up and smooth. Add 1 cup of sugar and mix it for about 30 seconds until it's just incorporated with the cheese. Add eggs one at a time, beating for 10 to 15 seconds between eggs, keeping in mind not to over beat! Once the eggs are all added in, measure in sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Mix for 30 seconds to a minute, just until streaks of sour cream are gone. Now grab your prepared crust from the fridge and using a spatula spread your custard into the pan.