Forget The Cheesecake Factory! You Can Learn To Bake The Most Amazing Cheesecake In The World!
I adapted this recipe from one that was given to my mother and to me by another one of our wonderful neighbors, Lenore Velinsky. Lenore was a marvelous cook. She really loved cooking for her husband Arthur, and for her three boys, Richard, Ira, and Jimmy. This was her cheesecake recipe, and it was amazing. I have baked it many times, and it has always come out perfectly. For me, this is the quintessential cheesecake. This cheesecake is light yet creamy. It has undertones of lemon and only a hint of vanilla. The taste is so wonderful, that the only topping I like to put on is a sprinkling of cut up strawberries or nothing at all. I love to make this cheesecake recipe for special celebrations or bring it to family gatherings. Everybody goes wild for this cheesecake! Please try it. I know you’ll agree that it’s the dreamiest cheesecake ever. If you bring this cheesecake with you to a gathering of friends or family, you will be the Next Cooking Star. I know you’ll agree that this cheesecake is nothing less than heavenly!
For the crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick melted butter or margarine (try reducing to 6 tablespoons next time)
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (optional) (I like addition of nuts to crust)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional) (cinnamon adds flavor)
For the filling:
2 1/2 pounds Philadelphia brand cream cheese (5- 8 oz. packages, at room temperature (I often use 3 packs of the Philadelphia 1/3 Less Fat- Neufchatel, and 2 packs of the regular, but you may use all regular) 6-1-10- this time I used all regular, and it definitely is richer and maybe a little heavier- so I think I like it better with 2 of the light and 3 of the regular or 3 of the light and 2 of the regular.)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
5 extra-large eggs, separated at room temperature
1 pint sour cream (not light)
pinch of salt
Juice of 1 large lemon or 2 smaller lemons (about 3 tablespoons fresh or in a pinch 1 1/2 tablespoons frozen Minute Maid lemon juice)
1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the topping (optional):
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
To make the crust, grease a 10 inch springform pan, bottom and sides. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, melted butter and chopped pecans in a bowl. Then pour some crumbs into the bottom of your pan. With your hands, press the crumbs into the bottom. Then turn the pan on its side. Keep adding crumbs, turning pan until you have used up all the crumbs. The crumbs should go almost up to the top of the pan. Bake for 8 min. Put in the refrigerator to cool while you are preparing the filling.
To make the filling, first separate your eggs, and set aside. Cream the cream cheese in the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until lightened and as lump free as possible, about 5 minutes. Add the sugar on medium speed and blend. Add the yolks on low speed, one at a time, just until blended. Scrape down the bowl and beater as necessary. On low speed, add the lemon juice, the vanilla, and the salt. Then on low speed, add the sour cream, just until blended. Whip egg whites in a separate bowl using electric mixer on highest speed with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form. Then pour the whipped egg whites into your batter, and fold in by hand. Pour batter into the cooled crust.
Note: If you have 1 large bowl and 1 smaller bowl for your electric mixer, you can use the large bowl to mix your batter, and the smaller bowl to whip the egg whites. If you only have 1 bowl for your mixer, whip the egg whites first, then transfer them to another bowl, wipe the bowl dry, and proceed to make the batter. Your egg whites may deflate a bit though if you do this, but it shouldn’t affect the cake. I do like to whip my egg whites last so they don’t lose any volume.
Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Turn oven off. Open oven door slightly. The cake will not be completely set in the center. Let cheesecake sit in oven for 1 more hour with the oven door slightly ajar. Then take the cheesecake out of the oven and allow it to sit at room temperature for another 2-3 hours until completely cooled.
Run a knife around the outside of the cake. Then release the outside of the springform pan, and carefully lift the sides of the pan over the cake to remove them. Leave the cake on the bottom of the springform pan and place it on your serving platter. Cover the cake with good plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight.
When you are ready to serve it, slice up 1 quart of strawberries and pile them on top of the cake or serve on the side if desired. But this cheesecake is so delicious, that it will stand on its own with no topping!
Note: This cake is creamier and even better if made 24 – 30 hours before you serve it!
Hint: I enjoy serving this cheesecake with no topping, because only then it is really possible to totally savor the incredible taste and texture of this cake, so that is why I actually recommend that if you want to serve it with strawberries, cut them up and serve them on the side.
Everthing remains the same, except the crust.
1 1/2 cups matzah meal
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter or margarine – melted
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup sugar
2-3 teaspoons cinnamon (necessary to cut bland flavor of matzah meal)
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Grease bottom and sides of large 10 inch springform pan. Coat bottom and sides with mixture. Bake at 300 degrees for 8 minutes. Set aside to cool while you prepare the filling of the cheesecake. Follow filling ingredients and instructions as well as baking time instructions above.