I have to admit, historically I have not been the biggest cheesecake fan in the world. I blame this on the fact that there is, at least in my opinion, a lot of bad cheesecake out there. There are the previously frozen, incredibly dense, tastes-like-the-inside-of-a-freezer cheesecakes; there are the cheesecakes that are just trying too hard - you know, the ones with the five billion different mystery flavors swirled throughout the batter which, when eaten all together, kind of taste like a muddied pile of nothing; there are the dried-out cheesecakes that have clearly been sitting in the display case too long; there are the cheesecakes that were probably, at one point, perfectly fine, but have had gloopy, gelatinous, mystery "fruit" spooned over the top of them; there are the cheesecake "pops" and cheesecake "bites" which aren't really cheesecake at all but some sinister cocktail of "cheesecake-flavored" chemicals... you get my point. There are a lot of bad cheesecakes in the world.
Then, one evening a few years ago, my cheesecake world was shaken. I went to a dinner party thrown by one of my parents friends. The meal itself was lovely enough, but the dessert was a revelation. The hostess served a plain homemade cheesecake - no-muss, no-fuss, simple vanilla cheesecake with a graham cracker crust. I thought that I'd probably eat a bite or two to be polite, and then push the remainder around my plate for the rest of the evening... but then I tried it. Holy cow. Its light and fluffy interior melted into creamy, tangy silk on my tongue. The graham cracker crust - in my opinion, usually the most inferior of crusts - didn't have the texture of sodden cardboard. Oh no, it was crispy and crumbly with just a hint of salt to offset the sweetness of the cake. I was HOOKED.
I asked the hostess for her recipe, which she was happy to share - apparently she'd been given it by one of her mother's friends at her bridal shower. And now I'm happy to share it with you. I recently made this cheesecake for New Year's Eve and it was just as I remembered it - creamy, tangy, and not too sweet. The perfect way to ring in the new year.
Happy Baking everyone!
1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (I like to make my own to make sure that they're fresh - if you want to go this route, you'll need 1 sleeve of regular graham crackers)
3 Tbsp. sugar
A pinch or two of salt
1/3 cup butter, melted
4 pkg. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Special equipment: 9-inch springform pan
- Pre-heat the oven to 325°F.
- If you're making your own graham cracker crumbs, I find the easiest way is either to blitz them in a food processor, or put the crackers in a ziplock bag and smash the hell out of them them with a rolling pin. This is also a great anger management technique.
- Combine the graham cracker crumbs, 3 Tbsp. sugar, a few pinches of salt, and melted butter.
- Press the graham mixture evenly onto the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.
- Beat the cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, and vanilla with a mixer until smooth (I like to use a standing mixer for this - cream cheese can be a bit tough and I have weak arms).
- Add the eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each one, until they're just until blended. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl before adding each egg.
- Pour cream cheese mixture over crust.
- Bake for about 55 minutes or until the center is almost set (you'll want a decent amount of wobble to remain).
- Run a knife around the rim of the pan to loosen the cake, and let it cool before transferring to the fridge.
- Refrigerate the cheesecake for at least 4 hours before serving.