Master Recipe for Rich and Creamy Cheesecake
1 Tb. softened butter
3 Tbs. crumbs from Famous Chocolate Wafers, graham crackers or gingersnaps, OR 1 3-ounce package soft ladyfingers (24 total) left whole, but trimmed to fit pan
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsps. vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream
Heavy-duty foil for pan
Adjust oven rack to middle position, and heat oven to 325 degrees. Brush interior of a 9-inch springform pan with butter. Add crumbs of choice and tilt pan in all directions to evenly coat, or line pan sides with ladyfingers. Tear off two long strips of heavy-duty foil, overlap in a cross pattern, and set the pan in the middle. Bring up sides, crimping around exterior top of the pan and forming a tight seal. Set it in a roasting pan large enough to hold it.
Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add sugar and beat on medium speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down bowl sides and beat again until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl after each addition to ensure a creamy batter. Slowly beat in vanilla, then cream and sour cream. (Meanwhile, bring tea kettle of water to a boil, then turn off heat.)
Pour batter into prepared pan. Set the roasting pan on oven rack and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the side of the springform pan. Bake until cake perimeter is set but center still jiggles, about 40 minutes (some flavor variations will take longer). Turn off heat and leave oven door ajar; let cheesecake sit in oven so the residual heat continues to cook it, about 30 minutes.
Remove pan from water; set on a wire rack. Let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, about 3 hours (can be refrigerated up to 4 days). Run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan, loosen the spring siding and serve.
Pairs Well With
Many recipes call for a thick, pre-baked graham cracker crumb crust. But to knock out that step, simply coat the sides and bottom of a springform pan with softened butter, then coat it with crumbs (crushed Oreo cookies work best, or put them in a zipper bag and use a rolling pin to crush them). Or, line the buttered pan with Lorna Doone cookies to fit.
Prep the filling: Beat room-temperature cream cheese with sugar, then add eggs one at a time, frequently scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula to ensure a smooth batter. A splash of cream softens the cake, vanilla extract adds flavor, and a touch of sour cream reinforces the tanginess. If you opt for one of the fun variations on the next pages, then top with (or fold, stir or drop in) your favorite flavor.
Bake it in a bath: A water bath -- or bain-marie, as the French call the technique -- prevents the cheesecake from cracking or curdling. First, tear off two long strips of heavy-duty -- not regular -- foil (do this before you start the crust). Make sure there are no holes in the foil. Overlap foil strips in a cross pattern, and set the 9-inch springform pan in the middle. Bring the foil up the sides, crimping around the exterior top of the pan to form a tight seal. Proceed with the recipe for crust and batter. Bring a tea kettle of water to a boil. Set the unbaked cheesecake in a large pan, such as a roaster, and slowly pour hot water into the roasting pan so it comes about halfway up the side of the springform pan. Now it's ready to bake.
Go high or low: For a taller cheesecake, you can increase the ingredients by a quarter and increase the baking time to 1 hour.
per serving: 348 calories, 7g protein, 24g carbohydrates, 25g fat (15g saturated), 152mg cholesterol, 0.1g fiber, 214mg sodium. Nutrition for each flavor is online under the recipe's title at Allrecipes.com.