TALL AND CREAMY CHEESECAKE
For the Crust:
- 1 ¾ cups graham cracker crumbs
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- Pinch of salt
- ½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
For the Cheesecake:
- 2 pounds (four 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 ⅓ cups sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 ⅓ cups sour cream or heavy cream, or a combination of the two
- To make the crust: Butter a 9-inch springform pan — choose one that has sides that are 2 3/4 inches high (if the sides are lower, you will have cheesecake batter left over) — and wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil.
- Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Pour over the melted butter and stir until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. (You can do this with your fingers.) Turn the ingredients into the springform pan and use your fingers to pat an even layer of crumbs along the bottom of the pan and about halfway up the sides. Don’t worry if the sides are not perfectly even or if the crumbs reach above or below the midway point on the sides. Put the pan in the freezer while you heat the oven. (The crust can be covered and frozen for up to 2 months.)
- Center a rack in the oven. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and place the springform on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Set the crust aside to cool on a rack while you make the cheesecake.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.
- To make the cheesecake: Put a kettle of water on to boil.
- Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is soft and creamy, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat for another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs, one by one, beating for 1 full minute after each addition — you want a well-aerated batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the sour cream and/or heavy cream.
- Put the foil-wrapped springform pan in a roasting pan that is large enough to hold the pan with some space around it.
- Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that nothing has been left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape the batter into the springform pan. The batter will reach the rim of the pan. (If you have a pan with lower sides and have leftover batter, you can bake the batter in a buttered ramekin or small soufflé mold.) Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the roaster to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
- Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour 30 minutes, at which point the top will be browned (and perhaps cracked) and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven’s heat and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour.
- After 1 hour, carefully pull the setup out of the oven, lift the springform pan out of the roaster — be careful, there may be some hot water in the aluminum foil — and remove the foil. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.
- When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, although overnight is better.
- At serving time, remove the sides of the springform pan — you can use a hairdryer to do this — and set the cake on a serving platter.
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