New York style cheesecake

Baked cheesecake is one of my favourite desserts. The first version I have tried in my life is the Polish sernik, often made by my mom (in Italy with ricotta cheese). The Polish version of the cake, at least in the area where my family is from, often features raisins inside; a more appreciated (by me) variant is with pieces of canned peaches in the filling. I personally prefer it “bare” – just cheese. My favourite version is definitely the cream cheese-based American variant, also known as New York style cheesecake.

To make my cheesecake I usually follow the recipe by Joy of Baking. Very often I end up making minor alterations. I will explain what I have changed in this post, but I suggest you also visit the original recipe, as you will find a very helpful and instructive video. To start off, here are the ingredients.

New York style cheesecake:

  • 200 g biscuits
  • 100 g butter
  • 900 g cream cheese
  • 200 g granulated sugar
  • 35 g flour
  • 5 eggs, room temperature
  • 80 ml whipping cream
  • grated zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/3 tsp crushed vanilla bean
  • 250 ml creme fraiche
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar

The first thing to make is the biscuit base. Stephanie from Joy of Baking calls for graham crackers or Digestive biscuits. I have deviated from that. When I came back from Italy I brought several packages of various types of biscuits from Italy, and of course some of them were crushed in the suitcase. So every time I was finishing a package of biscuits, I would save the crumbles at the bottom of each package for further use. For my cheesecake I ended up using a variety of mixed crushed biscuits together with a few Digestives I had at home (for the record, my cheesecake base is made of Abbracci, Pan di Stelle, Novellini and Digestive). Since I was using very sweet biscuits, I skipped any sugar in the base and just combined the biscuits and melted butter to make my cake. Once the base is made and spread over the bottom and sides of the cake pan, leave it in the fridge until it’s time to go in the oven.

For the cake filling, combine the cream cheese, the flour and the sugar and mix at medium speed. Since I only had 800 g of cream cheese in the house, I added 100 g of Turkish yoghurt to my mixture in order to have the exact weight the original recipe calls for. Once creamed, add the eggs one at a time and mix them in at low speed. Lastly, add the grated lemon zest, the vanilla and the whipping cream, give it one last good stir with the mixer at low speed and set the mixer aside. Take the base out of the fridge and pour in the filling. It may reach higher than the base sides and that is absolutely okay. Joy of Baking recommends a 23-cm cake pan – I have used one that measures 24.

Bake your cake in the preheated oven at 180°C for the first 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 120°C and continue baking until firm. From now it will take at least 1 hour, for me it usually takes longer (about one hour and a half). Remember to always have your cake pan on an oven tray while baking, as the butter of the base may leak out in the oven. When the sides appear firm and only the centre still appears somewhat wobbly, take the cake out of the oven and spread the topping before returning the cake to the oven for some extra minutes. The topping is made of 250 ml of creme fraiche combined with 2 tbsp of granulated sugar. I didn’t add any vanilla to that because I use crushed vanilla bean and I wanted to have it plain white, without any little black dots. Spread it evenly over the cake top and bake for 15 more minutes.new york style cheesecakeThe extra layer of sweetened cream on top will give the cake a nice finish once baked. Actually, when sliced this cake shows off three beautiful layers. So smooth, so creamy and then so crunchy – a sensorial symphony.new york style cheesecakeStephanie also suggests to run a knife around the sides of the cake as soon as you take it out of the oven in order to minimise the risk of cracking as it cools down. Unfortunately this can result in unven edges of the cake, as it happened to me. Alas, I guess home-made stuff sometimes’s got to look home-made, after all.new york style cheesecakeAllow the cheesecake to reach room temperature before chilling it in the fridge. Ideally you want to chill it for as long as possible (even overnight) in order to have the best firmness in the cake. Although just a few hours will also do – I can confirm, as I served this one not so many hours after making it – it will have a better texture after sitting a whole night in the fridge, so plan to make it one day in advance if you need it for a special occasion.

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