Vanilla Cheesecake

After six years of wanting to learn to make cheesecake, I finally did it. It’s way easier than I thought it would be. I’m not sure why I was so intimidated. My motivation was a baby shower I hosted last week. I bought this mini cheesecake pan and I love it!

I made a test batch a week prior to the shower. I halved the recipe and it made 12 mini cheesecakes and a 6″ cheesecake. I was able to do the half recipe in a large bowl, but when I made the full recipe it was big enough to require my Bosch.

This recipe is from the Williams-Sonoma Mastering Cakes Fillings & Frostings cookbook (I couldn’t find my version of the book online, but I think this is maybe an updated version). I made a few small changes, but nothing major.

I topped these little cheesecakes with edible flowers. I searched high and low and finally found them at Central Market (my favorite!). They were a hit!

cheesecakeVanilla Cheesecake

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter

4 large eggs, at room temperature (important!)
2 lb cream cheese, at room temperature (important!)
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Caviar from 1 vanilla bean
3 tbsp. flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream

1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven and prepare the pan
Position a rack in the lower middle of the oven so the cake will be evenly surrounded with heat, and preheat to 325. Place a small amount of butter on a piece of waxed paper and spread the butter evenly over the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Cut a large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil and wrap the outside of the pan with the foil. The cheesecake will bake in a water bath, and the foil makes the pan watertight. Have ready a roasting pan at least 2 inches deep and large enough to hold the foil-wrapped springform pan to use for the water bath.

Make and prebake the crumb crust
Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter until evenly moistened. Pour the crumb mixture into the prepared pan and using your fingers, press it evenly onto the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust until it turns slightly darker, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool slightly. (Prebaking the crust prevents it from absorbing too much liquid from the filling, thus eliminating sogginess.) Leave the oven on.

Beat the eggs for the filling
Crack the room temperature eggs into a small bowl. Cold eggs can cause bits of the cream cheese to firm up, creating white specks that do not disappear during baking. Using a fork, beat vigorously until the yolks and white are blended. Set aside.

Make the filling
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and vanilla bean caviar. Beat on low speed until the mixture is well blended, about one minute. Add the flour and beat on low speed just until incorporated, about one minute. Add half of the beaten eggs and beat just until fully blended with the batter. Add the remaining half of the beaten eggs and again beat just until fully blended. Add the heavy cream and sour cream and beat just until no white streaks are visible, about one minute. Set aside.

Make the topping
In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Using a whisk, beat the mixture until well blended. Set aside.

Assemble the cheesecake and water bath
Pour the filling onto the prebaked crust, using a spatula to scrape every last bit from the bowl. Put the filled springform pan in the roasting pan and carefully slide the roasting pan onto the oven rack. Fill a heatproof pitcher with hot water and slowly pour the water into the roasting pan until it reaches one inch up the sides of the springform pan. (A water bath promotes gentle, even, moist baking and helps to eliminate cracking in the finished cheesecake.)

Bake the cheesecake
Bake undisturbed for 55 minutes. If the cake looks set, give the pan a gentle shake, being careful not to splash any water. If the top wobbles, set the timer for another five minutes. Repeat this process until the cheesecake is done. Tiny cracks along the edges are an indication that the cheesecake is ready. They disappear as the cake cools. It will probably take not more than one hour and five minutes.

Add the topping
Carefully remove the cheesecake, still in its water bath, from the oven. Use a narrow-bladed icing spatula to spread the sour cream topping gently and evenly over the top of the baked cheesecake. Return the cheesecake in the water bath to the oven and bake until the topping firms slightly, about 10 minutes.

Let the cheesecake cool
Transfer the cheesecake in the water bath to a wire rack. Let the cheesecake cool for one hour, then lift the springform pan from the water bath. Remove the roasting pan and return the springform pan to the rack. Remove the foil wrapping from the pan and let the cake cool on the rack for one hour longer. The top should feel cool to the touch. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate the cake in the pan for at least six hours or overnight before serving.

Remove the cheesecake from the fridge 45 minutes before serving. Release the sides of the springform pan and lift off.

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