Cheesecake was my favorite dessert in my youth. We didn’t eat out much, and a real, quality cheesecake just wasn’t something that people made at home. I suppose it was a bit intimidating to most people, requiring a special pan and a water bath. I remember that for a while a no-bake version became popular. To some anyway. It never became popular in my mouth. After first tasting a bonafide New York style cheesecake, that was it for me. The unbelievable creaminess and tangy flavor was instantly addicting.
The ability for cheesecake to take on other flavors just insures that it will always be quite high on my favorites list. Citrus, chocolate, berries, and nuts and swirls of all the above make for almost endless combinations of flavors. Change up the crust, and even the cheese used. Try floral infusions. It’s really up to your personal taste. Top with sauces or keep it plain. Yummy either way!
Cheesecake isn’t difficult, but it is made easier by having some specialized tools. A springform pan is a must. They are fairly inexpensive and easy to find. A food processor is also a major help. Both for pulverizing the crust ingredients, and for ensuring a very smooth, incorporated filling.
2 vanilla beans or 2 Tablespoons vanilla bean paste
3/4 teaspoons microground instant coffee powder
In a food processor, combine the graham crackers, and sugar. Blend well, until cracker crumbs are quite fine. Add the melted butter, stirring well until combined.
Press firmly into the bottom of a nine-inch springform pan. Set aside.
In a food processor, combine the cream cheese and sugar. Combine well. Add the eggs, vanilla, and coffee powder.
Pour into springform pan with prepared graham cracker crust.
Drizzle caramel sauce over the top of the cheesecake. (if the caramel sauce is very thick, add a little warm cream to loosen it up a bit)
Take a knife and swirl through the caramel, making a pretty design. Some of the caramel will sink through the body of the cheesecake. Yum!
Bake in preheated 325 degree F. oven for 1 hour 30 minutes, or until the sides are set, but the center is still slightly jiggly. It might take 10 minutes more or less, depending on your oven. Watch during the last 30 minutes of baking, and if it seems that the top is close to over-browning, (and it probably will, due to the prolonged baking time), tent a piece of foil over the top. It will probably be puffing above the top of the pan at this point, but do your best. Don’t let the foil actually touch the top or you’ll have an unsightly spot where you have to tear it off.
***If you want, you can use a water bath while you bake the cheesecake. It will help prevent cracking across the top, but can be risky as occasionally the water leaks into the crust, making it soggy. To do this, take a large piece of foil and wrap the bottom half of the springform pan. Double wrap if you can, for an added layer of protection from water leakage.
Place the springform pan in a larger pan with 2 inch sides.
Place pan in the oven, and fill 2/3 full with hot water. ***
After done baking, let cheesecake cool on a rack for 20 minutes in pan. Then, run a sharp knife around the inside edge and release the spring on the side of the pan. Leave the pan on while the cheesecake finishes cooling for several hours. Store wrapped loosely in plastic wrap in the refrigerator.