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How to Bake the Perfect Cheesecake

How to Bake the Perfect Cheesecake Every Time or "Just a Vanilla Cheesecake"

How to Bake the Perfect Cheesecake Every Time or "Just a Vanilla Cheesecake" - Learning how to bake the perfect cheesecake is all about quality ingredients, an uncomplicated recipe and mastering the simple method.
Course Dessert
Cuisine North American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 12 to 16 servings
Author Barry C. Parsons

Ingredients

For the cookie crumb crust

  • 1⅓ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • cup melted butter

For the cheesecake batter

  • 3 eight ounce packages ounces cream cheese (3 cups)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract (or, even better, the seeds from one large vanilla pod)
  • 1 cup whipping cream

Instructions

To prepare the cookie crumb crust

  1. In a small bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter.
  2. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased or parchment lined 9 inch spring form pan. (Grease bottom only!) Parchment paper is ideal here because it makes it very easy to release the cheesecake from the bottom of the pan.

To prepare the cheesecake batter

  1. Cream together the cream cheese and sugar for 2 to 3 minutes until well combined.
  2. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. Beat in the vanilla extract (or vanilla pod seeds. If using a vanilla pod, scrape all the seeds out and stir them very well into the whipping cream in the next step. This will help to break up the sticky vanilla pod paste and make sure the tint black seeds are evenly distributed throughout the cheesecake.)
  4. Finally blend in the whipping cream well until the batter is very smooth. Using a rubber bowl scraper/spatula, scrape the bottom and the sides of the bowl as well as the electric beaters/paddle and give the batter a final beating for 1 minute on a higher speed. This final step ensures that there are no lumps in the batter and introduces a little air into the cheesecake to make it lighter.
  5. Pour over the prepared base and bake in a bain marie at 300 degrees F for 60-70 minutes. (Oven temperatures will vary slightly. Mine takes the full 70 minutes and you can go to 75 if you feel you need to.)
  6. Don't be an compulsive oven door opener! Don't open it at all in the first hour.
  7. The cheesecake does not have to brown at all in order to be fully baked; the surface of the cheesecake should lose any shine when the cake is properly baked. It can still be slightly wobbly just at the center at this point.
  8. Remove the cake from the oven and run a sharp knife completely around the edge of the pan. This will allow for the cheesecake to shrink as it cools and hopefully not crack (Allow the cheesecake to cool thoroughly on a wire rack at room temperature. (NOT in the fridge). Refrigerate after fully cooled.

Recipe Notes

In my opinion, baking the perfect cheesecake requires the use of a bain marie during baking. A bain marie is simply a water bath that buffers the direct heat from the sides and bottom of the baking pan to more evenly bake the cheesecake from the sides to the center. I bake my cheesecakes in a 9 inch spring form pan that has the bottom and sides wrapped in multiple layers of wide heavy duty aluminum foil which forms a sort of boat that the cheesecake pan sits in. The roll of aluminum foil that I use is about 16 inches wide. I use at least 4 layers of foil to make sure that no water leaks in and ruins the crust of my cheesecake. The aluminum foil wrapped pan is then placed inside a larger baking pan; I use a 12 inch cake pan. Boiling water is then poured into the larger pan filling it from ½ to ⅔ of the way to the top.I find it best to pour the boiling water into the pan after it is placed on the rack in the oven as you are less likely to splash water onto the cheesecake or inside the aluminum foil. I reuse the aluminum foil for several future cheesecakes, adding a couple of layers to it each time just to be safe. EVEN IF YOU CHOOSE NOT USE A BAIN MARIE still use the aluminum foil wrap around the cheesecake pan. The aluminum foil still offers a good buffer to the heat. High heat and baking too quickly is the main reason that a cheesecake becomes dense and not creamy.