i know PERFECT is a bold statement, but i am confident you would agree. i KNOW this because i am supremely critical of myself(hello womanhood)and particularly my cooking. i NEVER serve anything unless i have made it at least once(my trial run)and seen for myself that i can make it well and that it is delicious.
my cheesecake debacle with the smitten kitchen recipe still stings, but the pain is somewhat alleviated with my recent success.
not that this success is new. like i mentioned before, i have been making cheesecakes for years and the following recipe is sort of a compilation of the different recipes(not including the smitten kitchen one)i have tried over the years.
the basics never change: cream cheese, eggs, sugar, and some sort of flavoring like vanilla. mine has a few subtle twists, let me know if you try it and if you like it or not.
preheat the oven to 325
graham cracker crust
1 1/2 sleeves of graham crackers
1/3 cup melted butter
1/3 cup sugar
use a food processor to grind up the graham crackers. add melted butter and sugar and pulse a few more times. if you dont have a food processor, you can put the crackers in a zip lock bag and use a rolling pin or mallet to pound them into oblivion.
press crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a greased spring form pan. there have been times when i didnt have a spring form pan and i used a 9 inch round cake pan. its still good, but you will have some batter(and crumbs for that matter) left over.
place the pan in the freezer while making the batter.
3-8 oz packages of cream cheese, softened
1 pint heavy cream
1 vanilla bean-optional
2 tsp vanilla extract
zest of one lemon or 1 tsp lemon extract
the vanilla bean is optional, but if you have one and want to use it, it really adds a dimension of flavor. what i did was pour the cream into a bowl, then split the vanilla bean,scrape the seeds, and stir them into the cream. submerge the bean as well and allow to steep while the cream cheese is softening and while you mix the batter together.
place cream cheese in mixer bowl and beat on low speed for 2 minutes or so. add one egg at a time, mixing well after each one. if you want a denser, ny style cheesecake, keep the mixer speed on slow and allow to mix for a while. scrape down the sides of the bowl as you go. you really want to work out any lumps and have as smooth as a batter as possible. if you use a whisk attachment and/or mix at high speed it incorporates a lot of air and you will lose some of that denseness. some people like a lighter texture, but i prefer the dense.
retrieve the bean pods from the cream and discard. stir the cream to incorporate all those little seeds, then slowly add the cream to the batter. if your mixer is going too fast it WILL splatter, so be careful. again, scrape down the sides of the bowl.
add lemon zest(or extract.thats what i used this time.)and vanilla extract. beat on slow for a minute or so. scrape down the sides again to check for any lumps. if you discover any, mix for another minute.
take the graham cracker crust from the freezer and place on a piece of tin foil just big enough to pull up around the sides of the pan. it doesnt have to come all the way to the top. pour the batter into the prepared graham cracker crust. use a rubber spatula to smooth out the top.
place a rimmed cookie sheet in the oven place the cheesecake on the cookie pan then pour enough water into the pan to come up a little more than half way to the rim of the cookie sheet. the tin foil wrapped around the bottom of the spring form pan acts as an extra security so no water will leak in. this whole process is called a water bath and helps keep the cheesecake from cracking.
in my oven, it usually takes an hour to an hour and a half to bake, but i check on it after 45 minutes. you will know when its done by the light golden brown color. there might even be a few bubbles on top. that is normal. i got 1 or 2 small cracks, but no big deal at all. you might notice that it jiggles a little as you remove it from the oven. dont panic. that doesnt mean that it isnt done. once out of the oven, the cake settles a little bit. cool it completely, then put it in the fridge. i usually like to make it the night before so it is thoroughly chilled, but if you chill it for an hour or 2, it will be delicious.