The Ultimate NY Cheesecake
This cheesecake takes at least 12 hours to make (including chilling), so I recommend making it the day before serving. An accurate oven thermometer and instant-read thermometer are essential. To ensure proper baking, check that the oven thermometer is holding steady at 200 degrees and refrain from frequently taking the temperature of the cheesecake (unless it is within a few degrees of 165, allow 20 minutes between checking). Keep a close eye on the cheesecake in step 5 to prevent over-browning.
6 whole graham crackers, broken into pieces
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 pounds cream, cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
1. FOR THE CRUST: Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 325 degrees. Process cracker pieces and sugar in food processor until ﬁnely ground, about 30seconds. Add flour and salt and pulse to combine. Add 6 tablespoons melted butter and pulse until crumbs are evenly moistened. Brush bottom of 9-inch spring form pan with 1/2 table-spoon melted butter. Or use Spray Oil. Using your hands, press crumb mixture evenly into pan bottom. Bake on lower-middle rack until fragrant and beginning to brown around edges, about 13 minutes. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet and set aside to cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees.
2. FOR THE FILLING: Using cleaned food processor, beat cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla and salt until combined. Add egg yolks and process until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Scrape bowl and beater. Add whole eggs two at a time, processing until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds after each addition. (You can also use a stand mixer for creating the filling.)
Pour filling through ﬁne-mesh strainer set in large bowl, pressing against strainer with rubber spatula or back of ladle to help ﬁlling pass through strainer.
3. Brush sides of spring form pan with remaining1/2 tablespoon melted butter or use Spray Oil. Pour ﬁlling into crust and set aside for 10 minutes to allow air bubbles to rise to top. Gently draw tines of fork across surface of cake to pop air bubbles that have risen to surface.
4. When oven thermometer reads 200 degrees, bake cheesecake on lower rack until center registers 165 degrees, about 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Remove cake ﬁom oven and increase oven temperature to 500 degrees.
5. When oven is at 500 degrees, bake cheesecake on upper rack until top is evenly browned, 4 to 12minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, run paring knife between cheesecake and side of spring form pan. Let cheesecake cool until barely warm, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. (This is ideal. If you don't have the time, you can put the slightly warm cheesecake in the refrigerator or freezer after 30 minutes of cooling.)
Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold and ﬁrmly set, at least 6 hours. (Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.)
6. To unmold cheesecake, remove sides of pan. Slide thin metal spatula between crust and pan bottom to loosen, then slide cheesecake onto serving plate. (Or serve from bottom of spring form pan.) Let cheesecake stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes. To slice, dip sharp knife in very hot water and wipe dry between cuts.