Cheesecakes can be creamy or fluffy, dense or light, and silky or feathery in texture. As long as there is cream cheese in the recipe, it still pretty much qualifies as a cheesecake no matter what specific kind of cheesecake it is. There is only one kind of cheesecake that tends to deliver the same feel over and over because it is so well-established: the New York Style Cheesecake. This type of cheesecake is famous for being very rich, as it uses lots of cream cheese, and very silky. The individual recipes vary, but they all use a water bath to preserve the smooth texture of the cake because it creates a gentler heat than direct oven air.
A water bath may seem like a bit of a hassle, but as long as you have a large roasting pan or something that can accommodate your springform pan, it really doesn’t take up any extra time and the results are well worth it. You can see how much it contributes to temperature control by how even the top of the cake is. Even after cooling, the top is smooth and flat – no sign of a sunken, potentially undercooked center or high-rising overcooked sides. And there wasn’t a crack in sight.
For my cheesecake, I started with a lot of cream cheese to ensure that the cake had a strong cream cheese flavor. I used only a small amount of sour cream to lighten up the overall texture of the cake; the very slight tang of the sour cream isn’t noticeable in the finished cake, but it cuts perfectly through the denseness that can occur in cheesecakes made only with cream cheese. I think that the flavor is perfect and the cake comes out to be very creamy and smooth, without being so heavy or dense that you will feel as though you need a nap after eating.
If you look at the photo, you’ll probably notice that I didn’t put a crust on this cheesecake. I’ve noticed that a lot of recipes that claim to be for “ny style cheesecake” only call for dusting the bottom of the pan with a couple of tablespoons of graham cracker crumbs. While I personally like having a crust on my cheesecake, I decided to give the no-crust option a try and used just 2-3 tbsp of graham cracker crumbs to coat the bottom of the pan. You couldn’t really taste it, but it definitely helped to prevent the cake from sticking and make it easier to move the slices around. Feel free to substitute flour or other cookie crumbs to dust the pan, or just bake a graham cracker crust in advance and bake the cake on top.
New York Style Sour Cream Cheesecake
2-3 tbsp graham cracker crumbs
24-oz. cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sour cream (low fat is ok)
boiling or hot water, for water bath
Preheat oven to 325F. Cover the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with a layer or two of aluminum foil and tightly press it to the sides of the pan. Lightly grease the bottom of the pan with butter or cooking spray and coat with graham cracker crumbs (or flour).
In a large mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese and sugar until mixture is smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time, followed by all remaining ingredients.
Pour cheesecake batter into prepared pan and give it a rap or two on the counter to knock out any air bubbles.
Place a large roasting pan (or other high-sided pan) into the oven and place cheesecake pan inside. Fill roasting pan with boiling or hot water, until water comes about 1-inch up the side of the springform pan.
Bake cake for 60-65 minutes, until center is set but still jiggles slightly when the pan is gently shaken.
Cool cake in water bath for about 15 minutes, either in the oven with the door open or on the kitchen counter. Remove from water bath and cool completely before refrigerating and slicing.