Christmas and New Year's is when I do most of my baking. My friends and family call
me to put orders in for four or five cheesecakes each. My cheesecake is also popular for
birthdays and other special occasions.
I started making cheesecake from scratch about thirteen years ago. Since then, I have
tried a number of different recipes and finally came up with one of my own taken from bits and
pieces of several recipes. The first piece of advice I have is to begin the baking process far
enough in advance so that the cheesecake will be able to sit in the refrigerator for at least twenty
four hours before you plan to serve it. Personally, I recommend making a cheesecake three to
four days in advance for the best flavor. Cheesecake ripens as it sits, so if you make it a few days
in advance, the flavor intensifies and the texture gets a little more solid. Now that you've had an
introduction on the basics, let's get started. The following steps must be followed exactly for a
cheesecake to turn out just right.
First, you should gather your materials and ingredients. A ten inch spring form pan is the
baking pan required for this recipe. You'll also need a hand mixer, a large mixing bowl and a
medium mixing bowl. A small pot or microwave safe bowl will be needed for melting butter in.
You'll also want to have a spatula handy for scraping the sides of the bowl, a rolling pin and a
gallon size zipper seal plastic bag. Make sure you also have your measuring cups and spoons
ready. The refrigerated ingredients need to be taken out to warm up to room temperature at least
thirty minutes before you start mixing them together. Take out three packages of cream cheese,
eight ounces each, and be sure to use regular cream cheese; if you use low fat or fat free, the
consistency of the cheesecake will be too soft. You'll also need eight ounces of sour cream, four
eggs and one tablespoon of lemon juice to warm up. While the cold ingredients are warming up,
preheat the oven to three hundred fifty Degrees Fahrenheit, or three hundred twenty five degrees
if you're using a dark metal nonstick pan. You can now start preparing the crust. Place ten
graham crackers into the plastic zipper bag. Use the rolling pin to crush the crackers into coarse
crumbs, being careful not to make the crumbs too fine or to leave any large pieces of graham
cracker in there. Melt one stick of butter. Place one cup of the graham cracker crumbs into the
medium mixing bowl, and one-quarter cup of sugar to the crumbs and slowly start pouring the
melted butter into the bowl while simultaneously stirring the mixture. Only add enough butter to
make the graham cracker mixture to your desired consistency. I like a very buttery crust, so I use
the entire stick of butter. When the mixture is crumbly, pour it into the spring form pan. Press it
onto the bottom of the pan and one inch up the sides. Place the pan in the preheated oven for five
minutes. After you remove the crust from the oven, it's time to start preparing the cheesecake.
Put the three blocks of cream cheese into the large mixing bowl. Begin mixing them with
the beater on low speed the entire time. Periodically scrape the sides of the bowl with the
spatula and continue mixing the cream cheese until it is smooth. Now start adding one
cup of sugar, a little at a time and keep beating the mixture until it is creamy and no longer has a
gritty appearance. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each egg just until they are blended
in. If you overwork the batter after the eggs are added, the cheesecake will split on top while it is
baking. After the eggs are added, add one tablespoon of vanilla and the lemon juice you
got out earlier. Stir those in with the spatula, then sift one-quarter cup of flour into the batter.
Sifting the flour is important...