• Lauren Humphreys

Classic Cheesecake

As the song goes, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” and I couldn’t agree more! The temperature outside continues to drop, but I am filled with warm thoughts since Christmas is quickly approaching. One of my favorite holiday recipes is cheesecake. This particular cheesecake recipe is so great that we actually make it for events year-round!

This simple cheesecake is pure excellence and will be a lovely show-stopping dessert at your next family gathering. The texture is creamy and light, but the pecans within the crust add a rich, nutty flavor to complement the sweet, but not-too-sweet, filling. Many believe that cheesecakes are difficult to prepare, but they are actually quite simple if you know some helpful tricks. With some advanced planning and time, you can make beautiful cheesecakes with the following tips for success!

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Springform Pan and Baking

It is best to use a springform pan when making cheesecake because the side of the pan separates from the base, which makes serving much easier. 

Use the correct size springform pan for the recipe.

Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper for easy removal from the bottom of the pan.

Use plastic utensils to prevent damage to your springform pan with removing or slicing the cheesecake.

Use a water bath. A water bath protects the filling from the direct heat in the oven and allows the cheesecake to bake more evenly. This helps prevent the cheesecake from becoming dry and overcooked. In addition, some bakers complain of their cheesecake cracking as it cools, and a water bath will help prevent or minimize cracking.

When using a water bath, the springform pan MUST be wrapped with one or two pieces of aluminum foil.  This crucial step will prevent water from seeping into the springform pan and into the crust. It is very important not to tear any holes in the foil when wrapping the pan or you will need a new piece of foil. 

Crust

Most cheesecake crusts are made from crushed graham crackers, cookies, nuts, or any combination of the three, combined with butter and sometimes sugar.

If the crust is too dry to mold into the pan, add extra melted butter 1 Tbsp at a time until desired texture is achieved. 

Bake and cool the crust before adding the cheesecake filling to prevent a soggy crust.

Cheesecake Filling

A cheesecake is a type of simple dessert—baked custard. The term custard refers to any liquid that has been thickened by eggs. 

For a smooth, lump-free cheesecake. Work with room-temperature ingredients because the cream cheese mixes best when it is softened and the eggs will also incorporate more easily.  

To prevent lumps of cream cheese in the batter, scrape the sides of the bowl periodically.  

Lastly, only mix on low speed when adding the eggs.  The batter should only be mixed until it is smooth and the ingredients are blended. High-speed mixing will incorporate too much air, which may cause the cheesecake to crack during the cooling process. 

At Christmas, or your next gathering with family or friends, consider indulging with this delightful cheesecake. As a bonus, this cheesecake is versatile and will please everyone because it can be topped with a variety of toppings, ranging from fruit sauces, chocolate, caramel, nuts, and/or whipped cream. Whatever the occasion, this cheesecake will fill the room with smiles!

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Classic Cheesecake

Crust:

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

½ cup ground pecans 

¼ cup sugar

1 stick butter, melted

Filling:

3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

3 eggs, room temperature

1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

Prepare the crust. If using whole graham cracker sheets and whole pecans, a food processor is recommended to crush the graham crackers and pecans into crumbs. Combine all crust ingredients and press onto the bottoms and up the sides of a 9” springform pan, lined with a parchment paper circle on the bottom. Bake crust in a preheated 325°F oven for 8-10 minutes. Allow crust to cool completely and reduce oven temperature to 300°F.

To prepare the cheesecake filling, beat softened cream cheese with a mixer on medium speed until smooth and fluffy. Add vanilla and gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth on medium-low speed, scraping sides of bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix on low speed after each addition. Beat until no egg remains visible, but do not overmix.

Prepare a water bath to bake the cheesecake by carefully wrapping aluminum foil around the bottom the springform pan. Make sure not to tear any holes in the foil or water will seep into the pan into the crust. Fill a large rimmed pan (such as a roasting pan) with ½-¾” of hot water and place in the oven.

Pour cheesecake filling into cooled crust and very carefully place the prepared springform pan wrapped in aluminum foil into the larger pan with water in the oven. This will protect the cheesecake from the direct heat of the oven so it bakes evenly. Bake at 300°F for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes or until cheesecake is well-set on the edges but barely jiggles in the center. Do not overbake. Remove cheesecake from the water bath and let cool at room temperature.

Chill at least 6 hours before serving, but it is best if cooled overnight and served the next day.

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Now add sugar

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With the ground pecans

4/20

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