Merry Christmas to everyone celebrating today and happy holiday season to all of you! I brought this cheesecake to the Christmas Eve dinner at my friends’ house last night. My friend and a fellow food blogger made an incredible meal and the cheesecake was a perfect way to finish off our feast.
Cheesecake is my very favorite dessert. My mom tells me that when I was little, I had my particular way of eating a cake. I’d just pick on cream filling, icing or custard, without touching the actual cake. When I came to the US and tried cheesecake for the first time, it was love at first bite. Cheesecake embodies all that I love in a cake – no cake, just the luscious, creamy filling.
I’ve always thought of cheesecake as a very difficult dessert to make and was surprised how simple it actually is! I’ve tried a few recipes throughout the years, and this one by far is the best. It’s a modified recipe based on this one from Tyler Florence with some tips from Jamie Oliver and Martha Stewart. Don’t be afraid of orange and lemon zest, it adds so much flavor without overpowering this delicate dessert. Baking the cheesecake in boiling water is key. In the past, I’ve tried a recipe that didn’t call for that and while the end result was pretty decent, the cheesecake baked in water is definitely creamier and has that melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Ingredients (for a 10-inch springform pan)
1 1/2 cup honey graham crackers, ground
1 stick butter, softened
2 lbs. full fat cream cheese (I had 1 lbs. of regular Philadelphia cream cheese spread and 2 8 oz. blocks)
1 cup sugar
Zest of one lemon
Zest of one orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Boiling water (for the baking)
- Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Make the crust – combine ground graham crackers with the butter and mix well with a fork. Arrange baking paper in a springform pan and spray it with a non-stick cooking spray. Transfer the graham crackers mixture into the pan and press the crumbs down into the base. Refrigerate for 5 minutes.
- Make the filling. Beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer for a couple of minutes until smooth. Add eggs one by one and continue beating on slow until smooth. Gradually add sugar, lemon and orange zest, and vanilla extract. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Refrigerate for 5 minutes. Pour over the crust and smooth with a spatula.
- Set the cheesecake pan on a few pieces of aluminum foil and fold the foil around the sides of the pan. This will prevent the water from getting into the pan. Place the cake pan into a larger roasting dish or pan and fill it with boiling water. Transfer the pans into the oven and bake at 350F for about one hour (depending on your oven) until the cake starts browning a bit on the top. It should still jiggle – don’t overcook it as it will firm up after refrigeration.
- Cool for half and hour and place in the fridge. Refrigerate for at least five hours until completely firm. To cut, dip a knife in hot water after you cut each piece. Serve with your favorite fruit spread or fresh berries, it’s also quite perfect on its own!