Crust:1 3/4 – 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt (I always use kosher)
1/2 stick (4-5 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
1 lb (two 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp + 2 tsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt (I always use kosher)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp + 2 tsp heavy cream or sour cream, or a combination of the two
Make the crust:
Butter a 9-inch springform pan – 2 3/4 inches high – and wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil; put the pan on a baking sheet.
Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Pour over the melted butter and stir until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. Turn the ingredients into the buttered springform pan and use your fingers to pat an even layer of crumbs along the bottom of the pan and about halfway up the sides. Don’t worry if the sides are not perfectly even or if the crumbs reach above or below the midway mark on the sides—this doesn’t have to be a precision job. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven.
Center a rack in the oven, preheat the oven to 350°F and place the springform on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Set the crust aside to cool on a rack while you make the cheesecake.
Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
To make the cheesecake:
Put a kettle or large pot of water on to boil.
Working in a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is soft and lives up to the creamy part of its name, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition—you want a well-aerated batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the sour cream and/or heavy cream.
Put the foil-wrapped springform pan in the roaster pan.
Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that nothing has been left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape the batter into the springform pan. The batter will reach the brim of the pan. (If you have a pan with lower sides and have leftover batter, you can bake the batter in a buttered ramekin or small soufflé mold.) Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the roaster to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, at which point the top will be browned (and perhaps cracked) and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven’s heat and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour.
After an hour, carefully pull the setup out of the oven, lift the springform pan out of the roaster, and remove the foil carefully. Allow the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.
When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly, and chill the cake for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Remove the sides of the springform pan, and set the cake, still on the pan’s base, on a serving platter. The easiest way to cut cheesecake is to use a long, thin knife that has been run under hot water and lightly wiped. Keep warming the knife as you cut slices of the cake.
1 pint of strawberries, cut and hulled
1-2 Tbsp cornstarch, if you want it to be thicker
1/4 cup or less of sugar, depending on how sweet your berries are
half of a lemon
In a medium saucepan, boil all of the ingredients until thick. Pour the mixture on top of the chilled cheesecake. [If making a coulis, omit the cornstarch. Pour the cooked ingredients into a blender and puree or use an immersion blender until smooth. Then, drain the mixture with a strainer.]
To store: Wrapped well, the cake will keep for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or for up to 2 months in the freezer. It’s best to defrost the still-wrapped cheesecake overnight in the refrigerator.