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Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Fresh Berries

July 20, 2010

Berry Topping

I’ve been making this cheesecake for a while now. It never fails. It always comes out creamy and fluffy but quite dense at the same time. I made this last year over the holidays a couple of times and I recently made it again to a sports game party not too long ago. Just last month my friend asked me to make this to a bridal shower she hosted. I know, I’ve been talking about that bridal shower a bit too much lately. I can’t help it because it was a fabulous and elegant party (imagine a Real Housewives of Orange County party but all the women are behaved) and I was fortunate to be asked to prepare them desserts.

This cheesecake’s best feature is the graham cracker crust that goes up way high – almost to the top edge of the custard. I’m sure most of us will agree that the more graham cracker crust on a cheesecake the better… well, at least I agree to that statement 100%.

vanilla bean cheesecake

The other thing unique about this is that I don’t bake it on a water bath. There are advantages to baking a cheesecake using a “bain-maire” (French for water bath), including even baking of the custard because it gently heats the cheesecake and ensures a creamy consistency. Some swear by the water bath method to prevent cracks on top of your cheesecake. For me however, I get a gigantic crack right on the middle of my cheesecake when I use a water bath. It’s like Harry Potter’s scar, but enlarged, right on my cheesecake.

plain

Baking my cheesecake on its pan without a water bath results in a better product for me. The water does not seep in to my crust which is beautiful because there’s nothing I hate more than a soggy crust. The top of my cheesecake does not have a lightning scar and the texture is divine. A slightly browned edge is one downside of baking without a water bath. I don’t mind this at all because only the edges get browned – my eyes just tell me it’s an extension of the crust and I usually top my cheesecake with berries or other delicious fruits so it’s barely noticeable because the spotlight is on the berries.

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Fresh Berries

Makes one 9-inch cheesecake. I have started to follow Cindy Mushet‘s (Art & Soul of Baking) method of running a small spatula around the cheesecake immediately after its baked for easy release.

Graham Cracker Crust Ingredients:

8 ounces finely ground graham cracker crumbs (using graham crackers and grinding them in a food processor is preferred)

4 ounces unsalted butter, melted

1 1/2 ounces granulated sugar

Cheesecake Ingredients:

2 lbs. cream cheese, room temperature (preferably Philadelphia brand)

8 ounces granulated sugar

8 ounces sour cream, room temperature

3 large eggs, room temperature

1 vanilla bean

Fresh berries for garnish

2 tablespoons apricot preserves for glazing

Directions:

1. Preheat your oven to 325° F. Get your springform pan ready and a baking sheet. Lightly butter the pan or coat with non-stick spray (i.e. Vegalene). I use a non-stick springform pan and I just take wraps from butter solids and wipe it around my pan without having to use an extra tablespoon or so of butter.

2. In a small bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and sugar. Stir with a fork to combine. Dump the crumbs into the springform pan and press evenly on the bottom and the sides of the pan. Bake  the crust for 18 minutes until set and lightly browned. Let cool. Leave the oven on to 325° F.

3. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until VERY smooth and no longer lumpy. Do not underbeat. Scrape the bowl a few times to make sure that the cream cheese is well beaten.

4. Add the sour cream and beat for about 30 seconds. Then add the eggs, one at a time, and mixing properly after each addition. Scrape bowl.

5. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean by splitting it in half lengthwise with a paring knife. Add to the cream cheese mixture and mix for 10 to 15 seconds. Pour and scrape the mixture into the cooled crust. Transfer the pan into a baking sheet to bake.

Note on step #5: I sometimes add another half teaspoon of vanilla extract for an extra dose of vanilla flavor.

6. Bake the cheesecake on its own (no water bath) for about an hour or so (it can take up to 1 hour and 10 minutes depending on your oven). Bake until the cheesecake is set but the center is still jiggly. This will set as it cools.

7. Place the cheesecake in a cooling rack and using a slightly buttered or oiled offset spatula, immediately run the spatula around the edge of the cheesecake. Make sure that you gently press the spatula to the side of the pan so the crust does not get butchered and damaged. Completely cool cheesecake for about 2 hours and then chill for 4 hours, or even better, overnight before unmolding.

8. Once completely chilled, remove the springform pan to release the cake. If you want, you can very gently run an offset spatula again to help release the cake.

9. Place the apricot preserves in a small bowl and add about a tablespoon of water. Heat in the microwave for 20 to 30 seconds. Decorate the top with fresh berries. Glaze the fruit with the apricot preserves using a small brush.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2010 9:54 pm

    I love cheesecakes but I don’t enjoy them enough. I like your version because I also like a generous graham cracker crust per serving. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to avoid the crack on top without the sour cream topping. Yours looks perfect, as usual, especially with the berries on top.

    I would have loved to be at that party if only to enjoy a slice of this beautiful cheesecake! 🙂

  2. July 21, 2010 2:49 pm

    Agree completely. One can’t have enough of graham crackers on a cheese cakes. Yours look beautiful with all the berries.

    • July 21, 2010 9:36 pm

      Thank you Ivy. If I can smother my cheesecake with more graham crackers on top, I would. I go for frozen yogurt sometimes and I get the NY Cheesecake flavor and I dump A LOT of graham cracker crumbs on top. Mmmm!

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