My biggest complaint about New York cheesecakes is that they are often too dry and crumbly for my taste. On the opposite side of the spectrum, my signature cheesecakes are generally soft and creamy and do not tend to hold their shape very well when sliced, but I’m okay with that because I just love the creamy custardy (is that a word?) texture.
That being said, variety is nice, so today’s post is my take on a New York cheesecake. It’s a bit firmer than my normal cheesecake recipe, but is still fairly light and creamy. It is cooked in a water bath and is differentiated from most cheesecakes by the inclusion of mascarpone cheese and kefir labne cheese (which seems to be somewhat of a cross between cream cheese and Greek yogurt). My local grocery store has kefir cheese in the yogurt section, but be sure you get the cheese, not the kefir drink. And if you can’t find kefir cheese, this recipe will work just fine without it. With cheesecakes, it is the foundational ingredients and the method that are most important, not the added ingredients. You can experiment tremendously by adding and subtracting things without affecting an overall successful outcome. As an added touch, you can also add the cherry sauce, but the cheesecake works quite well on its own with no topping added. You could also utilize any other topping of your choice. A matter of personal preference, I would say.
Two more notes..
You will notice this recipe does not use a crust. That is by design, as the focus is on the light lemony flavor and smooth texture. If you absolutely must have a crust on your cheesecake, feel free to utilize the basic graham cracker crust from one of my other cheesecake recipes. However, I think you’ll like the purity of flavors on this version. It also contributes to the lightness of it all, and makes this cheesecake perfect for a brunch or afternoon tea.
The other key difference between a New York cheesecake and my signature cheesecake style is the baking heat sequence. Instead of baking at a single temperature for one hour, a New York cheesecake is blasted with high initial heat, then baked long and slow at lowered heat, and given a final heat blast to create the traditional golden top of a New York cheesecake.
3 8 oz. pkgs Philadelphia regular cream cheese (at room temperature)
1 package (8 oz.) mascarpone cheese (at room temperature)
1/3 cup kefir (labne) cheese
1 cup baker’s (or granulated) sugar
2 tbsp. all purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
3 large eggs and 2 egg yolks (all at room temperature)
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. fresh lemon zest, finely chopped
¼ cup heavy cream
¼ cup sour cream
Butter and sugar sufficient to line the pan
Cherry Topping Ingredients:
2 cups jarred cherries (I use Morello cherries from Trader Joe’s)
1 cup juice from the jarred cherries
3 tsp. cornstarch
3 tsp. sugar
Cover the top side of the removable bottom panel of a 9-inch springform pan with aluminum foil. Put it back into the springform and wrap the foil edges up around the outside of the pan. Wrap additional foil as necessary to enclose the outside of the pan, the ultimate purpose being to keep the pan watertight. Grease all inside surfaces of the pan with butter and toss in about 2-3 tablespoons of sugar. Shake the pan around in all directions to ensure all inside surfaces are coated with sugar. Add more sugar if needed. Set pan aside while you make the filling.
Preheat oven to 500˚. Start boiling a kettle or pot of water that we will use for the water bath. Beat cream cheese, mascarpone, and optional kefir cheese with an electric mixer at low speed until smooth. Add sugar, flour, and salt and beat until smooth and combined. Add eggs and egg yolks one at a time, beating and combining well after each addition. I also recommend that you scrape down the sides of the bowl and clean the beater bar and spatula after each egg to minimize and hopefully eliminate lumps. Add vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Mix at low speed until combined. Add sour cream and heavy whipping cream and combine at low speed until mixture looks beautiful and ready!
Remove bowl from mixer and pour into prepared springform pan. Do NOT scrape the bowl, as it will introduce lumps that are stuck to the side of the bowl. Place cheesecake in the center of a large roasting pan and pour boiling water around it, bringing the water level approximately 1 inch up the outside of the cheesecake pan. Bake the cheesecake at 500˚ for 12 minutes. Turn the heat down to 200 and pen the oven door for a few minutes to allow the temperature to drop faster. Close the oven door and bake at 200˚ for 2 hours. If you like, after 1 hour you can run a thin knife around the edge of the cheesecake and pan to help prevent cracking. The cheesecake should pull away from the side easily. After the 2 hour baking sequence, raise oven temperature to 350 and bake until the cheesecake starts puffing up and the center starts turning golden. Turn off heat and prop the oven door open about 3 inches; let cake rest in place for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let rest for 1 more hour. Refrigerate overnight. Remove cheesecake from the refrigerator about 30 minutes prior to serving. Slice with a thin bladed knife, wiping down blade between each slice.
Optional Cherry Topping: In a small saucepan, whisk corn starch into the cherry juice until no clumps remain. Heat on medium heat until almost boiling. Add cherries and sugar, stir, and continue to heat until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and let completely cool before serving. When ready to serve, place sauce in a bowl so guests can spoon desired amount of sauce on top of cheesecake.