6 whole graham crackers, broken into pieces
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
½ cup all purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
7 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
2½ lbs. cream cheese, softened
1½ cups granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. vanilla extract
6 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks
1. For the crust: Adjust oven racks to upper middle and lower middle positions and heat oven to 325 degrees. Process cracker pieces and sugar in food processor until finely ground, about 30 seconds. Add flour and salt to combine, 2 pulses. Add 6 Tbsp. melted butter and pulse until crumbs are evenly moistened, about 10 pulses. Brush bottom of 9 inch springform pan with ½ Tbsp. melted butter. Using your hands, press crumb mixture evenly into pan bottom. Using flat bottom of measuring cup, firmly pack crust into pan. Bake on lower middle rack until fragrant and beginning to brown around edges, about 13 minutes. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and set aside to cool completely. Reduce oven temp to 200 degrees.
2. For the filling: Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat cream cheese, 3/4 cup sugar, and salt at medium low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Beat in remaining 3/4 cup sugar until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape beater and bowl well; add sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla and beat at low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Add egg yolks and beat at medium low speed until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Scrape bowl and beater. Add whole eggs two at a time, beating until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds after each addition.
Brush sides of springform pan with remaining ½ Tbsp. melted butter. Pour filling into crust and set aside for 10 minutes to allow air bubbles to rise to top. Gently draw tines of fork across surface of cake to pop air bubbles that have risen to the surface.
When oven thermometer reads 200 degrees, bake cheesecake on lower rack for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, remove cake from oven and use toothpick to pierce any bubbles that have risen to the surface. Return to the oven and continue to bake until center registers 165 degrees, 2 ¼ - 2 ½ hours longer (mine took 2 hours and 20 minutes). Remove cake from oven and increase oven temp to *500 degrees. *see caution below
CAUTION on this next step: When oven is at 500 degrees, bake cheesecake on upper rack until top is evenly browned, 4-12 minutes. Personally, I felt this temp was way too high.....Fortunately, I stayed right in front of the oven and happened to take a peek at 3 minutes, and mine was already a deep brown.
Thank Goodness I was there to pull it out! Next time, I'll try 450 degrees to see if that works better. You'll notice I also have a spotty top, that's due to the air bubbles that rose to the top during baking....guess I need to work on eliminating more of those bubbles next time! In this case, I was really glad I had opted to make the strawberry sauce.....I was able to hide the top!
Let cool for 5 minutes; run paring knife between cheesecake and side of pan. Let cheesecake cool until barely warm, 2½-3 hours. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold and firmly set, at least 6 hours.
recipe c/o: www.cooksillustrated.com
1 quart fresh strawberries
3/4 cup sugar
¼ cup water
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier liquer
1½ Tbsp. cornstarch
Slice strawberries. Combine berries, sugar, water and zest in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until berries are soft & liquid is thick; approximately 10 minutes.
Stir the brandy together with the cornstarch and stir into berry mixture. Cook until glossy (1-2 minutes). Let cool and spoon over the top.