A few notes before you begin baking your cheesecake...
Your first time probably won't be perfect not because you suck but because all ovens are different and baking a cheesecake is actually a tricky process. Before you make the cheesecake, take all your ingredients out of the fridge a few hours before, this will soften the cheese - otherwise it's going to be a battle with your mixer.
I usually cut the cream cheese with sour cream for a lighter, more airy cheesecake. You can experiment with the fruit topping: when rhubarb comes around, I caramelize rhubarb in the oven with a little bit of sugar and use that as a topping. Just under the fruits, I usually make a fruit coulis (here, it's a few strawberries blended with sugar). You can make it with blueberries too! A springform pan is important as you can easily remove your cheesecake once it's cool. I usually make this over two days. Day one, I make the crust and bake the cheesecake. Day two, I make the strawberry coulis and decorate the cheesecake.
No-sugar graham cracker crust:
ounces/ 200g graham crackers
1 stick/ 113 g of unsalted butter, soft and cut in dice.
1/4 teaspoon salt
Use your hands or a food processor to grind the crackers. Add the diced butter and use your hands (or a food processor) to mix it all into a paste. Press onto the bottom of the springform pan until it's evenly distributed and flat like a crust. Chill in the freezer to set while you make the filling.
Vanilla cream cheese filling:
4 packages of cream cheese (a package of cream cheese is usually 225g, so x 4 it's 880g: that's a lot of cream cheese!)
8 ounces/ 225g of sour cream
1 1/4 cups / 250g of sugar
3 tablespoons/ 50g of flour
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
the seeds of one vanilla bean.
(optional: the zest of one lemon)
Preheat your oven at 450°F/ 200°C.
Using a hand held mixer on medium speed (or better a stand in mixer if you have one) mix together the cream cheese and the sour cream with the sugar until it comes together. Add the eggs one by one and keep mixing between each addition on a lower speed. Add the vanilla bean, the vanilla extract and the lemon zest if using any. Do not over mix but mix long enough so that the filling is soft and lump free. Take your springform pan out of the freezer and add you filling. Spread the top evenly.
Place your springform pan onto a baking tray to avoid dripping (or line with aluminum paper) - this step is important as even new solid springform tend to leak a little and at 450°F, any butter leak will start burning.
Bake at 450°F for about 15/20 minutes or until puffed - stay close to your oven as the top can start browning very fast. Once it's nicely puffed, turn down the temperature to 300°F / 150°C and bake for another hour until set - it's ok if the center is still a little wobbly. Try to resist opening the oven while it's baking, as this will create cracks in your cheesecake. Take out of the oven, let cool on the counter top and then chill in the fridge for 8 hours (or overnight).
1 cup/ 200g strawberries (you can use frozen ones)
1/2 cup of sugar
Blend the strawberries and the sugar together. Heat up over medium heat and let simmer for 5 minutes to reduce it. Once it's cooled, spread the coulis on the chilled cheesecake.
Fruits on top:
1 cup of blueberries
1 cup of raspberries
Line the top of the cheesecake with the berries and gently sprinkle some confectioners sugar over it (using a small sieve).
The cheesecake will keep for a few days in the fridge.