The basic ratios of my cheesecake are in line with a recipe published in New York City over one hundred years ago, but with a portion of the cream cheese replaced by goat cheese. That combination mimics the texture of old fashioned cream cheese—tangy, fresh, and a little crumbly too. It makes for a cheesecake that tastes perfectly authentic, not goaty, and free from the gumminess that can plague some recipes. Thanks to an initial burst of high heat, it puffs gently in the oven, creating a uniquely light but creamy consistency.
Reprinted from BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts with permission from W. W. Norton.
Why It Works
- A small portion of fresh goat cheese improves the flavor and texture of the cream cheese, without imparting a discernable flavor of its own.
- A deep and sturdy pan gives the cheesecake height, allowing more space for its creamy interior.
- An initial burst of high heat encourages the cheesecake to puff, lightening its texture.
- Baking at 250°F keeps the oven temperature low, obviating the need for a water bath.
- Yield:Makes one 8- by 4-inch round cheesecake, or about 16 slices
- Active time: About 1 hour
- Total time:About 13 hours
- For the Graham Cracker Crust:
- 7 ounces graham cracker crumbs, store-bought or homemade, see note (about 1 3/4 cups; 200g)
- 1 ounce unsalted butter, melted (about 2 tablespoons; 30g)
- Pinch of salt
- For the Cheesecake:
- 32 ounces full-fat cream cheese, such as Philadelphia, brought to about 70°F/21°C (about 4 cups; 905g)
- 8 ounces fresh goat cheese (not pre-crumbled), brought to about 70°F/21°C (about 1 cup; 225g)
- 1/2 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed (about 1 tablespoon; 15g)
- 1/2 ounce vanilla extract (about 1 tablespoon; 15g)
- 1/4 teaspoon (1g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight
- 1/4 teaspoon orange flower water
- 14 ounces plain or toasted sugar (about 2 cups; 395g)
- 6 large eggs (about 10 1/2 ounces; 300g)
- 6 ounces heavy cream (about 3/4 cup; 170g)
- To Serve:
- 16 ounces (volume will vary; 455g) fresh fruit, such as pitted and halved cherries, blueberries, sliced peaches, small strawberries, or some assortment thereof, optional
- 1 recipe (about 1/2 cup) complementary Fruit Syrup or jelly, for saucing the fruit, optional
Getting Ready: This recipe requires an 8- by 4-inch non-reactive aluminum pan, preferably a non-latching, two-piece style; this style can be difficult to find, but this pan was manufactured especially for this recipe. Otherwise, a traditional cake pan of those dimensions will work, with a touch more effort to unmold. Of course, cheesecake can be baked in any size or style of pan, but the volume of batter, bake temperatures, and times will require individual adjustments which have not been tested here.
If using a two-piece pan, wrap the bottom piece in foil before assembly, then tear away the excess so the pan sits flat. If using a traditional cake pan, line the bottom with a parchment round (explanation and tutorial here). In either case, lightly grease the pan.
For the Graham Cracker Crust: Add the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and salt to the pan, and stir with a fork until well combined. If needed, season to taste with additional salt. With your fingers, compress into an even layer along the bottom of the pan.
For the Cheesecake: Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 450°F. Combine cream cheese, goat cheese, lemon juice, vanilla extract, salt, and orange flower water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Do not add the sugar at this time. Mix on low until roughly combined, then increase to medium and cream until no lumps of cheese remain, and the mixture is perfectly smooth; about 5 minutes. Halfway through, pause to scrape the bowl and beater with a flexible spatula.
Reduce speed to medium-low, add the sugar all at once, and mix only until well combined. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and place a single-mesh sieve over the bowl, then crack in the eggs, and whisk until they pass through. Discard any clots of chalazae that remain trapped in the strainer. Resume mixing on low until well combined, then scrape the bowl and beater once more.
In a 1-quart stainless steel pot, bring the cream to a full boil. While mixing on low, add the hot cream all at once in a steady stream, and mix a few seconds more. This warms the batter, which helps release any air pockets introduced in mixing while reducing the overall bake time. Use immediately, or refrigerate the batter in an airtight container until needed, up to one week. Bring cold batter to room temperature before baking.
Pour batter into the prepared pan and place on a baking sheet. Bounce a spoon across the surface to dislodge any air bubbles that may have slipped through. If you don't see any, no need to continue. If you do notice a few rising up, keep bouncing the spoon until they're gone. Bake until the cheesecake is puffed and dry to the touch around the edges, about 20 minutes. In most ovens, the cheesecake will also begin to brown, forming golden patches along the surface, deepening its flavor. If needed, rotate the baking sheet to ensure even browning. Alternatively, for a denser, paler cheesecake, skip to the next step and bake only at 250°F until done; this may take an hour or more.
Turn off the oven, open the door, and let it stand ajar 10 minutes. Close the door and set the oven to 250°F. Continue baking until the outer edge of the cheesecake feels firm, though the innermost ring of cheesecake will wobble quite freely if you shake the pan, about 35 minutes. This wobbly zone should be no more than 3-inches across. The cheesecake will be done when the very center registers 145°F on a digital thermometer inserted to a depth of 2-inches. Testing with a thermometer will not cause the cheesecake to crack; cracking is the result of over-baking and nothing more.
Let the cheesecake cool for 15 minutes, then run a thin knife or offset spatula around the sides to loosen (this helps the cake settle evenly as it cools). Continue letting it cool at room temperature for at least 1 hour (or up to 4) before covering it to refrigerate until cold to the core, at least 12 hours.
Unmolding the Cheesecake From a Loose Bottom Cake Pan: Loosen the sides of the cheesecake from the pan with a thin knife or offset spatula. Place the pan on a large can of tomatoes or a similarly sized object; something tall enough to lift the cheesecake 4-inches from the counter, and wide enough to form a stable base. With both hands on the sides of the pan, pull downward to drop the outer ring away from the bottom. Place the cake onto a flat work surface, loosen it from the bottom of the pan with an offset spatula, and transfer to a large, flat serving plate. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until needed, up to 10 days.
Unmolding the Cheesecake From a Traditional Cake Pan: Loosen the sides of the cheesecake from the pan with a thin knife or offset spatula. Stand the cake in a few inches of scalding hot water until the pan feels warm (a roasting pan works well for this). Drape the cake in plastic wrap to protect its surface, then invert onto a large, flat plate, and lift the pan to pull it away. It should slide free without any resistance; if not, continue standing in hot water a few minutes more. After removing the pan, peel the parchment from the crust, and re-invert the cheesecake onto a serving plate. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until needed, up to 10 days.
To Serve: Combine the fresh fruit and warmed fruit syrup or jam in a large bowl, and gently fold with a flexible spatula until the fruit is well coated and glistening (optional). Cut the cheesecake with a large chef's knife dipped in hot water; for clean and tidy portions of cheesecake, pause to clean the blade under hot running water between each slice. Top with spoonfuls of the sauced fruit, if using, or other toppings and sauces as desired.