Marc and I had Easter dinner at my Dad and Step-Mom’s house yesterday and as usual, it was a blast with them, my little brother and my Step-Mom’s brother and sister. There was a huge, incredible Polish feast to eat of ham, kielbasa, pierogi, potato salad, cole slaw and more. The conversation and jokes were going around at a rapid pace between the seven of us, and there may or may not have been a few minutes of my little brother and I basically communicating in nothing but movie quotes. That tends to happen a lot. I was put in charge of dessert and the request was for a classic New York cheesecake to round out the meal. My version of Classic New York Cheesecake has a super buttery graham cracker crust, and the most luscious vanilla filling. The recipe is adapted from a recipe I have by the always amazing Chef Emeril Lagasse. My incredible strawberry balsamic sauce topped it off perfectly!
For the crust:
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1 1/2 sticks of butter, melted
- 3 tblspns dark brown sugar
For the filling:
- 2 ½ lbs cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 1 tblspn vanilla extract
- 5 whole eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- 3 tblspns flour
For the sauce:
- ½ lb fresh strawberries, hulled and coarsely chopped
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 tblspns balsamic vinegar
First, prepare the crust. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees and liberally grease the bottom of a 9 1/2 inch springform pan. This needed to feed at least 7 so I made a big one! I have to confess I cheated a bit and just bought graham cracker crumbs so that I didn’t have to make graham crackers into crumbs myself. I was pressed for time! Combine the crumbs, melted butter and brown sugar in a bowl and stir it together until it resembles wet sand. Pour it into the prepared springform pan and press it down firmly to make the bottom crust. Bake it in the oven for 8-10 minutes, until it is slightly golden and set.
Take the crust out and let it cool. Reduce the heat of the oven to 350 degrees. In the meantime, prepare the filling. Combine the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat that together until creamy and smooth. Add in the eggs and egg yolks one at a time. Then add the Greek yogurt. The Greek yogurt is my little classic New York cheesecake secret. Most recipes call for sour cream but I don’t like the flavor and texture it imparts. Greek yogurt is slightly more creamy and has a less assertive flavor while still giving some needed tang to cut through the cream cheese. Finally, add in the flour and let the mixture beat together until it is completely velvety and smooth.
Now, liberally grease the sides of the springform pan with the cooled bottom crust. Pour the filling into the pan and smooth it out with a rubber spatula. Put the cheesecake pan on a sheet pan with a lip or in a roasting pan and then pour enough water into the outer pan to surround the cheesecake pan at least 1/4 of the way up (be careful not to get any of the water into the cheesecake). This allows the steam from the water to keep the top of the cake from cracking, it’s a classic setup called a bain marie. Bake the cheesecake in the 350 oven for an hour and a half, until perfectly set.
While the cake is baking, make the sauce. It’s so easy! Combine the prepped strawberries, water and sugar into a sauce pan. Bring it to a low boil and let it cook until the strawberries start to break down and it gets thick, about 10 minutes. Add in the balsamic vinegar and let it thicken for another 3 minutes or so. Then it’s done! It almost is like a strawberry jam but the balsamic keeps it from being overly sweet. Let it cool, then seal it in a container and put it in the refrigerator.
When the classic New York cheesecake is done, take it out and transfer the springform pan to a rack. Let it cool for about 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to make sure the cake releases from the pan clean. Pop open the springform pan and let the cheesecake completely cool. Carefully slide the cake onto a cake plate with a dome top that will seal it. Let it chill and set in the refrigerator overnight. That’s what is so fantastic about cheesecake, it’s great for make ahead entertaining. When you are ready to serve it the next day, just pour the strawberry balsamic sauce over the cake and you are good to go. My family really loved this as the end of our fun Easter dinner, and I know yours will too!