Serves: Serves 10 to 12
- 2 cups (8 ounces) (14 full-size crackers) finely ground graham cracker crumbs (or chocolate cookie crumbs)
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
- 1½pounds cream cheese
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) sugar
- 1 (16 ounce) container sour cream
- 3 large eggs
- 1 vanilla bean, or 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- Roasted Summer Fruit or fresh berries, for serving
Preheat the oven to 325°F and position an oven rack in the center. Lightly coat the pan with butter or high-heat canola-oil spray.
Make the crust: Place the crumbs and melted butter in the medium bowl and stir with a fork to moisten the crumbs evenly. With the silicone or rubber spatula, scrape into the prepared pan. Press the crumbs into an even layer across the bottom and about halfway up the side of the pan, working outward from the center. Bake the crust for 16 to 18 minutes, until set and lightly browned. Transfer to a rack to cool. Leave the oven on.
Make the filling: Place the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of the food processor and process until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute, scraping the bowl down twice with a silicone or rubber spatula to ensure the mixture blends evenly and that there are no lumps (you won't be able to smooth them out later). Add the sour cream and process until incorporated and smooth, about 20 seconds, scraping down the bowl halfway through. Add the eggs one at a time, pulsing 3 to 5 seconds after each addition to blend them in thoroughly.
Use a paring knife to split the vanilla bean lengthwise. Turn the knife over and use the dull side to scrape out the seeds into the mixture. Reserve the vanilla pod for another use. Process for 8 to 10 seconds, until the seeds are evenly distributed. Scrape the mixture into the cooled crust.
Bake the cheesecake: Set the cheesecake pan on the baking sheet (in case of leakage) and bake for 60 to 75 minutes, until the edge is set but the center is still a 2- to 3-inch-wide pool of liquid batter (it will firm up during cooling and chilling).
Transfer the cheesecake to a cooling rack and immediately run a thin, flexible knife or spatula around the edge of the cake, gently pressing into the side of the pan to avoid gouging the cake. This will release the cake from the side of the pan and prevent cracking as it cools. Let the cheesecake cool completely, 1 to 2 hours. When cool, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours before serving.
Unmold the cheesecake: Run the thin knife or spatula around the cake edge again as described above. Pop the side off the springform pan. Use an icing spatula to loosen the bottom of the cake from the pan and then slide it off the pan bottom onto a cake cardboard or serving plate.
Serve the cheesecake: Cut the cheesecake into wedges with a thin, sharp knife, pulling the knife out at the bottom of the cake to keep the surface of the cake smooth and beautiful. Dip the knife in hot water and then wipe dry after each slice. Serve with a generous spoonful of Roasted Summer Fruit or a few fresh berries.
Storing: The cooled cheesecake can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 4 days.