We’ve always been partial to the textural and visual contrast of the iconic New York cheesecake. Its characteristic dark brown top and gentle downward slope from slightly puffed perimeter to plush center is rich suede to other cheesecakes’ slippery satin.
New York cheesecake is made with the same basic components as other cheesecakes: a cream cheese–based filling atop a buttery graham cracker crumb crust. But the baking method differs. While most cheesecakes are set into an insulating water bath and baked gently at a moderate temperature to ensure a homogeneous texture throughout, the classic New York recipe calls for it to go straight into a blazing-hot oven sans water bath. This causes the cake’s rim to puff up and the top to brown. During this brief high-heat phase, the proteins in the eggs and dairy just begin to form bonds that subtly change the texture of the filling. Then, the oven temperature is turned down very low, where it remains until the filling is set. The temperature drop halts the protein bonding process, preventing the filling from curdling while resulting in subtly different textures throughout.
But all this proves problematic in home ovens, with the cheesecake sometimes turning out grainy and cracked with burnt edges, or oozy and undercooked beneath a properly browned top. After countless tests, we realized the one uncontrollable variable was the oven itself. Different ovens take vastly different amounts of times for the temperature to fall depending on their insulation levels.
So we turned the traditional high-to-low technique topsy-turvy and went low to high instead. Bake the cheesecake at 200 degrees until completely set and the internal temperature registers 165 degrees.
Then, remove it from the oven, crank up the heat until it reaches 500
degrees, and place the cheesecake back in the oven near the top, where it will brown in just a few minutes—so quickly that overcooking is a non-issue.
The other perennial problem with classic New York cheesecake is that the porous crumb crust tends to turn soggy with the long baking time. To keep that must-have graham flavor but make the crust less vulnerable to moisture, add a bit of flour to craft a cohesive, hybrid pastry-graham crust.
1 Process crust ingredients in food processor. Using bottom of measuring cup, pack firmly into springform pan. Parbake on lower rack until edges begin to brown.
2 Using stand mixer, beat cream cheese, sugar, and salt until combined. Scrape bowl and paddle, add liquid ingredients, and beat until combined. Add egg yolks and beat to combine. Scrape bowl and paddle and add whole eggs in batches, beating until combined after each addition.
3 Strain filling through fine-mesh strainer set in bowl, pressing with silicone spatula to help filling pass through strainer.
4 Pour filling into crust and let rest for 10 minutes. Draw tines of fork across surface to pop air bubbles that have risen to surface.
5 Bake cheesecake on lower rack at low temperature until center registers 165 degrees. Remove cake from oven and increase oven temperature.
6 Bake cheesecake on upper rack at higher temperature until top is evenly browned.