Start to Finish: 7 to 24 hours
Servings: 12 to 16
Difficulty Level: Beginner
Tart lemon juice and zest provide a bright, flavorful contrast to the creamy richness of cheesecake. Dial up the lemon flavor with your toppings, or complement it with fresh berries. This relatively fuss-free recipe requires no water bath while it bakes. It was adapted from the New York Cheesecake recipe found in the All New All Purpose Joy of Cooking.
For the Crust:
- 12 full-size graham crackers
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 beaten egg white
For the Cheesecake:
- 2 1/2 pounds cream cheese
- 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 5 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
Prepare the Crust
In the bowl of your food processor, combine crumbled graham crackers -- or 1 1/4 cups of ground gingersnaps or shortbread cookies -- along with 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, 6 tablespoons of melted butter and a teaspoon of fresh lemon zest.
Press 1/3 of mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan, prick it with a fork in several areas and bake it for 10 to 15 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the crust is cool, add the rest of the dough, pressing it evenly around the sides of the pan before brushing the bottom and sides with a beaten egg white.
Create the Cheesecake
Allow all the cheesecake ingredients to sit at room temperature for approximately 30 to 60 minutes.
Place softened cream cheese in a large bowl and beat it on medium speed with a stand mixer or a hand mixer for approximately 30 seconds.
Gradually add sugar, flour, lemon zest and lemon juice to the bowl. Beat the mixture for about 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is incorporated.
Once the mixture is smooth, begin adding the eggs and yolks, 1 at a time.
Add heavy cream and beat the batter on low speed until it's all combined.
Pour the lemon cheesecake batter into your prepared crust.
Bake the cake at 500 F for 15 minutes before turning the oven down to 200 F. Allow the cheesecake to bake for 1 hour before turning the oven off and opening the door. Leave the oven door ajar while the cheesecake cools in the oven.
After 30 minutes, remove the cheesecake and place it on a cooling rack. Let it cool completely before unmolding it and transferring the cheesecake to a covered plate. Cool the cheesecake in the refrigerator for a minimum of 6 hours, although the flavor will be better if you let it chill for 24 hours.
Adding a Swirled Topping
Swirling lemon curd into the cheesecake batter before you bake it adds enhanced richness and lemon flavor. Drop spoonfuls of lemon curd over the cheesecake batter and swirl it into the mixture before you bake it. Although you can use commercially prepared, jarred lemon curd, this tasty treat is relatively easy to make at home, and any leftover curd makes a great topping for fresh fruit or toast. Or you could use it to fill phyllo tart shells for a quick lemony dessert.
To make lemon curd as inspired by Fine Cooking magazine, combine 6 tablespoons of softened butter with 1 cup of granulated sugar in a bowl. Use your electric mixer or hand mixer to beat the ingredients together until they are light and fluffy, which typically takes 2 minutes. Then, add 2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks. Beat the mixture for 1 minute before mixing in 2/3 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Combine everything together and transfer the mixture to a heavy-bottomed saucepan placed over low heat. Once the curd begins looking smooth, turn the heat up to medium and cook it for 15 to 20 minutes while stirring it constantly. The curd is finished cooking once it coats the back of your spoon and a thermometer inserted into the mixture reads 170 F. Store homemade lemon curd in an airtight container for approximately 1 week in the refrigerator.
Additional Topping Ideas
Another idea is to top the lemon cheesecake with fresh berries and sifted powdered sugar or fresh mint. Optionally, to enhance the lemon flavor even more, top the cheesecake with candied lemon zest. To make the candied zest, remove the zest of 1 lemon using a julienne peeler or a vegetable peeler. Add it to a saucepan along with enough water to just cover the lemon peel. Bring the mixture to a simmer and let it cook for 7 to 10 minutes before draining the pan. Place the lemon peel back in the saucepan along with with 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar. Bring the mixture to a simmer and let it cook over low heat for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, or until the syrup is thickened and the lemon zest is translucent. Remove the zest with tongs or a slotted spoon and place it on waxed paper to cool. Store any unused candied zest in an airtight container for up to 1 month in the refrigerator.
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