I don't have time to waste in the kitchen. Which is why I was ready to ROTFLMAO the time that I saw Alton making a cheesecake, complete with a water bath and various other rituals that you need to make a good cheesecake the way, as we'd say in the Bronx, you need a lok in koypf (Yiddish for "hole in the head")
I own Alton's very useful "I'm Just Here For the Food" and in the back he gives a reading list. One of those books is Jeff Smith's "The Frugal Gourmet" and of it he says the following:
"I don't care what he did in his personal life. Everything in here worked back then and still does"
So why on earth did Alton go all nuts in HIS cheesecake recipe instead of giving Jeff Smith's the nod? Not appropriate for TV because of Jeff Smith's unhappy last years? Not enough for a whole show?
I have no idea. All I know is that this simple cheesecake recipe has been making fans for me for years. Along with the latkes it has been the hit of every Hanukkah party for the last 15 or so years. It is a coveted gift by the folks I work with and by friends and family. And it only takes me about 10 minutes to put one together with the help of my food processor!
The only thing I have added to Smith's recipe is the lemon juice, which I think gives a little extra balance. But since my dearest friend has a citrus allergy, I have baked this without the lemon for her family, and it's still pretty darned good.
This cake seldom, if ever, cracks and if it cracks a bit in baking, the broiling the top takes care of that. Watch it carefully during broiling, though if it does get a bit too brown, you can actually peel off the burned part and re-broil it.
As another of my cooking idols, Julia Child, put it: "If you are alone in the kitchen, who is going to see?"
You can bake this in any larger springform pan--I have pans from about 8-12 inches and all work well. A smaller pan will produce a higher cake. I tend to use the big pans when making this for a party and then you can cut a lot more slices. They're small, but this is rich.
If you insist on adorning this cake with fruit, go ahead. But as I always told my former boss (who loved this cake, but always wanted to know where the cherries were), a good cheesecake needs no topping.
And this is a GREAT cake!
New York Cheescake
(based on the recipe in "The Frugal Gourmet" by Jeff Smith)
graham crackers (about 1 package from a box, enough to make 1 cup of finely ground crumbs)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
Crush the graham crackers in a blender or food processor.
Combine with the sugar and melted butter--I like to use a fork to mix this together.
Pat the mixture into the bottom of a spring form pan. You do NOT need to grease it or use parchment.
1 16 oz container of sour cream (you can use any brand, but I like Breakstone's)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon juice(bottled is fine)1 lb cream cheese
2Tbs butter or margarine, melted
Add the vanilla and lemon and mix again.
While the processor or mixer is running, add the cream cheese a little bit at a time. You can break it up with your fingers, or cut it into small bits with a plastic knife, then scrape bits up with a spoon. It's messy either way.
Note: Sometimes the batter will be thick, sometimes more like a cake batter. I think it depends on the brand of sour cream, but either way it will bake up just fine.
If you are doing this in a food processor and the batter is more liquidy, watch out for overflow!
When all the cream cheese is blended in, pour the 2 Tbs of melted butter/margarine over the top of the batter.
Pour the batter into your cheesecake pan.
Bake in the lower part of your oven at 350F for 45 minutes.
When it is done, turn on your broiler. Place the cheesecake under the flame and broil briefly until the top has lovely brown spots on it. Remember to watch it CAREFULLY--it can burn!
Chill before serving, preferably overnight, but at least 4 hours.
When serving, use a pie server or spatula to reach under the crust and bring it up with the topping.