1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, for preparing pan
Graham Cracker Crust:
1½ cups Graham Cracker crumbs (about 11 full graham cracker sheets)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
1¼ cups granulated sugar, divided
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup whipping (heavy) cream, room temperature
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
Tip: Use a citrus zester and citrus juicer for fresh zest and freshly squeezed juice.
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1½ tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest (about 1½ lemons)
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1/16 teaspoon salt (pinch)
3 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon whipping (heavy) cream
Lemon peel of 1 lemon, white pith removed
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare one 9 inch round cheesecake pan or springform pan with 3-inch sides; use a pastry brush to lightly butter the pan with 1 tablespoon of melted butter.
Graham Cracker Crust:
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine Graham Cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Stir until thoroughly mixed and mixture is crumbly.
- Pour the graham cracker crumb mixture into the springform pan. Using the back of a large spoon or the flat bottom of a measuring cup or drinking glass, press the crumb mixture firmly and evenly across the bottom of the pan. Place the pan on a baking sheet; bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a wire cooling rack to cool.
- When cooled, wrap bottom and sides of pan in a double layer of heavy duty aluminum foil to prepare for the bain marie water bath. The foil is to prevent any water from seeping into the cheesecake through the pan seams.
- Reduce oven to 325 degrees F.
- In a food processor or small food grinder, process the lemon zest and ¼ cup sugar until the sugar is yellow and the zest is broken down.
- In a large bowl, add the cream cheese, lemon zest sugar mixture, and remaining 1 cup sugar; mix on medium low speed with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape the mixture off the paddle and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula so the mixture blends evenly and there are no lumps.
- Add the whipping cream, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt; continue beating on medium low speed until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute.
- Add the eggs 2 at a time, beating until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute, scraping the bowl between additions. Tip: crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk with a fork to thoroughly break up the egg before adding to the cheese mixture.
Tip: Do not overbeat the cheesecake batter. Blend the ingredients quickly to add as few air bubbles as possible. The ingredients must be well blended, but excessive beating creates too many air pockets which can cause the cheesecake to puff up too much during baking, and then crack during the cooling process.
- Let the filling rest about 5 minutes to allow air bubbles to rise to the surface.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil to use for the bain marie water bath.
- Pour the cheesecake filling into the graham cracker crust. Set the foil wrapped springform pan in a larger pan or roasting pan and transfer to the oven. Carefully pour boiling water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan, and close the oven door. Bake 60 to 80 minutes.
Tip: The Cheesecake is done when the edges are set but the center 2 to 3 inches are still a pool of liquid batter. The cake should look as though it has puffed a little and just barely beginning to brown. The center will still be soft and jiggly when the pan is lightly jarred or tapped with a spoon.
- Remove from oven, place springform pan on a wire cooling rack to cool. Immediately run a thin knife around the edge of the pan, gently pressing into the side of the pan to avoid gouging the cake. This allows the cake to contract away from the sides of the pan as it cools, helping to prevent cracks.
- When cheesecake is completely cooled, cover the pan and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours before serving. Try to avoid having the covering touch the top of the cheesecake as this may mar the surface.
- In a medium heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, combine butter, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and egg yolks. Cook and stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until butter is melted and mixture is thickened, about 7 to 10 minutes, or registers 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Do not allow mixture to boil or the egg yolks will curdle. Remove pan from heat.
- Immediately pour the hot mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to strain out the lemon zest pieces and any bits of egg that may have curdled. Stir in the whipping cream. Let cool, then pour into an airtight container and refrigerate. The curd will continue to thicken as it cools.
- When ready to serve, pour chilled lemon curd over center of cheesecake; use a small offset spatula to spread the lemon curd to the edges, letting some of the curd drip down the sides of the cheesecake.
- Using a sharp kitchen knife, slice a lemon peel with the white pith removed into very fine threads. Form into curls and place on top of the curd.