Looking for the occasional celebrative indulgence and perfect bite of dreamy bliss? This Creamy New York Cheesecake with Berry Coulis will be your go-to cheesecake recipe…I promise.
Cheesecake…New York Style
As far as I can remember, cheesecake has been one of my favorite indulgent desserts. I started my love affair with cheesecake as a young child with a Jell-O no-bake cheesecake box mix smothered in canned cherries. No judging. We all have to start somewhere. Eventually, high school home economics class graduated me to a homemade chocolate chip cheesecake, which I made and loved for years. In my early 20s, I moved to the New York area and fell in love with New York Cheesecake…the real deal.
Technically, a New York cheesecake doesn’t have a crust. Nevertheless, I love a graham cracker crust, and adding toasted pecans truly takes it up a notch. I have adapted this recipe from a recipe I found in Cuisine at Home magazine, Issue 9, June 1998. Feel free to leave out the crust if you are a die-hard New Yorker. But as I promised, you won’t taste a better cheesecake than this. I can say that now because, in spite of my humble and ignorant beginnings, I truly have become quite a cheesecake snob.
Look, Mom, No Cracks
The best way to achieve a creamy cheesecake that won’t crack is with the water bath method. What is a water bath? Simply put, it is the process of cooking in a large pan filled with hot water. The water keeps the temperature perfectly regulated so your food does not overcook. Because cheesecakes are egg-based, the steam from the hot water bath will lift the cheesecake up slowly and evenly. Steam baking helps prevent the cheesecake from sinking or cracking. Thus, you have a more evenly baked cheesecake. If you are a visual learner, check out this video from Little Spoon Farm to show the process I use to prepare my water bath.
Truthfully, I used to think the water bath method was another one of those extra steps, which just took too much time, like straining the lemon curd or shaving off the ends of the asparagus. Eventually, I learned to take those extra steps and haven’t looked back. It wasn’t until I used the water bath method that I could finally say, “Look, mom, no cracks.”
You can purchase a silicone cheesecake wrap that slips over the pan to prevent water leaks, but I have discovered a cool little tip that costs a lot less…a larger cake pan. Why didn’t I think of that? Walmart carries Wilton cake pans like this that are pretty inexpensive. Just make sure you size up and that your springform pan fits comfortably inside.
Additionally, pour the hot water (about 1″-1 1/2″) into the roasting pan once the cheesecake is in the oven. This cheesecake is heavy and you don’t want water sloshing all over. I know this may seem like an extra hassle, but eliminating this step can result in curdled textures, lopsided tops, and cracks the size of the Grand Canyon. So trust me on this one. Bake your cheesecake in a water bath.
Berry Coulis is literally divinity. Technically, cheesecake is delicious with whipped cream and fresh berries, topped with lemon curd, drizzled with hot fudge or caramel sauce, or simply enJOYed as is. Hands down, my favorite way, and the most beautiful way is with Berry Coulis and then topped with fresh berries. This is the stuff dreams are made of.
Coulis is simple to make using fresh or frozen berries, sugar, lemon juice, a little red wine (optional), and after straining, red currant or pomegranate jelly. The recipe makes enough to cover two cheesecakes and still has enough to drizzle on the plate for beautification purposes. It freezes well and is also excellent served drizzled over plain yogurt, pancakes like syrup, or even chocolate mousse. Just say’n.
Assembling the Cheesecake with Coulis and Fresh Berries
This is a fantastic job for the littles. Not only will you teach them how to make all things beautiful and special, but they will have ownership in what they prepare which helps them connect to what they are celebrating. They are giving a piece of themselves as a gift. My children love to celebrate their siblings’ birthdays. This cake was for my daughter’s 21st birthday. Cheesecake is her favorite and my son was so excited to tell her that he decorated her cake. It was his gift to her.
- For the Crust:
- 1 sleeve of graham crackers( 1 1/2 cups) ground into crumbs
- 1/2 cup toasted pecans
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 3 T organic sugar
- For the Filling:
- 7—8oz packages of cream cheese, softened to room temperature (Philadelphia brand is best. Don't skimp on this by going for a lower fat version...this cake needs fat.)
- 1 cup organic sugar
- 1 T vanilla extract
- 4 eggs, added one at a time
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- For the Coulis:
- 4 cups fresh or frozen mixed berries
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 T red wine (optional)
- 1- 8oz jar raspberry or current jelly (no seeds)
- Toast pecans in a dry cast iron skillet until golden or bake in a 350° F oven on a prepared cookie sheet for 15 minutes.
- Grind the toasted pecans and graham crackers together in a food processor until fine. Set aside 2 T to dust the sides of the spring pan.
- Add the melted butter and sugar to the food processor and pulse to blend.
- Remove the bottom of a 9" springform pan and trace on parchment paper. Spray the sides and bottom of the springform pan then add the parchment circle to the bottom of the pan. Spray again making sure everything is evenly coated.
- Sprinkle the reserved 2 T of crumb mixture along the sides of the cake pan to make a light dusting. This is strickly for visual appeal. Tilt and tap pan to distribute crumbs evenly. Press the remaining buttery crumb mixture to the bottom of the pan with a fork or your fingers.
- Set the kettle on to heat water for a water bath.
- In a kitchenaid mixing bowl, cream together the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Make sure to constantly scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl to eliminate the lumps. When everything is blended, add in the sour cream. Mix just until blended.
- While your filling is mixing, prepare a large casserole dish or roasting pan for a water bath. * See notes below.
- Fill the prepared pan with filling.
- Set roasting pan into the oven on the middle rack and then pour the hot water into the roasting pan so that it comes up the side of the cake pan about 1"-1 1/2".
- Bake at 300° F for 2- 2 1/4 hours or until top is golden. You will want the center to remain jiggly (like the size of a can of tuna). Cake will continue to bake when removed from oven because of the long bake time.
- Remove the cake from the roasting pan and place on a cooling rack. Run a knife around the edges to loosen. Cool to room temperature and then cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.
- For the Berry Coulis: Add frozen or fresh, rinsed berries to a 4 qt. pan along with sugar, lemon juice, and wine (if using). Bring to a boil on medium-high heat and then reduce and simmer until berries start to disintegrate (about 15 minutes).
- Pour through a fine mesh strainer and add your jelly. Stir to incorporate and refrigerate until ready to use. This step can be done the day before if needed.
- Berry Coulis is a delicious dessert sauce. This recipe makes about a quart of sauce, enough for two cheesecakes plus drizzling over the plates.
- When the cheesecake is cooled, pour the coulis on the top of cake and decorate with fresh berries. Add a stem of mint for color and drizzle coulis on each plate before serving the cheesecake for presentation...and extra yumminess. EnJOY!
*Tips for water bath
There are three methods you can do for a water bath:
1- Slip a silicone sleeve on the bottom of your springform pan... or
2- Place the springform pan comfortably inside a larger cake pan...or
3- If you are truly brave you can also line the bottom of the springform pan and up the sides with heavy duty foil. You will be placing this in a water bath so you will need to make sure the foil is completely covering the springform pan to prevent water from getting inside. This last method doesn't always work. Sometimes it leaks. But it works in a pinch.
Make sure and place the roasting pan with the cheesecake into the oven and then add the hot water to the pan to prevent sloshing around and save your back. This cheesecake is heavy!