Let cream cheese sit out until it’s room temperature, nice and soft.
Beat the cream cheese and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time (break them into a separate cup – one teensy bit of shell will ruin everything!) and beat just until mixed. Add remaining ingredients and beat just until mixed. Pour into chilled shell and bake at 325 for 50 minutes to an hour.
Jam may be melted and poured evenly over the top of the cooled cake.
Fruits may be arranged on top of a cooled cake, then covered with a melted jam glaze.
4 ounces chocolate or white chocolate chips, melted with 2 to 3 Tablespoons butter and maybe 1 to 2 Tablespoons whipping cream (if desired) can be poured on top of the cooled cake.
For a yogurt or sour cream topping, cook the cake only 50 minutes, cool the cake 15 minutes, mix together 1 cup yogurt or sour cream with 1/4 cup sugar (regular is OK since this is so liquid) and 1 Tablespoon vanilla or other flavoring (lemon juice, extract, etc.) raise the oven temperature to 475 degrees F. and bake another 10 minutes.
Basic Cheesecake Filling and Basic Cheesecake Crust
Here’s where it gets fun. The more cream cheese you use, the denser the cheesecake will be (but not dry!) The more eggs you use, the fluffier it will be.
There’s a delicate balance here – 1 pound cheese and 3 eggs will give you a fluffy cheesecake, but if you use 2 pounds cheese, 3 eggs is an absolute must if you don’t want it to be flat. More eggs than 3, and you’ll taste the eggs. 1 pound cheese and 2 eggs is a nice balance, too, but going any lower than that you’ll just end up with something flat.
The powdered sugar works best for two reasons – number one, powdered sugar contains corn starch, which acts as a thickener, and number two, you don’t have to worry about the grittiness of undissolved sugar in your cake. The yogurt or sour cream adds moistness and a little bit of tang to the cake. It’s not necessary, but it adds oomph to either a bland cake or a citrus-flavored cake. For liqueur, add no more than ½ cup if you’re using the yogurt or sour cream, and make sure you’re using the three eggs. If you eliminate the yogurt/sour cream, you can increase the liqueur to 3/4 cup, and 2 eggs will work (but three is still better – two works best only if you’re not using the yogurt/sour cream and your liqueur is only 1/2 cup.) A fruit or vegetable puree should be relatively dry – drain off the liquid in a sieve, or put it in a saucepan, mix in some cornstarch, and heat it until it’s thick. You can use an entire cup of puree if you eliminate the yogurt/sour cream. Either mix in the puree with the batter, or reserve a cup or so of batter, mix it with the puree, then swirl it into the cheesecake.
The vanilla is a must, in my opinion. Lots of times, I’ll throw in an extra teaspoon for good measure.
Other extracts can enhance the flavor – banana extract in a strawberry cheesecake, coconut extract or almond extract in an Amaretto cheesecake, etc.
Another addition would be cocoa or chocolate. Cocoa mixes in nicely without making the cheesecake gooey – 4 to 6 Tablespoons will do it. Melted chocolate or white chocolate chips shouldn’t really exceed 6 ounces, even 4 ounces will usually do enough for the flavor. If you’re doing the swirl thing, use only 2 to 3 ounces melted chocolate for the batter that’s being swirled in. Make sure the melted stuff is cooled before you mix it in.