vanilla bean cheesecake
July 4, 2010 § 22 Comments
I decided to make vanilla bean ice cream the other day, and asked my roommate to pick up a vanilla bean at the store while he was out. The ice cream was incredible – the flavour of real vanilla makes a huge difference – and I vowed to only use vanilla beans from then on. But then he mentioned that the bean cost ten dollars. For one bean. Seriously! I should think before I vow.
The problem is, now that I’ve gone bean, I can’t go back. If vanilla is the primary flavour in your recipe, using beans makes a world of difference to the taste, plus all the little seeds are so pretty! Luckily, I remembered that you can buy anything on the internet, and after a little hunting discovered that prices drop to a dollar a bean if you order online. Not cheap, but affordable. A few days later, an package arrived at my doorstep, and the smell was so strong that when I picked it up I instantly knew my vanilla had arrived. I wonder what the Fedex guy thought – this smell must have filled his entire truck.
Vanilla beans are really versatile, and given that most recipes only call for the seeds of a single bean (save the pod for vanilla sugar!), it’s a worthy investment for me. This cheesecake, though, calls for THREE vanilla beans. So unless you are a gazillionaire who enjoys throwing their weight around at the supermarket (and if you are, you may want to find a better hobby), I recommend that you only make this if you have purchased the aforementioned Supercheap Internet Vanilla Beans. If you do, your reward will be an incredibly creamy, dreamy cheesecake, that isn’t just plain but also isn’t overwhelmed by over-the-top flavours – just scented with the incredible aroma of vanilla, enhancing the cream cheese tanginess. Pile on a vanilla bean sour cream topping, and true decadence has arrived. Thank you internet!
Vanilla Bean Cheesecake – adapted from the Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking
Note: To get the best texture, it’s important that your cream cheese and eggs are at room temperature, and to beat as little as possible to prevent whipping air into the mixture.
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 8 crackers)
6 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup pecans or walnuts
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
2 vanilla beans
Juice of one lemon, strained (use only half a lemon if you prefer less tartness)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a food processor, combine the crumbs, butter, sugar, nutmeg, and nuts. Pulse until mixed thoroughly. Press the mixture into the prepared pan and 1.5 inches up the sides (it helps to use a flat bottomed, straight-sided cup to press in the crumbs). Bake the crust until it darkens a bit, 10-12 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool.
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on low speed until creamy. Add sugar and beat until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating gently after each addition. Split vanilla beans lengthwise and scrape seeds into the cream cheese mixture. Add vanilla extract and lemon juice, and mix until smooth and creamy.
Put the pan with the crust on the baking sheet. Pour the batter into the crust – you may have a bit too much filling, depending on the size of your pan, so don’t necessarily put it all in (you can bake the extra in a ramekin, or as I did, just eat it with a spoon). Cover the cake pan with a lid. Bake the cheesecake until the centre jiggles slightly when centre is shaken, 50-70 minutes. If it looks soupy, keep baking a few more minutes.
For topping: in a small bowl, combine sour cream and sugar. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add to the bowl, stirring well.
When cheesecake is baked, remove from oven and pour sour cream topping over. Gently spread the topping over the cake. Return the pan to the oven for 5 more minutes.
Transfer the cake to a wire rack and let cool for 1-2 hours. Cover and refrigerate overnight.