So this cheesecake is my most popular dessert of all time. It is certainly not healthy, or vegan, or sugar-free, but it brings people together, and that is what I love about food. This is a labor of love, very worthy of a special person or celebration! After making it with and without the water bath, the water bath is WAY worth the extra effort. It makes the cheesecake perfect, rather than like an upside down frisbee was baked on top. Make sure you grab a springform pan! Also worth it. I grabbed mine from Goodwill! You can find a cheap one anywhere.
1 3/4 cups Graham Cracker Crumbs (I used gluten free from my favorite Seattle bakery, Nuflours)
2 tbsp organic sugar
4 tbsp plus 1 tsp organic unsalted butter
2 pounds organic cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/3 cup organic granulated sugar
pinch of salt
2 tsp vanilla
4 organic cage free large eggs
2/3 cup organic full fat sour cream
2/3 cup organic heavy whipping cream
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp cold water
2 tbsp good whisky
2 tbsp melted organic unsalted butter
1/2 cup organic heavy cream
flaked sea salt for garnish
For the crust:
Prepare the springform pan so no water leaks into it while cooking. Place a large 18-inch by 18-inch square of heavy duty aluminum foil on a flat surface. Place the springform pan in the middle of the foil. Gently fold up the sides of the foil around the pan. Make sure you do it gently so that you don't create any holes in the foil, otherwise water will get into the pan and ruin the crust!
Press foil around the edges of the pan. Place a second large square of foil underneath the pan, and repeat. To be extra safe, repeat with a third layer.
Preheat oven to 350 with rack in lower third of oven. Pulse the graham crackers in a food processor or blender until finely ground. Put in large bowl and stir in the sugar and salt. Use your hands to stir in the melted butter.
Put the graham cracker crumbs in the bottom of the springform pan. Gently press down on the crumbs using your fingers utni lthe crumbs are an even layer at the bottom of the pan, with just a slight rise along the inside edges of the pan. Be careful while doing this so that the foil does not tear. Place in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool, and reduce the oven to 325.
For the filling:
Cut the cream cheese into chunks and placei n the bowl of an electric mixer, with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed for 4 minutes until smooth, soft, and creamy. Add the sugar, beat for 4 minutes more. Add the salt and vanilla, beating after each addition. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition. Add the sour cream, beat, add the heavy cream, beat. Remember to scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl and scrape up any thicker bits of cream cheese from the bottom of the bowl and incorporate them.
Place the foil-wrapped springform pan in a large, high-sided roasting pan (you can find a foil roasting pan at the grocery store if you don't have a metal one) and prepare 2 quarts of boiling water. Pour the cream cheese filling into the springform pan, over the graham cracker layer. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon. Place roasting pan with the springform pan in it into the oven, on the lower rack. Carefully pour the hot water into the roasting pan (without touching the oven!) to create a water bath for the cheesecake. Pour until the water reaches halfway pu the side of the springform pan, about 1.25 inches. Cook at 325 for 1.5 hours. Once finished, turn off the heat of the oven, crack the open door open 1 inch, and let the cake cool in the oven for almost an hour. This prevents the cheesecake surface from cracking.
Cover the top of the cheesecake with foil so that it doesn't actually touch the cheesecake. Chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours, or overnight.
For the caramel sauce:
Once the cheesecake has cooled for 2 hours or so, you can make the caramel. Stir together the remaining 1 cup of the sugar and water in a small saucepan until the sugar is completely moistened. Brush the insides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush to remove any sugar granules then place the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
Without stirring but swirling the pan occasionally, let the sugar boil until it turns turns amber in color, about 5 minutes. Give the pan a few good swirls to make sure it’s evenly cooking, remove from heat, and carefully add the whiskey. (The caramel will seize but just keep swirling the pan until the alcohol smell is cooked off.) Immediately add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and cream, and swirl until the caramel is smooth and uniform in color. Set aside to cool to room temperature, at least 30 minutes, and then place in the fridge for 20 minutes. When the caramel is just a bit thicker, pour over the cheesecake and return to the fridge for 2 hours.
Before serving, sprinkle the flaked sea salt on top. Enjoy!!