Cheesecake is one of those “fancy” desserts that is surprisingly easy to make–and even more fun if you make your own cream cheese! I used neufchatel cheese in this recipe. Neufchatel is made from whole milk enriched with cream, so it’s a lower-fat version of traditional cream cheese.
Homemade neufchatel–each container is equivalent to one 8-ounce package of storebought neufchatel.
For more detailed posts on the hows, whys, and wherefores of making cheese, check out my Cheesemaking page.
To make your own neufchatel, combine a gallon of whole milk and a pint of heavy cream in a large pot. Heat to 80-degrees F and add one packet direct-set mesophilic starter (or 4 ounces prepared starter). Mix well then add three drops of rennet diluted in 1/4 cup cool water. Stir gently then let sit at room temperature (approximately 72-degrees) for 12-18 hours, until a thick curd forms. Pour into a colander lined with butter muslin then hang to drain for up to 12 hours, until it stops dripping. Put the bag back into the colander and place a small plate on top of the cheese. Top the plate with something about the weight of two bricks. Cover and refrigerate for 13 hours. Remove the weight and divide the cheese into containers. You’re done! Well, actually, the instructions said to knead the cheese briefly after removing the weight and before placing in the containers. I didn’t do that part and nothing blew up. Just sayin’. (Recipe and supplies: New England Cheesemaking Supply Company.)
Making neufchatel is really satisfying because the yield on this recipe is high, about 2 pounds. The yield is so high that I was unprepared for the quantity when I dumped the curd from the pot into the butter muslin. I ended up getting a second piece of butter muslin and arranging it so it would hold all the cheese, though in the process of all this last-minute finagling I managed to spill neufchatel all over myself. The cats loved me.
On the other hand, you could just go to the store and buy some cream cheese or neufchatel and carry on. Let’s make cheesecake!
How to make Classic Cheesecake:
2 cups crushed graham crackers
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup butter, melted
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1/4 cup milk
I like to crush graham crackers, nuts, and all sorts of things with my pretty little flower hammer. It makes me feel girly and powerful at the same time. I like to feel girly and powerful.
Combine crushed graham crackers, walnuts, and cinnamon.
Add melted butter.
Place a 9-inch springform pan on a shallow baking pan. Springform pans are so cool. A pan with a latch! It’s like a pan with a secret.
(The baking pan is for support and just in case something were to leak out of the springform pan.)
Dump the crumb mixture into the springform pan.
Press the crumb mixture over the bottom and up the sides about two inches. Don’t worry about perfection here. Don’t be afraid to make a rustic cheesecake. After all, you want everyone to know you made this cheesecake. Anybody can spend $20 buying a perfect cheesecake at a bakery. You made your own.
You know what’s even worse? Those awful boxed cheesecake mixes. Whatever you do, don’t do that!
In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, flour, and vanilla.
Beat well. Add eggs and egg yolk. Beat again, just enough to mix. Stir in the milk.
Pour into the prepared pan. (How easy is this?)
Bake at 375-degrees for 35-40 minutes for a 9-inch pan. (If using an 8-inch pan, 45-50 minutes.) The center should appear nearly set–but not quite–if you shake it. Cool 15 minutes before slightly loosening the sides. (Just unlock the latch on the side of the springform pan, but don’t take it off yet.)
Give it another 30 minutes before releasing the sides completely.
Slide it onto a cake keeper (bottom of the springform pan still in place), cover, and tuck in the fridge. Chill for at least four hours before slicing.
For toppings, melt semisweet chocolate, or make a fruit sauce out of any jam by diluting the jam with a little bit of water, just enough to bring it to drizzling consistency. (Homemade jam makes the easiest fruit sauces!) I made this one with an easy caramel sauce topped with a sprinkling of chopped walnuts.
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup light cream or milk
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
In a saucepan, combine brown sugar, cornstarch, and water. Stir in cream and corn syrup. Cook and stir over medium-high heat till bubbly. Cook 2 more minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in butter and vanilla. (This is also a great ice cream topping.)
For other cheesecake variations, you could use cinnamon or chocolate graham crackers, or even crushed gingersnaps, for the crust. You could also use a cream liqueur instead of milk in the cheesecake batter. To make a swirled cheesecake, melt 2 ounces of semisweet chocolate or use a couple tablespoons of any fruit jam–add the flavor to half of the cheesecake batter. Pour each half of the batter into the pan and swirl gently through the entire batter with a spoon or spatula.
Tip about slicing cheesecake: Dip a sharp knife in hot water then dry it on a clean towel before making each cut to prevent bits of cheesecake from transferring to the next slice.
This is so delicious.
I’m sorry I ate your piece.
(NO, I’M NOT.)
See this recipe at Farm Bell Recipes and save it to your recipe box.
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Oooo…my all time favorite dessert. Your pictures make me want to reach through the screen for a piece!
On January 29, 2010 at 1:26 am
Lori Skoog says:
That’s what I call cheesecake! I’ll be back…
On January 29, 2010 at 1:31 am
OMGGGoodness! Why aren’t computer screens scratch & sniff? lol
On January 29, 2010 at 1:52 am
Box Call says:
My favorite dessert. Who got to lick the bowl?
On January 29, 2010 at 2:00 am
I love Pumpkin Cheesecake! Ehhh who am I kidding I love all cheesecake. I couldn’t stand how my slices turned out when I would cut them so I started using fishing line. Yep, fishing line just slide it down through the cake and then pull from one side and you have beautiful slices.
On January 29, 2010 at 3:06 am
I just love this cake….
Makes my mouth water sitting in office …
this is deffinately on the make list this weekend ……..
On January 29, 2010 at 4:34 am
OH MY!!!My mouth is watering!!!
On January 29, 2010 at 5:50 am
mmm. suzanne you need to make your cheesecake cookies with your homemade cream cheese…. and then send me some lol 🙂
On January 29, 2010 at 5:51 am
I only like key lime cheese cake – otherwise I think it is too sweet – but I have to say that is a gorgeous cake. What a great addition to a dinner/holiday party.
On January 29, 2010 at 5:54 am
O M G! That looks soooo good and gooey at 6 a.m.!!! And I like the addition of walnuts to the crust, great idea!
On January 29, 2010 at 6:03 am
Beautiful! You’re so lucky to have active kids around, so you can make something so delicious and not end up eating the entire thing yourself. I’m pretty sure I could eat that entire cake myself!
On January 29, 2010 at 6:25 am
I have coffee,now all I need is a piece of that cheesecake to go with it!The carmel sauce sounds divine.
On January 29, 2010 at 6:42 am
That picture makes me want to stick my finger through the screen. That is one of those pictures that when you see it, you KNOW that you HAVE to make that recipe! Looks awesome, can’t wait to try the recipe!
On January 29, 2010 at 6:49 am
Connie Trippett says:
Oh that looks great. Anything with cream cheese in it is for me!!!
On January 29, 2010 at 7:12 am
I’m not even a fan of cheesecake but yours looks delicious and I’m drooling over here!!
On January 29, 2010 at 7:37 am
Your pictures are great; I’m licking my computer screen.
On January 29, 2010 at 8:04 am
sandra flemming says:
It’s a good thing you are all so active,because with all that amazing food around,All the time,it could be real trouble.I’d hate to think what I would look like if I lived in your house.I guess when you live on afarm you don’t have to worry about that.Everything you make just looks so good!!
On January 29, 2010 at 8:10 am
Oh. My. :snoopy:
On January 29, 2010 at 8:15 am
Phyllis Ryan says:
Since there are only two of us I no longer make cheesecake except for special occasions. However, I am really interested in making my own cream cheese and will be ordering the supplies.
“Blessings” is right. Scratch and snif, and maybe even be able to sample that carmel dripping down the side. Sigh…..
On January 29, 2010 at 8:54 am
I used to own a cheesecake pan, but for some reason was afraid to use it. I got rid of it and made my cheesecake in a glass pie plate. It seemed so much easier that way, but I have to say I never felt very good about it. It looks so much nicer in a spring-form. I may have to try that yet, but I would have to go out and buy another pan, oh dear.
On January 29, 2010 at 8:54 am
Oh my, oh my, oh my! Cheesecake is one of my favorite desserts, and topping it with caramel…oh my!
I need to make a dessert to take to a dinner gathering with friends tomorrow night and cheesecake has been on my mind.
Yours looks positively decadent. Yum! :hungry:
On January 29, 2010 at 9:04 am
I wish you were my mom, and there was cheesecake on the table when I came home from school. Morgan, you are sooooo lucky
On January 29, 2010 at 9:39 am
:snoopy: ok now I know you are a lie-you really do weigh 300lbs :hissyfit: !!even with all the farm chores-and i’ve done them-but still………………. 8) 😆 :help: :help: rain! love you anyway!! :heart:
On January 29, 2010 at 9:41 am
The pictures were great! I loved seeing your homemade tapers burning in the background. Just beautiful and yummy!
On January 29, 2010 at 9:44 am
Susan at Charm of the Carolines says:
We are stuck at home today awaiting a wintery mix of snow and ice. I would like to try this recipe, but since I’m not prepared to make my own cheese, I’m thinking more about your Grandmother bread. I even love the name, Grandmother Bread.
On January 29, 2010 at 10:00 am
Debbie in PA says:
I totally cracked up at your comment about the cats loving you..I’ll just bet they did!
My mother used to make a chocolate cheese cake with a chocolate crust, and right now that’s about all i can think of!
On January 29, 2010 at 10:31 am
Oh YUM!!!!!! :hungry2:
On January 29, 2010 at 10:53 am
Another master piece… and with carmel sauce!!! Sure looks yummy!
On January 29, 2010 at 10:56 am
Euni Moore says:
Now you did it! Have to cancel lunch date with friends to make cream cheese and wait in anticipation of the finished product so I can make that glorious cake. Your recipes with the pictures are the best.
On January 29, 2010 at 11:15 am
What a lovely post! I felt like I had been invited for dessert, candles and beautiful food….yummmm
On January 29, 2010 at 11:30 am
So is anyone else catching on to the fact that Suzanne is trying to make us all fat so that she looks better or is it just me? 😉
On January 29, 2010 at 11:45 am
Holy Cow That Looks Good! Your hand dipped candles made good mood lighting too!
On January 29, 2010 at 11:51 am
Ruth - north CA says:
My husband’s favorite dessert EVER is lemon cheesecake with lemon sauce … the crust is crushed vanilla wafers. I make it with the neufchatel and he has never noticed the drop in fat calories from that very first cheesecake that had his eyes rolling up into his head … yeah, the way to a man’s heart is right through the stomach!
I am, however, snagging that most excellent caramel sauce. So much more tasty and less pricey than the bottled version. Thank you! I might even consider the logistics of hanging cheese in my small kitchen …..
On January 29, 2010 at 12:20 pm
Great tutorial. Your photos almost make a lazy bones like me think I can make a cheese cake.
On January 29, 2010 at 12:41 pm
Now I’m hungry…
On January 29, 2010 at 12:51 pm
Beautiful! Another(!) beauty… sigh… Thank you, Suzanne.
On January 29, 2010 at 12:59 pm
Beth C. says:
After getting married, I made my first cheesecake. Neither my mother or mother-in-law had ever made one. Good in that I didn’t have anyone’s recipe to live upto. Bad in that there was a slight learning curve to the mixing and realizing how long it takes to make one.
My husband loves my turtle and my chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecakes. My HCRW chapter mates like the miniature orange cheesecake bites. I’m still working at perfecting a Bailey’s cheesecake. Most of the recipes use chocolate…but hubby doesn’t like the chocolate so I’m having to experiment to get the correct combination.
Aside from the length of time in making one (cook time, settling time, and refrigeration time usually adds up to a day. I always make mine the day before I need it so it can get cold overnight), cheesecakes are kinda easy. Just mix and pour…trying not to overbeat the eggs which leads to cracks. Yes, I get cracks…but usually I can cover them with toppings. 😉
On January 29, 2010 at 2:06 pm
you can hear her talking with her mouth full :eating:
On January 29, 2010 at 3:24 pm
Thank you, Suzanne, thank you.
On January 29, 2010 at 4:41 pm
Sharon Gosney says:
mmmmhhhhh is all I have to say!
On January 29, 2010 at 4:57 pm
Love the picture with your hand dipped candles in the background. Gorgeous.
On January 29, 2010 at 5:05 pm
i just love to see your baking posts.. better than a cooking show..so yummy !!!!
On January 29, 2010 at 5:15 pm
Just as long as you didn’t eat CLOVER’S piece. She might be eating for two soon, you know.
On January 29, 2010 at 5:21 pm
Sheryll - Runningtrails says:
I absolutely LOVE cheesecake!!! I am making this tomorrow. I have to. I have no choice.
On January 29, 2010 at 5:37 pm
The Retired One says:
I HAVE to try this recipe…cheesecake is my absolute FAVORITE dessert!!!!
On January 29, 2010 at 7:14 pm
OMG…that looks soooo good!
I want a piece sooooooooooo bad!
On January 29, 2010 at 8:21 pm
Scrumptious!! Now, you are just torturing us with those last three photos!!! : ))
On January 29, 2010 at 9:11 pm
Please, Please don’t eat my piece…..I am on my way to your house as we speak……………
On January 29, 2010 at 9:15 pm
Well, I don’t have the right pan and I don’t have homemade cream cheese – but I’ve just got to try to make that cheesecake! Suzanne, how is it you make me feel I can do this? I’ve never made a cheesecake in my life…
P.S.> We received our Clover calendar! Oh my goodness – is it ever cute! We love it!
On January 29, 2010 at 9:37 pm
Now I know what to bake in my heart shaped springform pan for Valentine’s Day… :heart:
On January 29, 2010 at 11:34 pm
Pony Girl says:
That looks amazing! Thanks for sharing the recipe, so detailed, and with great photos! 🙂 Have a great weekend…wonder if you’ll get snow?
On January 30, 2010 at 1:35 am
All I can say is that if I don’t want to gain 50 pounds this winter, I’d better stop making your recipes! 🙂 Made the cheesecake today and it was DELISH! Your grandmother bread recipe is delicious as well and so easy. Thanks!
On January 31, 2010 at 8:52 pm
I don’t have a spring-form pan, so I used my glass pie pan. I was worried, because I thought the spring-from pan was a lot bigger than my pie pan, but apparently not. The recipe filled it nicely without being close to overflowing.
It’s still in the oven, but if the bit I licked off the spoon is any indication, it’s going to be delicious!
On March 21, 2010 at 12:27 pm
david cassidy says:
I absolutely LOVE cheesecake!!! I am making this tomorrow. I have to. I have no choice.
On November 6, 2010 at 2:24 pm
can you make a “no cook” neufchatel,just like the no cook cream cheese?
On April 18, 2011 at 4:33 pm
Suzanne McMinn says:
tracie, I don’t have a recipe for a no cook neufchatel, so I don’t know about that.
On April 18, 2011 at 6:28 pm