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For the crust:
3 cups graham cracker crumbs (20 crackers)
2 tablespoon sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
For the filling:
2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 whole extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
Zest from 2 lemons
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the topping:
1 cup of strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup vodka
Set out cream cheese and eggs a good hour before you begin making to allow these ingredients to come to room temperature which is critical to a great cheesecake.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
HINT: Do this step about 1/2 hour prior to making the filling to allow adequate time for the crust to cool.
To make the crust, put graham crackers in a food processor to get to a fine crumb state. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon and mix together these dry ingredients so they are well incorporated. Then melt the butter and add to the mixture and combine until moistened. Pour into a 9-inch spring-form pan (I like to grease the sides and line with parchment paper for easy removal from the pan). With your hands, press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and about 1-inch up the sides. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature (I often place in the fridge to speed this process).
Raise the oven temperature to 425 degrees F.
To make the filling, cream the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy (you’ll do a lot of mixing and beating and this helps make the batter light, airy and ultimately a light and fluffy cheesecake). Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and add the eggs and egg yolks, 2 at a time, mixing well. Scrape down the bowl and beater a few times to make sure the mixture is well combined. With the mixer on low, add the sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly and pour into the cooled crust (don’t bother scraping the bowl as this may dislodge chunks of batter that weren’t mixed as well at the bottom, just let as much of the batter flow out of the bowl as possible and toss to the sink).
HINT: For best results you’ll want to bake your cheesecake in a water bath. This will help keep a nice amount of moisture in the oven and prevent burning. To do this wrap aluminum foil up the bottom of the spring form pan in a way to prevent water from leaking into the pan. Then set this in a larger baking or roasting pan with higher sides and fill with hot water just enough to come about a 1/2 inch to an inch up the side of the spring form pan but not so high that it tops the aluminum foil liner.
Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees F. Turn the oven temperature down to 225 degrees F and bake for another 1 hour and 15 minutes. Next, turn the oven off and open the oven door wide. Leave the cake in the oven for an additional 30 minutes, this will allow the cake to cool slowly and start to set in the center. Remove the cake from the oven after the 30 minutes and allow to sit at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours so that the cake can cool completely. I place a kitchen towel over the cake to protect the cake. After the cake has cooled, cover and place in the refrigerator overnight or at least for 6-8 hours to adequately chill prior to serving.
Remove the cake from the spring-form pan and peel back the parchment paper. Leave the cake on the bottom of the spring-form pan for serving.
For the topping (and the above is enough for 3 slices of cake – we tend to make the cake and have it for desert for several evenings) combine the sugar, vodka and sliced strawberries in a saucepan and heat on medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Then scoop out the strawberries and place on the cake and plate and drizzle the syrup all over the cake as well.