(Last updated: November 2021) This French Cheesecake is my favorite Secret Weapon Dessert.
Easy to make.
Easy on the eyes. Practically guaranteed to stun everyone—including your best friend’s chatty new girlfriend—at your dinner party into blissful, dessert-nibbling silence.
This recipe comes from an old family friend. In fact, a bunch of you requested the recipe when I first posted about it.
French cheesecakes are typically lighter and fluffier than regular cheesecakes. (What’s that, Mouse?!? It’s less dense? So that means I can eat…more…of it?)
This cheesecake has a crisp, buttery crust. The filling is smooth, tangy, and creamy.
Get yourself a springform pan
You really need a springform pan to make a proper cheesecake.
A springform pan is made of two pieces: a flat bottom and a tall ring that serves as the sides of the pan.
The clip on the side opens up, widening the ring, so that you can remove your cheesecake easily and in one piece.
(After all, it’s nice to be able to admire it for a moment or two before you devour it.)
This recipe calls for an 8-inch springform pan, like this one from Kaiser Bakeware:
A note on cheesecake toppings
Like any classic cheesecake, you can serve this with any topping you like.
Classic pineapple. A decadent chocolate ganache.
Homemade dulce de leche (get my recipe here!). Slices of fresh mango or strawberry.
This time, I opted for a raspberry orange sauce (more on the sauce on Monday).
5 tips for making cheesecake
- Use full fat ingredients. Fat is flavor, don’t skimp here.
- Have all your ingredients at room temperature. They’ll blend more smoothly and you won’t wind up with any lumps.
- Use a hand mixer or a stand mixer if you can. Again, you’ll wind up with fewer lumps.
- Put your rack on one of the lower settings, so it’s further away from the top heating element. This can help prevent cracks.
- Don’t open and close the oven door a lot when it’s baking. Drafts can cause your cheesecake to crack.
Alrighty! To the kitchen!
For the crust
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter (that’s 1 stick), softened
1 egg yolk
2 Tbls. sugar
For the cheesecake filling (have all ingredients at room temp)
1 lb. cream cheese
1 Tbls. flour
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs, separated (you’ll need both the yolks + the whites)
4 Tbls. sour cream
4 Tbls. heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla
Serves 6-8, depending on how much you can bear to share
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Butter your springform pan or spray it with oil, then set it aside.
Make the dough for the cheesecake crust
Leave the butter on the counter for 10 or 15 minutes to soften up a little. Then put the butter and flour into the bowl of your mixer.
Beat on high for a few minutes to combine the butter and flour. At first, the mixture will be dry and raggy looking, like this:
Beat the mixture until it’s smoother and more uniform, like this:
Toss in the sugar and the egg yolk.
Beat to combine. Your mixture will be soft and yellow-ish, like good, fresh Play-Doh.
Gather the dough together in your hands. Press it together into a smooth, flat puck shape.
With a bencher or sharp knife, cut one third out of the dough.
Gather each hunk of dough into a ball. Set the larger ball (the one with two-thirds of the dough) aside for now.
Bake the bottom crust of the cheesecake
Take the smaller ball (the one with one-third of the dough) and press it into the bottom of your springform pan. (That’s right…no rolling! Just smoosh it down with your fingers.)
Keep pressing and spreading the dough until it completely covers the bottom of the pan.
You want it to look about like this. Nevermind that you may have some visible fingerprints. Just be sure that the coverage is fairly even, so it bakes consistently.
Pop the pan into your preheated 400 degree oven and bake for 8 minutes, until the crust is brown on the edges, like this:
Set it aside to cool while you make the cheesecake filling. Give the bowl of your mixer a quick wash, as you’ll need it clean to make the filling.
DROP THE OVEN TEMPERATURE TO 350 DEGREES. (Sorry to shout, but your cheesecake will be very sad if you bake it at a full 400 degrees…)
Start the cheesecake filling
Separate 4 eggs. Keep the yolks and the whites. You’ll need ’em both.
Put the sugar and cream cheese into the (washed and dried) bowl of your mixer.
Beat them together until smooth.
Scrape down the sides of your bowl.
Toss in the egg yolks.
Beat together until smooth, creamy, and glossy.
Add the sour cream, heavy cream, and vanilla.
Beat until well combined.
Scrape the mixture out into a large, clean mixing bowl. Quickly wash and dry the mixing bowl that you used for the filling. (Last time, I promise.)
Set the mixture aside for a minute while you finish up your crust.
Finish the cheesecake crust
At this point, your pan should be cool enough to touch comfortably. Grab your remaining ball of dough. Break off a chunk.
You’re going to stick the dough to the pan the same way that you did with the bottom crust. Take the chunk of dough and smoosh it against the side of the pan. Press it with your fingers so that it’s flat and spreads out.
Repeat this process with the rest of the dough, until the sides of the pan are completely covered. Leave about a half an inch or so between the crust and the top of the pan, like this:
Go around the dough one more time, concentrating on where it meets the bottom crust. Be sure that the seal here is good, and that there aren’t any holes. (That way, your cheesecake filling will be completely contained when you pour it in.)
Set the pan aside while you finish your filling.
Finish the cheesecake filling
Put the egg whites into the (washed and dried) bowl of your mixer. Beat on high for a few minutes, until the egg whites fluff up, turn opaque, and hold a stiff peak like this:
Take a scoop of the beaten egg whites and plop it into the cream cheese filling.
With a spatula, fold the mixture to gently incorporate the egg whites into the cream cheese.
Add the rest of the egg whites to the bowl.
Fold again to combine. (You’re gently folding, instead of vigorously stirring, so that you don’t completely deflate the egg whites. They’re what will help give your cheesecake its poof.)
When the egg whites are completely incorporated, the mixture will be light, fluffy, and look kind of…well…a little fizzy.
Pour the finished cheesecake filling into your prepared pan.
Pop the cheesecake into your preheated oven (be sure that you dropped the heat to 350 after baking the bottom crust).
Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. The cheesecake is done when it has a nice brown top and feels firm in the center when pressed with a finger. (Even when it feels firm, the cheesecake will be ever-so-slightly jiggly when you take it out of the oven. That’s just fine.)
Set the cheesecake to cool on the counter, away from any drafts.
The bit about keeping it out of drafts is important. As it cools, the surface of your cheesecake will crack a little. If it’s exposed to a draft, those cracks will be bigger.
The surface will also sink down, like this:
As you can see, mine still got a fairly impressive crack down the center. That’s just fine.
Unmold the cheesecake, serve, and enjoy!
When it’s totally cool, remove the outer ring of your springform pan. (Pop the clip open, gently spread the ring open, and slide it up and off.)
Your crust should be golden brown, like this:
Slice and serve!
I whipped up a little orange-raspberry sauce.
I’ll post the recipe for that up on Monday.