Parmigiano-Reggiano has been referred to as the “king of cheeses”, with its complex flavor of nuts, fruit and umami. This savory cheese seems a strange addition to a dessert, and the correct ratio took me a long time to determine. But here it is: a cheesecake flavored with orange zest, vanilla and Parmigiano-Reggiano. It is one of the best cheesecakes I’ve tasted.
- 9.6 ounces (272 grams) graham crackers
- 4 Tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon
- Four 8-ounce packages full-fat (American) cream cheese, at room temperature
- .5 ounce (14 grams) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (use a Microplane)
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 orange
To make the crust, heat your oven to 350 oven degrees Fahrenheit. Grind the graham crackers to a powder in a food processor. Stir in the Ceylon cinnamon until evenly distributed. Combine with the melted butter. Use a fork to work the butter into the ground wafers. Stir until the butter is evenly distributed. Put these crumbs into an assembled 9” round springform pan. Using your fingers or the back of a spoon, press the crumbs into the bottom and sides of the pan, making sure you seal the seam of the pan with crumbs so your batter won’t leak. Bake the pan in your oven for 10 minutes.
Remove the pan and cool it on a wire rack. Turn your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Combine all remaining ingredients except the orange in a mixing bowl. Place your Microplane grater over the mixing bowl and remove the orange’s zest into the bowl. Stir, using the slowest setting, until all ingredients come together, but do not overmix.
In a large saucepan, begin boiling water for your cheesecake’s water bath. When your springform pan with the graham cracker crust is cool enough to handle, carefully wrap the bottom and sides multiple times with foil. This is to prepare your pan for the water bath, so make sure the pan is sealed well. Choose a baking pan large enough to serve as the bottom of the water bath. The pan must allow a few inches of water around the sides of the springform pan, and must be deep enough to allow the springform pan to be submerged about halfway up its side. Place your springform pan into the middle of this pan.
When your water is boiling, place the pan assembly into the middle of your oven. Carefully fill the bottom of your water bath with the boiling water. Bake your cheesecake for 2 hours and 15 minutes, until the cake is set. Keep some water boiling in case you need to replenish the water bath during baking.
When baked, using heat-proof gloves, remove the cake from the water and transfer to a wire cooling rack. Carefully remove the tin foil. Cool the cake for at least an hour before storing it in the refrigerator. Wait for it to cool completely in the refrigerator, but when ready to serve, allow cake slices to reach room temperature before serving.