This is my basic (hah!) recipe. It's very similar to the Cheesecake Factory's in texture and crust. It's basic in the sense that I use it as a starting point for a variety of riffs.
Hope you like it,
3/4 cup pecan or walnut pieces
3 tbs almond meal, or 1/4 cup finely chopped or sliced, or 1/2 cup whole almonds, or additional 1/2 cup of pecans or walnuts
18 (about) vanilla wafers
2-1/2 tablespoons melted butter
24 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1-1/3 cups sugar
6 extra large eggs
1 pint (16 ounces) sour cream
4 tbs flour
2 - 3 tsp best vanilla extract
1 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 - 1 tsp lemon zest (finely zested and chopped)
1 quart hot water
Set a rack in first height above middle of oven. Preheat oven to 325F.
Process the pecans or walnuts in a blender or processor until finely chopped. Set aside 1/2 cup. Process the almonds if using sliced or whole, set aside 1/4 cup. Nut meal should be 3/4 cup, total. Mix the nuts if using different types. Process the vanilla wafers to crumbs. Measure 1 cup less 2 tbs of cookie crumbs. Mix crumbs with nuts.
Foil the outside of a 9" springform pan so the bottom is completely covered and the foil extends at least halfway up the sides.
Mix belted butter with nuts, and press mixture into bottom of the pan. Line the sides of the pan as evenly as possible about 2" up. Set the pan aside.
Use a stand mixer if you have one. Otherwise, use an electric hand beater. Keep the beater set at its lowest speed throughout. There are three keys to good texture. The first is not to over-beat, because it introduces excess air.
Beat the cream cheese until lightened. Add the sugar, about 1/3 cup at a time. Beating until each addition is barely incorporated. Beat 1 minute after last addition.
Add one egg at a time and beat after each egg. Beat until filling is absolutely smooth or until eggs are fully blended – same thing, really. Add flour, beat a few seconds, until evenly distributed incorporated.
Add the sour cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and zest. Beat until evenly blended. No more than 2 minutes.
Assembly and baking:
Pour the filling into the prepared springform pan. Set the pan in a roasting pan (or similar). Then working quickly but safely: Open oven door, slide out rack, put pan on rack; bring hot water to pan, and fill pan with 3/4" to 1" water; slide rack back into the oven, and close the door. Note: If you want to shlepp a pan full of cheesecake batter set in a pan full of hot water across the kitchen and start fooling with the oven door and rack -- fine. Be that way.
The bain maire is the second key. The low baking temperature is the third.
Bake until golden brown and domed – usually between 75 and 90 minutes. Ideally, the top will not crack. Open the oven door, slide out the rack, and test for doneness by touching top gently. Cake is done when center barely jiggles. Turn off heat, and allow cheesecake and bain marie to cool in the oven’s vestibule 20 minutes. Remove the cheesecake from the bain marie, set pan on a wire rack, and allow to come to room temperature. Another 2 hours. Cover with saran wrap, and refrigerate overnight – at least.
Note: The cake's flavor and texture peaks after 24 hours ripening.