It isn't easy to achieve a perfect New York cheesecake-our first round of tests produced cakes with a number of problems-a pasty mouthfeel, a taste of raw flour, a texture too light for New York cheesecake. Recipes we tried yielded cheesecakes that tasted citrusy or vanilla-laden; others were fluffy and mousse-like; still others were leaden, gummy, chewy, or starchy.
The ideal New York cheesecake is timeless in its adherence to simplicity. It should be a tall, bronze-skinned, and dense affair. At the core, it should be cool, thick, smooth, satiny, and creamy. Radiating outward, it goes gradually from velvet to suede, then, finally, about the edges, it becomes cake-like and fine-pored. The flavor should be pure and minimalist, sweet and tangy, and rich to boot.
Start with a classic graham cracker crust. Use 2 1/2 pounds of cream cheese for adequate height, flavor with 1 1/2 cups sugar and 2 teaspoons each of lemon juice and vanilla for the perfect balance of sweetness and tang, and use 6 whole eggs plus 2 yolks for a texture that is dense but not heavy, and firm but not rigid. Bake in the New York method: at 500 degrees for about 10 minutes and then at 200 degrees for 90 minutes.