I sometimes get an urge to bake. Well, not sometimes, most of the time. But, sometimes I have an urge to bake, but just don’t know what I should go for. Cookies, cake, bread, pie, what? On this particular day I was faced with this dilemma. To add to it I had a vanilla bean that I needed to use before it dried up. So I knew it had to be vanilla flavored. Vanilla cookies? Sure, that would work, but I wasn’t in the mood for it. My ice cream maker wasn’t frozen, so ice cream wasn’t an option. And then I saw my supply of cream cheese in the fridge, perfect! Vanilla Bean Cheesecake. It is super easy, and the results are just fantastic!

Serves 12 (makes 1 9 inch cheesecake)
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 10 crackers)
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 1/2 pounds low fat cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 whole extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup low fat sour cream
1 vanilla bean, seeds removed
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the crust, combine the graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter until moistened. Pour into a 9-inch springform 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.

Raise the oven temperature to 450 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 until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and add the eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well. With the mixer on low, add the sour cream, vanilla beans, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly and pour into the cooled crust.

Bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees. Turn the oven temperature down to 300 degrees F and bake for another 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and open the door wide. The cake will not be completely set in the center. Allow the cake to sit in the oven with the door open for 30 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and allow it to sit at room temperature for another 2 to 3 hours, until completely cooled. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.
*Refrigerating overnight is important because it allows all the flavors to come together and it gives it that thick and creamy cheesecake consistency.

Remove the cake from the springform pan by carefully running a knife around the outside of the cake. Leave the cake on the bottom of the springform pan for serving.
Top with fresh strawberries; slice and serve with some fresh whip cream.

This is the MASSIVE strawberry that was in the box of strawberries I bought. The thing was huge!