Though vanilla extract is easier, adding tiny vanilla beans to cheesecake provides a visual reminder of the fresh ingredients that went into making it. Sometimes, cooks make a no-bake vanilla bean cheesecake with a mixture of beans and extract, along with key ingredients like cream, cream cheese, sugar and gelatin. When baking is involved though, the gelatin will not be needed, and other components might creep into the recipe, particularly eggs, sour cream and corn starch.
The start of both baked and unbaked vanilla bean cheesecake is the crust. Some opt for a manufactured pie crust made of graham or chocolate cookies. A homemade version is the gourmet preference. This involves crushing cookies into a powder with melted butter and perhaps some cinnamon, sugar and even a dash of salt. The paste mixture is then mashed into the bottom of a pie tin, regardless of whether the cake will be baked or just refrigerated.
For the no-baked route, vanilla bean cheesecake takes shape by first blending cream cheese, sugar and the beans scraped from the inside of a vanilla bean. After this is well-blended, gelatin is dissolved in warming milk over low heat. When hot, the milk is blended into the cream cheese, along with some vanilla extract to heighten that aspect of the dessert. Finally, some whipped cream is folded into the sweet cream cheese before its poured levelly onto the crust. Aside from any sauces that might be used to accent the dessert, a no-bake cheesecake will be finished after cooling in the refrigerator for at least four hours.
Baked vanilla bean cheesecake usually requires eggs to be incorporated early in the construction of the sweet cream cheese mixture and sometimes sour cream and corn starch too. If no extract is used, double the amount of vanilla beans should be used. Cooks typically will bake this type of cheesecake at 300°F (about 149°C) for at least an hour until the crust is slightly browned and higher along the edges. Then, it is left for an hour to slowly cool — either inside the turned-off oven or on a counter.
Before or after the vanilla bean cheesecake cools, it is common to make some type of sauce or topping to accentuate this dessert. Some recipes stay simple by heaping on fruit topping or chocolate sauce. Another option is something more complicated to add to the vanilla bean flavor's inherent simplicity. Other recipes top this treat with a white chocolate mousse or drizzlings of a caramel-rum sauce.