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The cheesecake may be eaten once it is cool, but will benefit greatly from an overnight stay in the fridge. It will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for several days (it may "sweat" during this time; you can blot the top of the cheesecake with a paper towel, or you can place a clean tea towel over top of the cheesecake -- not touching the surface -- before storing, which absorbs most of the excess moisture without noticeably affecting the texture or taste). Allow it to sit at room temperature for at least two or three hours before serving. To ensure maximum smoothness, all ingredients must be at room temperature.

4 to 6 4-section graham crackers or a dozen Saltines
2 1/4 pounds (4 1/2 8-ounce bricks) cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice (approximately the juice of 1 lemon)
4 large eggs, room temperature

Lightly grease a 9- or 10-inch springform pan. Crush the crackers into fine crumbs and swirl around inside of pan. Your choice: discard the excess crumbs, or leave them on the bottom of the pan.

Place oven rack at lowest position and preheat oven to 200 degrees. Put the cream cheese in a large mixing bowl. On medium low speed, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Beat in the sugar, a little at a time, until smooth.

Still on medium-low speed, beat the lemon juice into the batter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat again briefly.

Slowly pour batter into prepared pan and bake on bottom oven rack at 200 degrees for about 3 1/2 hours. Remove cheesecake from oven and allow to cool COMPLETELY on a wire rack in a room temperature, draft-free area.

Makes 1 9-inch or 10-inch cheesecake, to serve 16 to 20.

Thursday, April 20, 2000

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