Line the bottom of a 9 1/2-inch spring-form pan with foil. Butter the foil and
the sides of the pan. Wrap the bottom of the pan in 2 layers of heavy-duty foil.
Heat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Add the softened cream cheese to the vanilla seed pulp in the large bowl. Beat
with an electric mixer at low speed until the cream cheese is creamy and the vanilla
is thoroughly distributed. Add the sugar and beat at medium-low speed until everything
is thoroughly creamy, scraping down the sides once or twice. If you like your cheesecake
especially fluffy, you could beat at medium speed for a couple of minutes at this
step, until the mixture just begins to stiffen a little.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well at low speed and scraping down the
sides after each addition.
Beat in the sour cream and vanilla extract, scraping
again and beating well until uniform. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
the pan in a large roasting pan or jelly roll pan and pour very, very hot water
into the pan around it. (Baking the cheesecake in a water bath helps to keep the
edges from drying out and the top from cracking.)
Bake the cheesecake for about one hour. To check it, tap gently on the top at
the center; it should jiggle considerably, but not seem liquid.
When this stage is reached, turn off the oven, leave the door just slightly ajar,
and leave the cheesecake in the oven for another 45 minutes.
Remove cheesecake from oven, remove it from the water bath, remove the outer
layers of foil, and cool on a wire rack until tepid. Refrigerate at least four hours,
preferably overnight. Run a thin knife around the outside edge of the cheesecake,
remove the side of the spring-form pan, and put a layer of plastic wrap and a cookie
sheet on top of the cheesecake. Invert the whole affair, remove the bottom of the
pan, and peel off the foil. Place your serving plate on the bottom of the cheesecake,
invert again, wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate. For optimal flavor and
texture, remove the cheesecake from the refrigerator at least one hour before serving.
Vanilla Sugar: Split the vanilla beans lengthwise, and scrape the oily seed pulp
into a large mixing bowl. Scrape as much out as you can, but try to avoid getting
a lot of the pod lining, as it is fibrous. (A little bit is unavoidable and not
really a problem.) Put the scraped-out pods back into the little bottles that they
came in, fill bottles with sugar, close them tightly, and set them aside. The next
time you make this cheesecake, sift this sugar (which is now vanilla sugar) and
use it as the sugar in the recipe for maximal vanilla flavor.