My mom's cooking technique, was definitely the easiest, which was to cook at very high heat (500 degrees) for a short period of time (5-8 minutes), then much lower heat for an hour (300 degrees), and then leave in the oven (turned off for another hour). It was the easiest because there was no messing with a water bath, but I have to admit that the finished product did have a cracked surface. This can be covered up with a cherry topping but if you are particular about aesthetics, you might have a problem with it. BTW, I've updated that post to reflect that you should soften the cream cheese to room temperature and also added some photos.
The Deep Dark Chocolate Cheesecake recipe from Epicurious (http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/bestof/toprecipes/bestcakerecipes/recipes/food/views/Deep-Dark-Chocolate-Cheesecake-236209) looks even easier with instructions to bake in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour and then cool 5 minutes before refrigerating. But one of the reviews recommended placing a pan of water on the rack below the cheesecake, cooking for about 50-55 minutes, then turning the oven off and opening the door and leaving the oven off for an hour with the cake still in the oven. This worked well! The cake didn't crack, though it sunk a little.
Lastly, the Pumpkin Cheesecake from Fine Cooking (http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/spiced_pumpkin_cheesecake.aspx) calls for the traditional water bath technique, where you place the cheesecake pan in a roasting pan then add hot water up to about the height of half the cheesecake pan and cook for and an hour and 35 minutes. Well, this produced the most beautiful of the three! You just have to be careful with the hot water, and it's a bit stressful, worrying that somehow the water will seep into the cheesecake pan (make sure you have the bottom set properly in the pan!).
One other thing I noticed is that chocolate cheesecake didn't have you put the crust up around the edges...this made it a lot easier. Sometimes getting the crust to stick to the side of the pan is a pain. So when I started having difficulty with it on the pumpkin version, I decided to forget it and just let it be on the bottom. I have to mention, my mom's method of putting the crust on the bottom, cooking it (as all called for) and then adding the side crust and cooking it along with the filling worked great. It was more of shortbread crust, so I'm not sure this would be a good idea with one that uses cookie crumbs.
Okay, so lessons learned:
- the baking methods do produce different results, but all taste good so use whichever you are most comfortable with.
- the crust doesn't have to go up along the sides...less stress if you just put it on the bottom.
- Cheesecakes are EASY to make...really they are and homemade ones are SOOO delicious so give one of the recipes a try!
Lastly, if you are wondering about my reference in the title and need a chuckle, check out this link...it is from a Louis Armstrong song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqrhdYQ_wMg