1 1/2 C. graham cracker
3 T. unsalted butter, melted
3 lbs. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 C. sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 C. strained lemon juice
1 T. vanilla
1 or 2 lemons, thinly sliced for garnish, optional
Mint sprig, for garnish, optional
To prepare crumb crust, combine cookie crumbs and butter, stirring together with fork. Gently press mixture into bottom of buttered 10 inch springform pan. Bake at 325°F. for 15 minutes on middle rack until slightly dry. Cool slightly.
Meanwhile, to prepare Cheesecake, beat cream cheese and sugar with electric mixer on low speed until just combined. Scrape bowl and beaters and beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping bowl and beaters between each addition to avoid lumps. Beat in eggs only until absorbed. Stir in lemon juice and vanilla.
Wrap double thickness of aluminum foil around bottom of pan. Place pan in roasting pan. Pour in batter. Place pans in oven. Pour warm water to depth of 1 inch into lower pan. Bake at 325°F. about 1 hour or until lightly golden and firm, except for area about 2 inches in diameter in very center.
Remove from oven.
Loosen sides of cheesecake from pan with tip of small, sharp knife to prevent cracking. Leave cheesecake in the water-filled pan until cool enough to handle. Remove pan from water. Peel away foil and cool to room temperature.
Refrigerate cheesecake, loosely covered with foil, at least 8 hours or overnight. Loosen sides of pan from cheesecake with small, sharp knife. Remove side of pan. Garnish cheesecake with lemon slices and mint sprig. Cut cheesecake with sharp, thin knife, dipped in warm water and wiped clean between each cut.
Makes about 16 servings.