While most cheesecakes are set into an insulating water bath and baked gently at a moderate temperature to ensure a homogeneous texture throughout, the classic New York recipe calls for it to go straight into a blazing-hot oven sans water bath.
This causes the cake’s rim to puff up and the top to brown.
During this brief high-heat phase, the proteins in the eggs and dairy just begin to form bonds that subtly change the texture of the filling.
Then, the oven temperature is turned down very low, where it remains until the filling is set. The temperature drop halts the protein bonding process, preventing the filling from curdling while resulting in subtly different textures throughout.
But all this proves problematic in home ovens, with the cheesecake sometimes turning out grainy and cracked with burnt edges, or oozy and undercooked beneath a properly browned top.