Credit: Will Hayes

At first glance, making a cheesecake at home seems like a daunting proposition.

"Leave it to the pros," you might be saying to yourself.

But it's not as impossible as it seems, not if you have a springform pan laying around.  A springform pan is a baking dish where the sides can "pop off" after baking.  Once you get your hands on one of those, it's all downhill sledding from there.  The only ingredients you need are:

--graham crackers
--cream cheese
--wildcard (here we used chocolate chips, but chopped up candy bars or drizzled caramel would work well too)

Let's get started.

Step 1: Prepare the crust

Credit: Will Hayes

First, pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees.  

Then take your graham crackers and smash them up in a bag until they are finely ground.  You'll generally need about 1 cup of graham crackers to line the bottom of your pan, but this obviously depends on the size pan you have, or how thick you want your crust to be.

What holds the cracker crust together is melted butter, and in this case you would need 1/3 cup melted in the microwave (use a 1:3 ratio of butter to cracker).  Also add in a little sugar, just a couple of small spoonfulls.  Mix in a bowl and line the bottom of the pan.

Step 2: Prepare the cake batter

Credit: Will Hayes

In a separate bowl, combine about 16 oz of cream cheese, half a cup of sugar, a spoonful of vanilla and two eggs.  It's best to use an electric mixer but since we don't have one of those, we just used a whisk, and the cake turned out just fine.

Whip until smooth (or your arms fall off), and then ladle out the batter on top of your crust.  If your mouth isn't watering by now you might want to get your salivary glands checked out.  

Step 3: Add in wildcard ingredient

Credit: Will Hayes

Now's a perfect time to drop in some semi-sweet chocolate chips, or a chopped up candy bar. This is what you might call, "taking it up a notch."

Step 4: Bake 1-Hour at 325 Degrees

Credit: Will Hayes

(I can't believe I've made it this far without making any cheesy jokes...)

Credit: Will Hayes

After an hour, check the cake for doneness.  We had a slight browning near the edge of our crust in the picture above.  In a word, "perfect."

Step 5: Refrigerate 4 Hours

Credit: Will Hayes

But you can't dig in just yet.  The next 4 hours will be difficult, but you need to let the cheesecake solidify in the refrigerator before popping the sides off.

It will be tempting to cheat, but the good things in life are worth waiting for.

Credit: Will Hayes

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