This cheesecake has a New-York style with a traditional sour cream topping, but a not-so-traditional brown sugar shortcrust in place of graham crackers. It is rich, moist, dense and undeniably addictive! If you don't have any vanilla beans, you can use 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract in its place for the cheesecake filling. However, I strongly suggest getting your hands on some because they are at their best in dairy-based systems. This is why I believe pure vanilla bean ice cream is nowhere near plain or boring....but I'll save that conversation for another posting.
I use vanilla sugar in this recipe and you can easily make it yourself. It is a fantastic way to use spent vanilla beans. Next time you are making a recipe that calls for vanilla bean seeds, keep the pod! To extract the seeds, first twist and bend the pod to make it pliable. Then, split it lengthwise with a sharp paring knife. Lay each half flat on a working surface with cut side facing up and pinch one end down using your thumb. Run the blunt edge of a knife along the length of the pod to scrape out the seeds and use them for something delicious (like this cheesecake!). Then, let the emptied pods dry out at room temperature overnight and place them in your canister of granulated sugar. After a few days the sugar will be filled with vanilla fragrance. I use about one pod for every 3 cups of sugar.
Meanwhile, make the topping in a small bowl by stirring together sour cream, vanilla sugar, reserved vanilla bean seeds and vanilla extract until smooth and sugar is dissolved. Spread topping over warm cheesecake and return to oven to bake for 7-10 more minutes (just enough to set the topping). Remove from oven and carefully run a knife or small off-set spatula around the inside edge of pan to loosen the cheesecake and prevent the surface from cracking as it cools. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and refrigerate overnight for best results.