1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
6 tbsp. melted unsalted butter
3 tbsp. ultrafine sugar (or just granulated sugar)
Pinch of salt (use regular iodized/table salt, not kosher salt which is too granular)
2 tsp. (1 packet) unflavored gelatin
3 tbsp. ice cold water
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
8 oz. cream cheese
2 cups (16 oz.) 2% cottage cheese
1 cup ultrafine sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp. lemon juice
FOR THE CRUST:
1. Place the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Stir together with a fork or whisk until combined.
2. Place the butter in a small microwave-proof bowl or container and microwave about 20-30 seconds or until just melted (keep an eye on the butter to make sure it doesn't bubble up and overflow the bowl).
3. Pour the melted butter into the graham cracker mix and stir well with a fork or spoon until thoroughly combined.
4. Place a round of parchment cut out to fit into the bottom of a 9" springform pan (I use a few dabs of the melted butter underneath the parchment to "glue" it to the bottom of the pan so it won't shift around when I'm forming the crust).
5. Reserve 1/4 cup of the graham cracker mix & set aside. Pour the remaining mix over the parchment-lined springform pan. Spread the crumbs evenly over the bottom of the pan. Use a pastry tamper (available from Bed Bath & Beyond, Amazon, Sur La Table and many other stores) or a spoon to gently tamp down the crumbs to form a firm and even crust. Place the pan in the refrigerator.
FOR THE FILLING:
1. Place 3 tbsp. ice cold water into a small bowl. Sprinkle the unflavored gelatin over the water and set aside (no need to mix).
2. Place the heavy cream into a large mixing bowl. Beat with a hand mixer at medium-high speed until the cream forms soft peaks (do not over beat). Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, add the cream cheese (cut into large chunks), 1 cup of ultrafine sugar, 2 tsp. vanilla extract, 1/4 cup of the whipped cream, lemon zest and lemon juice. Cream the mixture with a hand mixer until well combined, about 30 seconds.
4. Gently fold or whisk the cottage cheese and remaining whipped cream into the mixture until just combined.
5. Microwave the gelatin mixture for about 10 seconds or until the mixture melts into a clear liquid. Pour into the whipped cream-cheese mixture and lightly whisk or stir until just combined.
6. Remove the springform pan with the graham cracker crust from the refrigerator. If you happen to have acetate strips for cakes, line the entire inner rim of the springform pan with a strip of the acetate, then tape the ends to secure. If you don't, well, then you can omit this step (it just helps to keep the cake looking good when you present it).
7. Gently pour the filling mixture into the pan then smooth and even out the top with an offset spatula or spoon. Sprinkle the reserved 1/4 cup of graham cracker crumbs over the top.
8. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or preferably overnight before serving.