I feel so bad. This poor thing has been neglected of late. We (I) was doing really well for a while there. Regular updates and such…
Over the past two months our lives have been consumed with things that involve NOT taking pictures. I know…we’re terrible people.
So here’s a little something I like to do every now and then: CHEESECAKE
Please allow me an Alton Brown style introduction:
Cheesecake is a science. It has taken me years (literally) to get better at my methods. And I’m still far from perfect. Unlike a cake or a pie, a cheesecake has so many extenuating circumstances that make it what it is, and they are all so temperamental. Last thing we want is a cheesecake that’s overdone, underdone, cracked, fallen, texturally unpleasant, etc. Why do these things happen? Let’s research shall we? (cut to clever cam sticking out of an oven or something)
There is a significant amount of tension created by temperature differences as the cheesecake bakes. Heat firms the protein in the eggs and cheese; thus making the cake firm where it gets hottest first – around the edge. As the edge firms, it pulls away from the softer, cooler center. When the cake is baked in a 350 degree oven for example, the temperature contrast between the edge and the center is great enough to create a tug of war and one or more crevices form in the middle of the cake. As the cake bakes, its weblike protein structure of egg and cheese tightens. Cooked too long, the web begins to squeeze out the moisture it holds. The cake loses its smooth, creamy texture and tastes grainy. But when executed correctly, a cheesecake can be pure, unfiltered bliss. Like sinking your teeth into a bite of sinfully delicious happy. What words would you use to describe the perfect bite of cheesecake?
Creamy? Rich? Decadent? Indulgent?
I thought so….me too. So, without further ado I share with you, a cheesecake (and tips on how to make it come out right)
Before we even get started: A word on springform pans. I WILL be a stickler about this. The better quality pan you get, the better quality cheesecake you get. You want a good quality, heavy-duty pan. I know you can pick one up at BB&B for like $10. Don’t do it. Over time, they warp. This causes them to cook unevenly, and also leak. These are terrible things. So, splurge on a good pan. I recommend Williams-Sonoma.
– First and most important: ALL of your ingredients need to be room temperature. I repeat: ALL OF THEM.
– Secondly, overmixing is bad. Don’t do it. The more you mix, the more air pockets you develop, which leads to more cracking.
– Thirdly: House of Painbe damned! because there will be no jumping around. That’s how they fall down go boom.
– Let’s be honest here…we’re not eating cheesecake to be healthy. So go all out. No low-fat cream cheese, no skim milk, etc. Get that Philly cream cheese, get the heavy cream, get the whole milk. The higher the fat content, the creamier the texture.
– For the eggs, it helps to crack them into a bowl.
a) because they’ll come to room temp faster and
b) makes it far easier to add them in during the mixing process
– Add the eggs ONE AT A TIME and blend thoroughly (on medium speed) after each egg.
The Water bath. Two methods.
— One: Wrap the bottom of the springform pan in foil, place in a shallow baking pan with water
— Two: Place a deep baking dish FULL of water on the rack beneath the cheesecake
– Most cheesecakes will have you prepare a crust ahead of time and either freeze it or bake it. Make sure that pan is back to room temp before you pour the mixture in.
– There is no set temp. Some will bake at 350, some will bake at 300. Just depends on what’s in there.
– Your cheesecake needs to bake in the middle of the oven for more even temperature distribution.
– Every time you open the door to check on it, you lose 25 degrees and 5 minutes of baking time. In other words, DON”T open the door, that’s what an oven light is for.
– Because we’ve learned what temp differences can do to a cheesecake during baking, you don’t want it to cool too fast. When it’s time is up, turn off the oven, open the door and let it cool in there for about an hour, and then on a rack on your counter top for another couple of hours before you put it in the fridge overnight to set.
– When you pull it out of the oven, take a knife, run it under screaming hot water and run it around the edge of the springform pan to loosen the edges. Can’t have them sticking while the center is settling back down.
They always use that word when talking about cheesecake. JIGGLE. Makes you giggle. This one comes down to experience folks. A “slight” jiggle in the center is what you want. Think of jell-o. It should bounce back like jell-o when you shake it. I usually strike the oven lightly with the palm of my hand to test it. Just one of those “how can I tell when my steak is done?” things. The more you cook ’em, the more you learn.
– You may look in your oven and see that your cheesecake has doubled in size and is rising up out of the springform pan like a volcano about to explode. Don’t worry about it. It’ll sit back down as it cools. Not all cheesecakes do this, just depends on what’s in them.
– Life will be easier if you run your knife under hot water before cutting each slice.
And now, no words. Just pictures. Enjoy.
I’m dubbing this week, dessert week. Stay tuned for the next post…a Red Velvet Cake (and recipe) that will make your life so much better.