When you're just learning how to make cheesecake, some people will tell you the trick is in the mixing or baking method, but the real secret of how to make cheesecake comes down to choosing the right recipe. Start with a basic recipe for classic cheesecake and then select the best quality ingredients you can find. If you brush up on proper mixing techniques and understand how to check for doneness, soon people will be asking you to teach them how to make cheesecake.
The two main types of cheesecakes are those made with cream cheese and those made with curd cheeses like cottage cheese or ricotta. The cream cheese makes a denser cake. The ricotta makes one with a lighter, fluffier consistency. The curd cheeses should be whirled in a blender or processor to render a smooth, creamy ingredient. Overbeating in order to get out any undesirable lumps can prevent the cheesecake batter from rising during baking, creating a cake that's too heavy.
For best results, use a mixer with a paddle if possible. A whisk will not be able to work the heavy cheese batter and may result in overbeating, putting too much air into the batter.
Two Baking Methods
Cheesecakes are baked by either of two methods-the New York method or the water-bath method. In the New York method, the cheesecake is put into a very hot oven for the first 15 minutes, then the oven temperature is reduced and the cheesecake continues to bake. Further, it is left in the oven for a while after the heat is turned off with the oven door propped open.
The water-bath method consists of the cheesecake being poured into a springform pan that is wrapped in foil and then placed into a baking pan. The pan is placed into the hot oven and boiling water is poured into the baking pan around the foil. The foil, of course serves to keep water from seeping into the springform and spoiling the cake. The water bath bakes evenly and gently to help keep the cake creamy throughout and prevent shrinkage and cracking. Water bathing, however, will not result in the crust turning out crisp.
Take the time to carefully grease the springform pan so that the cake will pull away from the sides instead of cracking in the center.
Cheesecake is not really a cake, but rather a cheese and egg custard. It has many of the same characteristics, including the fact that it does not set or jell until it cools completely.
Set a timer to the exact recommended baking time. If the temperature is changed during baking, be certain to time this exactly as it will affect the cheesecake drastically, especially a New York type.
Test for doneness by jiggling the cake. If the center still jiggles (only the center), take the cake out and place it on the counter covered with a large heavy bowl so it will cool very slowly.
One secret of a perfect cheesecake is to take as much care in cooling the cake as you do baking it. Follow temperature settings precisely and allow cake to cool in the warm oven with the door propped or under a heavy inverted bowl. It will firm as it cools.
How to Unmold the Cheesecake
After cooling the cake completely on a wire rack, you are ready to remove it from the springform pan. First, check the sides of the cake. If it appears to be sticking to the sides, run a sharp knife blade around the sides. Then carefully unhinge the clasp on the side of the pan and lift it free of the cake. The cheesecake should stay on the pan base at least until ready to serve, but it can be served from the base.
If you have baked the cheesecake in a regular cake pan, it will be trickier to get it out of the pan. First, run a knife around the sides. Next, place plastic wrap over the cake and a flat dinner plate over that. Flip the cake over and tap on the pan gently. Shake the cake until it releases from the pan. Peel off the paper pan liner. Then prepare the cake plate by inverting it over the cake. Hold the plastic wrap tightly and flip the cake and the plate over at once. Carefully free the plastic wrap from the cheesecake and sigh with relief.
Cheesecake should be thoroughly chilled and aged. The best is chilled for 48 hours. At least six hours will give the cake an improved texture and stronger cheese flavor. Always store in a sealed plastic container or wrap the cake carefully as it may absorb odors of other foods stored alongside it.
Remove from refrigeration about an hour before you plan to serve it to allow it to soften and bring out the full flavor.
Top the cake with recommended topping as you serve it, or drizzle sauces and toppings over the entire cake to serve. You might prefer a simple dusting of powdered sugar. Some prefer the cheesecake without any crust or topping, indulging in the cheese flavor and creamy texture.
Toppings You Will Love
Any number of wonderful flavors can be used to make a cheesecake topping. Cherries, strawberries, blueberries, apples or raspberries cooked in a thickened sauce are some of the most popular.
Fresh fruits rolled in sugar and arranged artistically on top of cheesecake make a nice topping. Kiwi, raspberries, orange slices, grapes, chopped dried fruits, shredded coconut and sauces with flavored liqueurs make elegant additions.
Chocolate sauce with a drizzle of caramel and a sprinkle of chopped pecans or walnuts makes a grand showing.
Use any caramelized nuts, pecan praline sauce, almond slivers or pistachio nuts.
Chocolate chips, lemon curd, crystallized ginger, raisins and nuts or chocolate sauce will make a cheesecake to remember.
New York Style Cheesecake
Preheat oven to 375º F. Grease sides and bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Prepare a graham cracker crust. Hand press the crust into the bottom and sides of the pan. Bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.
In a mixing bowl, cream cheese until smooth and fluffy. Beat in sugar and flour. Reduce mixer speed to low and add eggs and egg yolk. Beat well after each egg. Beat in milk until just blended. Pour batter into the crust and bake for 55 minutes or until set but still jiggly in the center. Cool completely in the pan at room temperature. Chill overnight. Garnish with fresh fruit to serve.
Dulce de leche cheesecake has become quite popular in the United States thanks to a few chain restaurants that have decided to feature it (along with other gourmet cheesecakes) on their menus. Dulce de leche is a sweet, caramel-like sauce traditionally made from milk, vanilla bean and sugar, cooked down for hours until it becomes thick and smooth.
Pumpkins are great for more than just pie. Try mixing it up this year by making a rich and delicious pumpkin cheesecake. Your guests will be more than appreciative.
What dessert is more decadent and loved by more people than cheesecake? Yes, there are richer desserts and there are more popular desserts, but cheesecake has to be one of the all time top indulgent.