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« A Menu for Hope III | Main | Baking Powder, homemade »

12 December 2006

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I'm definitely not a cheesecake expert, so I must have lucked out with a good recipe because I haven't had cracking problems. For the last three years I've made pumpkin pie cheesecake on Thanksgiving. I use a recipe from Every Day Food magazine. I believe you can search for it on their website.

I use a springform pan and NO water bath. I think the trick with this recipe is to not open the oven once you've started cooking. Once it's done you leave it in the oven for two hours to cool...then wrap and sit on the counter to cool overnight (or at least all day). I guess the key element is a really slow cooling process.

I use the creamy waterbath recipe in Joy of Cooking and have always had great luck. I don't use a crust, either. I just butter the pan and dust it with crushed vanilla wafers because I don't like graham cracker crusts. I don't know why. I like graham crackers and milk.

But really, the thing to keep them from cracking is the slow cooling process. I use an hour in the oven, an hour on the counter, an hour on my service porch (in the winter) and then wrap and refrigerate.

When using heavy duty aluminum foil, you need to be very careful when you wrap your springform pan that you don't puncture it. Additionally, you need to fold in and crimp tight any excess, so that precipitation doesn't "fall" inside the foil collar. There will be some condensation, unavoidably, but crimping it tight around the pan helps.

Another trick I've heard of but have not tried is to find a round silicone cake pan the same size as your springform and put your springform inside it. It should be a tight squeeze, but it prevents all leaks.

The water bath really is essential. I used to not use one, thinking it wasn't necessary, and the first time I used one, the texture difference astounded me.

Often times, I will bake my cheesecake in a square pyrex, and serve it plated. It may not be as elegant as bringing a whole cheesecake to the table, but it's less fuss.

Even with the best technique in the world, occassionally cracks happen. The sour cream trick works well, or ganache, or coulis, or even whipped cream can camouflage those cracks.

One more thought...ginger snap cookies make the perfect cheesecake crust. Just crush in a food processor and use like graham cracker crumbs.

Just tried the goat cheese/mascarpone cheesecake from _The Last Course_. I think I overbeat the mixture as the texture is a bit grainy. A little raspberry sauce goes a long way to make that not such a big deal.

The method for getting the cake out of the pan works like a charm. No cracking to cover up.

I'll try your recipe next.

Thanks much.

-DB

I've been using the recipe in the Kraft Philidelphia Cream Cheese pack for years and it works well for me. Everyone who has tasted it raves about it - so I suppose it is good. I usually half the amounts as I don't need such a huge cheesecake and I "cheat" by using the Keebler ready-made biscuit crust. The waterbath is essential - or you will not get the nice smooth texture. Hope this helps.

What has worked for me is making individual servings in muffin tins; toast the crust, if used, in the bottoms. Then pour in your batter and bake in a water bath. Be sure not to whip any air into your cheese mixture, this has a lot to do with the cracking, so beat the cheese slowly and sloooowly add your eggs (I like using extra yolks). Also, the baking time can be a bit less for the muffin tins. Sometimes I'll freeze them and dust the top with sugar before popping out,to keep the fragile tops from tearing, and then coat the sides with crocant hazelnuts, medium grain, or chopped pistachio etc. Looks and tastes acceptable.

Thanks, these tips will really help me with baking cheesecakes. I've experienced some of these same problems before. Another question of mine is do you know of a healthier alternative to using regular cheesecake?

Hello Bob, 'Using Cheesecake'? Not sure what you mean here. I worked on a Labne Cheesecake for the NY Times a while back, if that's what you mean. Labne/Lebne is a fantastic alternative to Cream Cheese (which actually has very little dairy in it if you buy it commercially.) Thanks for stopping by, Shuna

Thanks, Shuna !
i really love cheesecake!

This recipes looks amazing. I can't wait to bake it this friday during my weekly bake night!

A FOOLPROOF AND LEAKPROOF WATER BATH: Instead of one layer of aluminum foil, which may crack and leak nearly every time, try TWO layers of foil with one layer of wax paper in between. Your wax paper may not be wide enough; just lay two long strips of waxed paper edge-to-edge along their length and roll the edges over at least a few times. Now you have two layers of foil (which is strong, but gets pinpoint holes) to protect your waterproof (yet fragile) waxed paper.

I'm sure there's an easier way to keep your water bath from leaking into an imperfectly sealed springform pan, but this way will not fail you.

SOME REASONS A CHEESECAKE WILL CRACK:

-didn't mix the ingredients well (make sure the cream cheese is blended well. See earlier comments)

-baked too hot, too fast, or too long (try baking at or below 350 degrees F)

-baked without a water bath (watch the water bath and add hot tap water if it is all evaporating)

-cooled too quickly (see earlier comments)

-edges of cake stuck to sides of pan (if cheesecake has not shrunk from the sides of the pan for 2 hours, run a warm metal spatula around the sides)

-water bath was too hot (if it boils, drop an ice cube in)

I discovered the foil-sandwich trick the hard way, out of desperation. I use plastic wrap between the layers of foil instead of waxed paper, though.

The water isn't for humidity, it's to moderate the temperature of the cheesecake itself. I forget where I read it, but a pan of water can't get over a certain temperature (it's below 212) but a dry pan can -- and will -- get as hot as the oven.

There are formulas that almost never crack, i.e. the one in Professional Baking, those that crack if overcooked (mine), and some that almost always crack. It helps to butter the edges of the pan, avoid overcooking, and cool completely in the waterbath (away from drafts) before refrigerating.

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