One of my favorite things about eggbeater is that I get to receive and answer questions. I like and appreciate the back and forth in the comments sections. Sometimes I receive an email at home I cannot answer. For these I often farm them out to people I think may have the answers.
Because most of my baking experience has come from restaurant work, I have little experience with some things that are more regular. I have made cheesecake, but only European versions in ramekins. Individual plated dessert concoctions I understand, big traditional items have oftentimes escaped me.
So when I received these humorous questions about cheesecake, I passed them on to bakers I knew who had more experience. What this fellow received as an answer was too thorough not to share with eggbeater readers.
The answer was written by Melanie Thorn, pastry chef extraordinaire in Birmingham, Alabama. She was one of my best First Assistants at Citizen Cake many years ago. And I am proud to say, a close friend and colleague to this day.
The questions were issued by DB, a tech fellow who has taken 2 of my classes and has recently taken the plunge to go to culinary school soon.
This feels like something I should be able to figure out on my own, but it also feels like it'll take 50 cheesecake attempts to do it. It's the water bath. It's killing me. I think I understand why it's good to use it, but I can't seem to make a spring-form pan waterproof. Water always leaks through the heavy duty aluminum foil I use.
Seems like I'm left with these choices. Which one do you choose? Is there some other way of dealing with this?
1. Use a non-spring-form pan and a water bath and get the cheesecake out (please reveal secret).
2. Use a spring-form pan and a water bath and prevent leaks (please reveal secret #2).
3. Ignore the water bath. Everything will be fine. Cracks are just a figment of my imagination.
4. Use a spring-form pan and a water bath, but instead of putting the pan in the water bath, use two racks in the oven so the water is still there, just not in contact with the cheesecake. Is this enough moisture / temperature control to prevent cracking?
i have been making the same cheesecake recipe FOR YEARS (with slight variations...)
it has never cracked and never failed me.
cheesecakes are HUGE here in the south...
i would like to offer you my recipe first, to be sure perhaps your egg to cream cheese ratio is not hurting your finished product.
then i will give you a couple of pointers that have worked for me.
1 (9" round) non spring-form cake pan
very lightly, spray the cake pan with a little vegetable pan spray
cut out a piece of parchment to fit the bottom of the cake pan, and lightly spray that
all your ingredients should be room temperature. (not melty and oozy, just soft)
preheat your oven to 325
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat 2 lbs. of cream cheese on low, with the paddle attachment, until smooth. stop mixer and scrape down sides and bottom frequently. (2-3 minutes)
*you do not want to whip this, as the cream cheese will get grainy, and give you an unpleasant texture.
slowly add 1 1/4 c. granulated sugar in a steady stream, also on low speed, until incorporated.
mixture should be smooth and shiny. (i sift my sugar to get out large lumps beforehand) 3-4 minutes
increase speed to medium. beat about 2 minutes more, watching the texture the whole time.
turn mixer back to low speed, and slowly add in 4 eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated.
add 1 tsp. good vanilla extract
sift about 1/2 oz. of unbleached, all purpose flour onto a piece of parchment. slowly add to batter, being sure to avoid any lumps. add a pinch of iodized salt.
scrape bowl down, and pour batter into prepared pan.
bang cake on floor or hard surface to release trapped air bubbles.
do this about 3 minutes; you will see many bubbles come up.
place cake in a larger pan, and fill with cool water.
bake slowly in the now 300-325 oven, and set a timer for 1 hour.
after an hour, check the water level in the water bath. add more hot water from the tap if necessary. shake the cheesecake slightly to see if done.
cheesecake should be just barely set, like a fat man's belly...
set another timer for 15 minute increments until done.
some ovens will take 1 hour exactly. some will take up to 2 hours.
sometimes, to add an opulent layer, i will mix 1 c. creme fraiche with about 2 tsp. of sugar and gently spread it on the warm - soon to be cool cheesecake...
my mother used to do a similar thing with sour cream, sugar, and lemon zest...but she did it to hide the cracks that sometimes happened to her...
when cheesecake is done, open oven door, and turn oven off.
leave cheesecake in pan, in water bath until completely cool.
remove from water bath. set aside.
after about 2 hours, place plastic wrap on top and let sit at room temp over night or at least 4 hours.
when ready to dump out, have ready 2 (9") cardboard circles wrapped in plastic wrap.
place one on top of cheesecake, and turn out gently. let sit upside down for a moment before releasing from pan.
this should come out flawlessly.
peel off bottom parchment paper and flip onto other plastic wrapped cardboard circle.
as for the crust...
i use different things for my crusts...leftover graham crackers, and gingersnap cookies, crushed and mixed with a bit of butter, graham crumbs and toasted ground pecans, depends on what i have on hand, and what flavor i am looking for. more often than not, i don't use a crust.
and i always make my crust by itself (same with the light pan spray and parchment circle on bottom)
bake it to set it and toast the butter slightly..
then i flip my cheesecake onto that crust, and chill overnight.
you can use your spring-form pan for the crust - you might find it easier.
as far as the cheesecakes themselves, i have been using regular cake pans and mini muffin tins for years, and that has always worked for me.
just one lengthy opinion for you... let me know how that works out. feel free to contact me if you have any questions... good luck!
Melanie from Alabama