16 Jan ‘Say CHEESE!’
by Don Bingham
There may be a few in this world who do not like cheesecake, but for most, it is a favored dessert. It appears on most menus, everyone seems to have his or her favorite flavors and styles, and it is at the top of the list for those who like less sugar but rich, creamy, decadent enjoyment.
Listed below are my “go to” steps in cheesecake making. They are from Emma Christensen’s guide to making The Ultimate Cheesecake (Emma Christensen has a blog at thekitchn.com/authors/echristensen for more cooking enjoyment!). These steps have proven to be effective in making that perfect dessert for any season!
Some basic tips:
Use full-fat cream cheese. Cheesecake is not the time to skimp.
Sour cream is best to use for softening the texture of the cheese and adding some moisture. It also adds a slight bit of tang to the cake.
You need a few eggs to hold the cake together. Three whole eggs do the trick, but you may also add an extra egg yolk — this will enhance the cake’s velvety texture.
Starch adds insurance. A little bit of cornstarch or flour in the cheesecake batter is insurance against cracking and makes the cake easier to cut into clean slices. Starch makes the cheesecake firmer and sturdier.
A water bath makes cheesecake extra creamy. The water bath cooks the cheesecake gently while creating a steamy environment so the surface of the cheesecake does not get too dry.
To prevent cheesecakes from cracking, you should be careful to not over-cook, and when cooling, leave the cheesecake to cool while sitting in the turned-off oven with the door cracked for about an hour.
Always chill a cheesecake.
Here is one of my favorite cheesecake recipes! Enjoy!
For the cheesecake:
2 pounds cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch or 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
12 whole graham-cracker rectangles (6 ounces)
5 tablespoons butter, plus extra to grease the pan
9-inch or 10-inch spring form pan
Stand mixer or hand-held mixer
Measuring cups and spoons
Roasting pan or other dish big enough to hold the spring form pan.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in the lower middle position. Take the blocks of cream cheese out of their boxes and let them warm to room temperature while you prepare the crust, about 30 minutes.
Use your fingers to rub a small pat of butter all over the bottom and sides of the spring form pan.
Cut foil circles; set spring form on foil and fold edges up around the sides of the pan. The foil gives you extra protection against water-bath leakage during baking.
Crush the graham crackers in a food processor until you have 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fine crumbs. Melt 5 tablespoons of butter in the microwave and mix into crumbs. Mixture should be wet and hold together.
Transfer crumbs into spring form pan. Place the crust in the oven for 8-10 minutes until the crust is fragrant and just starting to brown around the edges. Let the crust cook on a cooling rack while preparing the filling.
Combine the warmed cream cheese, sugar, cornstarch and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until the mixture is creamy, like thick frosting, and no lumps of cream cheese remain. Scrape down the beater and the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
Add the sour cream, lemon juice and vanilla to the bowl and beat until combined and creamy. Beat in the eggs and the yolks one at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with spatula.
Check to see if the sides of the crust have cooled. Pour the batter over the cooled crust and spread it into an even layer against the sides of the pan.
Transfer the pan to a roasting pan or other baking dish big enough to hold the cake pan. Bring a few cups of water to a boil and pour the water into the roasting pan. Fill the pan to about an inch or just below the lowest edge of foil.
Bake the cheesecake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes. Cakes baked in a 10-inch pan will usually cook in 50-55 minutes; cakes in a 9-inch will usually cook in 55-60 minutes. The cheesecake is done when it looks lightly puffed and the inner circle jiggles like gelatin. Turn off the oven, crack the door open. Let the cheesecake cool slowly for 1 hour.
After an hour, remove the cheesecake from the oven and from the water bath, unwrap the foil and transfer the cake to a cooling rack. Run a thin-bladed knife around the edge to make sure it’s not sticking to the sides. Let the cheesecake cool completely on the rack.
Chill the cheesecake, uncovered, for at least 4 hours or up to 3 days, in the refrigerator. Don’t rush it.
Take the cheesecake out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you plan to serve it. Leftovers will keep, uncovered and refrigerated, for several days.
Ideas for topping a cheesecake:
Spread the top with a thin layer of sour cream or whipped cream.
Pour soft chocolate ganache over the top of the cheesecake.
Add chopped fresh fruit, either all on its own or tossed with a fruit syrup.
Warm some peanut butter with a little cream to form a sauce and pour over the cheesecake.
Recognized throughout the state as an accomplished chef, Don Bingham has authored cookbooks, presented television programs and planned elaborate events. Today, he is the administrator for the Governor’s Mansion.