Cheesecake is one of America’s most popular recipes. Considering the high cost of cheesecake in stores and restaurants, and the endless variety of cheesecakes you can make, why not get started at home?
Many people are afraid cheesecakes are hard to make, or avoid them because of recurrent problems when making them. However, with these quick tips you should be on your way to a perfect cheesecake!
Make it Creamy! One of the main keys to a good cheesecake is getting it creamy instead of lumpy. Yet when you sit down to make a cheesecake, the batter is often very lumpy and hard to manage. What to do? There are two keys to avoiding lumps – first, make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature. Cold ingredients don’t mix as well as room temperature ones. Secondly, make sure that you’ve mixed the cheeses and eggs together before you move on to any of the liquid ingredients or creams. If the eggs and cheese are creamy, then you can mix in the liquid ingredients with more confidence and get a better texture.
Be careful with the egg whites. If your recipe calls for beaten egg whites, then be careful when you mix them in. You should try to keep them from losing too much of their volume.
Mix it correctly. Your home mixer is not usually the best way to mix cheesecake ingredients. The most common complaint about home cheesecakes is the cracking – and one of the main culprits for this problem is excess air that is incorporated into the mix by beaters. The best way is with the paddle attachments of a home mixer. I’ve also been successful mixing by hand.
Cook it slowly. The number one way to get a cracked cheesecake is to misunderstand it’s thermodynamics! Cheesecakes do not like temperature swings. If you heat it up to fast or cool it down too fast you’re going to get cracks. Generally a cheesecake is cooked at a somewhat low temperature (check you recipe). You might be tempted to cheat on this, but the result will likely be cracking. The same goes for cooling. If you get anxious and go from oven to fidge, you’re likely to get cracking again. Try to cool it down slowly.
Know when it’s done. Since cheesecakes don’t rise it’s a bit tough to figure out when they are ready to come out of the oven. Two indicators that will help you are the “finish” of the top and the consistency. A cheesecake will usually be soft when it’s done, but it should NOT be “wobbly” near the center. Also, as a cheesecake nears completion the surface finish turns from shiny to dull.
Experiment! Don’t be afraid to experiment with your cheesecake when it comes to the crust or additional elements. Many cookies and crackers can make good cheesecake crusts when crushed and firmed up with a bit of melted butter.
Lighten up! Homemade food is just that – homemade. I once had a friend who took pictures of food catalogs. He was an Austrian trained pastry chef with a very good degree in pastry making.
Without exception, he builds fake pastries for the catalog. “You just can’t bake a perfect looking pastry,” he explained. So consider it’s little imperfections as proof of your loving care in its creation and enjoy your cheesecake even if it’s less than perfect!Without exception