Cheesecake Tips

While most people don’t usually think of Cheesecake as being a part of Southern cooking, they are a part of the English tradition that has long influenced Southern desserts.

Cheesecake refers to any type of rich dessert whose filling is made up of cream cheese, ricotta cheese or cottage cheese or a blend of those cheeses. It may or may not have a crust, which can be graham cracker crumbs or traditional pastry.

Some cheesecakes require baking, some are no-bake and others have a baked crust but the filling does not require baking.

The only ‘real’ cheesecake to native New Yorkers is a rich, heavy, lemony-flavored confection baked without a crust. Other places claim a lighter, crumb-crusted variety is the only one. It seems that the only thing people agree on about cheesecake is that it never goes out of style.

Cheesecakes aren’t difficult  to bake at home, but you will need a spring-form pan. Trying to use a regular cake pan or using a different size pan than the one called for is a recipe for disaster.

Make sure you buy a sturdy spring-form pan with a heavy bottom — my favorite has a bottom made out of laboratory-grade  glass, guaranteed not to stick or sag.

Cream cheese is the most common type used in cheesecakes. Most packaged cream cheese contains gum, which acts as a solidifier. This will give a heavier texture to cheesecakes than natural cream cheese, which is available in health-food stores and some well-stocked supermarkets.

Whichever you use, bring it to room  temperature before mixing so it will combine better with the other ingredients. Add the ingredients and blend them in the exact order called for in the  recipe. Always beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy before adding the eggs. Ricotta and cottage cheese should be beaten until smooth or processed in a food processor or blender before adding any other ingredients to ensure a nice, even texture.

Once the cheese is smooth and fluffy, add the other ingredients slowly, beating on low speed. If you mix at too high a speed, too much air will get into the  mixture, which could lead to cracking and will make your cheesecake too dense.

Before you start to mix the ingredients, preheat the oven for at least 15 minutes with the oven rack in the center position. If the recipe calls for the cheesecake to bake in a pan of  water, cover the outside of the spring-form pan with aluminum foil. This will prevent water from seeping through the seam of the pan and making the cake soggy.

Cracks in a cheesecake are caused by moisture escaping as steam while the cake bakes. If too much moisture escapes, or if it evaporates too quickly, cracks occur. To prevent this, place a shallow pan filled with water on the bottom rack of the oven. This will raise the humidity and lessen the chance that the cake will crack. Even if it does crack, you can top it with sour cream, fruit topping or cookie crumbs and it will still be delicious.

If your recipe calls for a crumb crust, placing aluminum foil over the outside of the pan will prevent butter in the crumb mixture from leaking onto the oven floor as it melts.

Even heat is a requirement for cheesecakes, so don’t open the oven door for the first 30 minutes of baking. Test the cake 5 to 10 minutes before the minimum time called for in the recipe. Don’t worry if the center is soft — it will firm up as the cake cools.

The Ultimate Cheesecake Recipe

4 Comments so far »

  1. Beth Brannon said

    November 28 2008 @ 8:55 pm

    Rick,

    Thanks for these helpful hints. I will soon be making a cheesecake and I will follow these suggestions as well as this recipe.

    I am enjoying your website. All of your recipes look so good. Keep ’em comin’!!!

    Beth

  2. betsy said

    December 22 2008 @ 10:17 pm

    Can an 8 inch spring form pan be substituted for a 9 inch pan?

  3. Chef Rick said

    December 23 2008 @ 9:12 am

    Yes, but you might have to adjust the cooking time.

  4. Karczek said

    December 28 2008 @ 8:49 am

    Lol cheescake is same tradition in Poland. Every Xmass time we cooooooooking cheescake. They are sweet and toothsome, palatable, hmmmm yammyyyy 🙂 Im hungyr right now 🙂

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