Cheesecake is THE definition of love at first bite! At least for me. The first year we spent in Saudi Arabia we brought cheesecakes from The Cheesecake Factory for pretty much every occasion and then the baker inside me got offended. I started experimenting and after a couple of setbacks I understood that without knowing the basics there would be no progress. A little learning goes a long long way. Here is what I have learned so far.
First step is of course finding a good recipe. Baking a cheesecake requires good quality ingredients and your time (and patience) so be very careful while selecting a recipe.
Pick a recipe from a reliable source that you trust. Trying a chef’s basic recipe would be good idea.
See if you have the right pan for the recipe. Cheesecakes are mostly baked in springform pans so be sure the one you have is of the right size according to the recipe. If the recipe calls for an 8″ pan, use an 8″ pan and not a 9″ or 10″.
Make sure you have all the required ingredients and measure/weigh them correctly.
The base of a cheesecake is usually made with graham crackers crumbs or some other cookie crumbs with melted butter. Well crushed cookies/crackers will give a smooth and uniform crust.
Moisten the crumbs well with the butter.
Press the crumb mixture tightly onto the base of the pan using back of a spoon or bottom of a measuring cup.
Some recipes call for extra sugar, nuts or spice (like cinnamon, nutmeg) for the base/crust.
For gluten free cheesecakes, use gluten free cookies/crackers. You can try meringue or nut based crust too.
Best quality cream cheese equals great tasting cheesecake. It is as simple as that!
I use Philadelphia cream cheese because I love the flavor plus it yields very consistent product.
Cheesecakes do not rise so don’t be tempted to add any leavening agent.
No need to go overboard with beating and whipping the cheese please! We don’t need to incorporate air as in flour based cakes. Mix and whip ingredients till they are well blended only.
Baking a Cheesecake:
Cheesecakes are baked for a longer time on comparatively low oven temperature. Be very sure that your oven temperature settings are working fine.
Follow the recipe for temperature settings.
Most recipes call for water bath for baking cheesecakes. This is to retain the moisture and keep the cheesecake smooth as baking time is longer.
Remember that the cheesecake will still be jiggly when it is done. Don’t over bake. It will set after refrigeration.
The top of the cheesecake might appear cracked after baking. It is quite normal. You can cover it up with topping.
Once cooled to room temperature after baking, loosely cover and refrigerate the cheesecake, preferably overnight, to let it set well.
Pretty much everything works as cheesecake topping. From fruit puree/sauce to dusted cocoa powder or chocolate ganache or chocolate shavings or nuts or simply spread sour cream.
Recipe for this ultimate cheesecake is coming up next…. Stay tuned.