Posted April 25, 2011 at 10:55pm
Perhaps the dessert that I am best known for making is the cheesecake. I started making cheesecakes for family events a few years ago, and they have become legendary in my family. Along the way I have picked up a few tips about making cheesecakes and have started coming up with my own recipes and flavor combinations.
Most common cheesecake recipes have a common list of ingredients: a crust, cream cheese, sugar, eggs and vanilla. The differences between cheesecakes come mainly from flavorings. Some recipes call for other ingredients like sour cream or ricotta cheese, and some recipes use other types of cheeses too. I prefer to stick with cream cheese, although I will sometimes add sour cream or ricotta cheese on occasion to make the cheesecake a little bit fluffier. Personally, I’m not a big fan of adding ricotta to cheesecakes since I think it makes the texture a little grainy.
The key to a good cheesecake is to not over-beat the batter. With cheesecakes, unlike with traditional cakes, you don’t want to have too much air in the batter. Air in the batter will cause the cake to swell in the middle while in the oven and then deflate once it is cooled, leaving a depression in the middle of the cake. There are a few ways to ensure that over-mixing doesn’t occur. First, make sure off of the ingredients are at room temperature. Also, only set the mixer to medium or slow speed rather than high and only mix until the batter is just well blended. Eggs should always be added one at a time and the batter should be mixed after each addition.
Now I’m not all that big on how my cheesecakes look; I’m more interested in how they taste. But if you’re worried about presentation, here are a few tips to make a perfect looking cheesecake. Bake the cheesecake at a lower temperature to prevent cracking because a gentle cooking process will not cause drastic changes to the chemistry of the batter. Also, cool the cake slowly as well. To prevent cracking as the cake cools, run a thin knife around the edge of the pan to loosen it from the sides immediately after it is done baking.
There are also three different baking methods when it comes to cheesecakes. The first is the traditional method where the cheesecake is baked at moderate temperature (300-325°F) until the edges are set and the middle is still jiggly. Another method is the New York method which involves baking the cake at 500°F for 15 minutes and then decreasing the temperature to 200°F for an hour, after which the oven is turned off and the cake is cooked in the oven with the door open. The final method is the water bath method where the bottom of the cheesecake pan is coated in aluminum foil and placed in a larger pan with boiling water that covers about an inch of the base of the cheesecake pan. These pans are then placed in the oven and the cheesecake is baked as in the traditional method.
Personally, I have only ever used the traditional method, but most of my cheesecakes do have cracks that appear on the top of the cake. If you wish to make a pretty cheesecake, I hear that the water bath method is very good for this. I usually never have the patience or equipment to do the water bath method, and I’m more concerned with the taste than the appearance.
The movie below is a movie that was made with our chapter (Mu Pi) of Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity for our Regional Conference in 2010. It’s pretty silly and mostly a lot of fun, but it doesn’t really have anything to do with science other than we are a bunch of engineering student eating cheesecake. Anyways, I made the cheesecake featured in this video.