Monday, August 4, 2014

Cheesecake Science

I finally did it ~ late last week I baked the perfect cheesecake.  I feel like I really accomplished something.

Recipe and tips below, as well as links to the two articles I read that I feel are indispensable if you're serious about baking a perfect cheesecake.
PERFECT LEMON CHEESECAKE

Ingredients

Crust:
1-3/4 cups finely ground graham crackers
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
1 pound cream cheese, 2 (8-oz) packages
1 cup organic cane sugar
3 eggs
1-1/2 pint sour cream
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Take all cold ingredients (cheeses, eggs) out of the refrigerator a couple hours before making cake.  Remove cardboard and foil from cream cheese.  These ingredients need to be at room temperature.

When you're ready to start making cake, preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Crust:  In a mixing bowl, combine ingredients for the crust with a fork until evenly moistened.  Pour the crumb mixture into a springform pan and, using a glass tumbler, press the crumbs down onto the base and about 1-1/2 inches up the sides.  Refrigerate for 5 minutes.

Filling:  In a glass bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer on low speed for about a minute until cheese is smooth.  Add sugar and beat on low until mixture is smooth and free of lumps.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until just mixed in well.  Add sour cream, continuing to beat on low.  Then add zest and vanilla.  The batter should be well mixed but not overbeaten (i.e. no bubbles).  Keep beater on low the whole time.

Pour the filling into the crust-lined pan and smooth the top with a spatula.  Put pan on a cookie sheet.

Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.  Then turn the oven off but let the cake remain in the oven for an additional hour.

If you bake it as suggested just above, you shouldn't need to test for doneness.  Once you've put the cake in the oven at 325 degrees, don't open the oven door until the entire "baking and cooling in oven with heat off" process is complete.

Remove cake from oven.  Run a sharp knife around the edge of the cake to loosen.  Let cake cool on wire rack, still in the pan, until completely cool.

Leave in pan, cover with plastic or foil, and refrigerate for 12 - 24 hours before eating.  Remove sides of springform pan just before serving cake.

Slice the cheesecake with a thin, non-serated knife that has been run under hot water, then wiped dry.  Do this prior to each cut into the cake.  Once you put the knife into the cake, pull it out straight toward you.

Serve cake with topping of your choice, if desired.  Personally I'd rather eat cheesecake plain, so I can enjoy the tangy-sweet taste and the velvety texture just as it is. 


INDISPENSABLE TIPS

Cold ingredients need to be used at room temperature.  Take them out of the refrigerator well before you make the cheesecake.  Most recipes say 20 - 30 minutes, but I've found that isn't long enough, especially for the cream cheese.  Make it a couple hours to be safe.

Do not overbeat the filling.  Excessive beating creates too many air pockets which can cause the cheesecake to puff up too much during baking, and then crack during the cooling process.

Cheesecakes are just custards made with cream cheese instead of milk.  Once I grasped this concept, the idea of baking in a slow oven for a long time made perfect sense.  Bake the cheesecake as suggested in the recipe above.   Or, you can use the "bain-marie" process (described in the links I've included below), if you prefer. 

If the ingredients are too cold, if the filling is overbeaten, if the cheesecake is baked at too high a temperature or not cooked long enough ~~ any or all of these things will disrupt the fragile protein chemistry that takes place between the eggs and cheeses.

Cheesecake Hints and Tips ~~ http://thebakingpan.com/cheesecake-hints-and-tips/

Cheesecake 101 ~~ http://www.finecooking.com/articles/cheesecake-101.aspx?pg=1

BON APPETIT!

Here's the recipe in PDF format ~~ I just learned how to create a PDF to upload to the blog, so hope it works!  PERFECT LEMON CHEESECAKE

8 comments:

Dottie said...

Excellent! Thanks for doing the experiments and for the insight that cheesecakes are custard with cheese, instead of milk. I get it!

PamelaArtsinSF said...

YUMMY!!!! i will be right over for a piece! And thanks for sharing the recipe etc too...but I'd rather have a piece of yours..(outgoing to you today)

Susan Christensen said...

Arrrgh and DANG!!! I am now dying for cheese cake and it isn't even lunch time yet!
xxoo, sus

Jan said...

Thanks for all your research and trial runs.

I've never made a classic cheesecake even though it's one of my favorite desserts--or breakfasts! Now I'll likely try it.

Jane Perala said...

Mmmmmm. Makes my mouth water!

ileneharris said...

Looks beautiful and I'll bet it tastes delicious. Congrats on perfecting your recipe...

john said...

I am on my way over for a slice! :-) YUM!

Karen Isaacson said...

I'm going to try this! I've made plenty of delicious cheesecakes over the years, but they always always crack. I'm ready to try again and be conscientious about heeding your tips. (PDF worked great - thanks!)