Probably one of the most luxurious of desserts, the cheesecake satisfies even the most sophisticated of pallets. A smooth, creamy, velvety texture combined with the crunchy and crumbly texture of the crust makes for the perfect combination in your mouth.
The first place that you need to start is on the crust – and that is one of the easiest parts. Two ingredients are all that you need, which makes this completely foolproof. Melted butter and crumbs pressed into a spring form pan and “blind-baked” in an oven for 8-10 minutes at 300*F. Just enough to “set” the crust.
Cheesecakes aren’t just for dessert anymore, though. Savory, rather than sweet, is delicious for breakfast and lunch. Instead of using things like Oreo or graham crumbs like you would for a sweet crust, try using plain or seasoned bread crumbs or crushed Ritz crackers. In your filling, try adding things like smoked salmon or trout, herbs, spices, and chopped sauted vegetables. Omit the sugar, bake them up, and you have a delightful pairing for a salad or soup.
It sounds crazy, but believe me – taking some smoked salmon, dill, lemon zest and capers makes for a delectable savory cheesecake. Whenever I try this, I pair it with tossed Collard greens drizzled with olive oil, fresh lemon juice, sea salt and cracked black peppercorns.
Whichever cheesecake you plan on making, the filling is the most important – it makes up the majority of the dessert. There are two main things that you need to remember when making a cheesecake filling, and that is smooth texture and slow baking.
Cheesecakes vary in ingredients, so there really is no universal way to tell you how to mix the ingredients. However, there are two ingredients that are in 99.9% of all cheesecakes, and that is cream cheese and eggs.
First things first – the cream cheese. Blend it until it is SMOOTH. This is key for that velvety texture that you are looking for. After a bit of blending, stop the machine and scrape down the bowl to get all of cream cheese in the bottom. It will take a couple stop-and-go’s to complete the process, and to get the cream cheese totally smooth. At this point, your recipe will tell you to add the other ingredients as well. Blend these in until totally smooth.
When it comes to the point where you have to add the eggs, reduce your speed and pour the eggs, already beaten, into your cheesecake SLOWLY. A little at a time maximizes the emulsification of the eggs into the mix, thus creating a more smooth texture. It also keeps your eggs from splashing all over the place.
After you have added the eggs, this is the point where you can add any extras. Fold them in, carefully.
Baking the cheesecake at a lower temperature and slower pace makes for a better product. Try taking your favorite cheesecake recipe and baking it at 275*F for 1 hour. When baking it, put a bigger pan full of boiling water on the rack beneath the cheesecake. This will regulate the temperature in the oven, will help the cake from cooking too quickly, keep things moist, and will stop the top from cracking. Do NOT touch the oven until the hour is over.
When the hour is up, turn off your oven but leave the cheesecake in. Give it another hour. The heat left in the oven and from the water will continue to cook it at a slow rate. When it’s done, it may look as if it isn’t set, but I assure you that it is. Let it cool and cut into it with a thin-bladed hot knife.
If you thought your cheesecake was great before – try following these tips. Your cheesecake will be more spectacular than ever, and everybody will want to know just how the heck you did it!