How to Bake the Perfect Cheesecake
Cheesecakes have stood the test of time. And well they should—they are wonderfully decadent desserts. In this article, we’ll tell you how to make delicious cheesecakes that are picture perfect.
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We’ll give you principles to help you understand cheesecakes. If you understand the principles, you can create your own recipes. If you understand and practice these principles, chances are you will make wonderful cheesecakes.
A cheesecake is a custard, not a cake. As a custard, the cheesecake should be thick, rich and creamy. As with any custard, a cheesecake relies on the proteins in the eggs to give it structure. The proteins coagulate as the temperature approaches 160 degrees. If it over bakes, the custard becomes dry.
A long, slow bake allows for a more uniform internal temperature. Never bake over 350 degrees. We prefer a dark pan to uniformly absorb heat, not a reflective pan.
Don’t over bake your cheesecake. Most cheesecakes are over baked and they tend to be dry, not creamy. An over baked cheesecake tends to crack. The cheesecake is baked when it is still jiggly but not soupy. The top of the cheesecake will jiggle as a whole and the center two inches will look softer. If the top is doing anything but just starting to blush a golden color, you have probably over baked the cheesecake. Do not stick a knife or a toothpick in the center. It is not a reliable test and it may precipitate a crack.
Beat the cream cheese until it is soft and smooth. It’s easier to make a smooth mixture of the cream cheeses if you start with softened cream cheese. Take the cream cheese from the refrigerator at least an hour before mixing. Beat the cheese with the paddle attachment, not the whip.
Mix the ingredients into the cream cheese; don’t whip the ingredients. If too much air is incorporated into the filling, the cheesecake will puff when baked and sink as it cools. With too much air incorporated into the filling, cracks are likely to develop.
Custards tend to be soft and may weep. To give your cheesecake more structure, consider adding one to two tablespoons of cornstarch or flour. For a creamier cheesecake, leave the starch out.
Cheesecakes primarily rely on eggs for the structure. Not only does the egg mixture have to reach 160 to 170 degrees to coagulate, but the filling must have enough eggs. In our experience, one egg per eight-ounce package of cream cheese plus a little milk or cream is about right.
Cheesecakes are easier to remove from a pan after they have cooled slightly. Let the cheesecake cool for ten minutes and then with a spatula or thin-bladed knife, run the blade between the cake and the pan. If you let the cheesecake cool for any longer than that, it may start to contract and, with the cake stuck to the pan, crack. A nonstick pan not only makes the release easier but may help keep the cheesecake from cracking.
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