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The Basic Cheesecake

New York style cheesecakeNever having made a cheesecake before (usually my sister’s domain), I settled on Cooking For Engingeer‘s New York style cheesecake to test-drive and tweak. Now, they call for a ridiculous amount of cream cheese and eggs to make a 10″ monster. Since I needed to serve only 5 people, I opted to scale things down for a 5.5″ cake that would stand 2.25″ tall. Despite never achieving the almond-brown top of a traditional NY style, the cake itself was dense, moist, and free of cracks (not to mention, tasty)!

While cracks aren’t the end of the world, it’s a technical achievement to strive for. So (after a ridiculous amount of reading and research), there are a few hoops (some, perhaps imaginary) to jump through to win this badge of honour.

All-in-all, it takes about an hour to mix, 2 to bake, 2-3 hours sitting out, and then you need to let it set in a fridge for at least another 3-5 hours, but it’s best if you leave it overnight. If you can’t tell, cheesecake is not an I-need-it-tonight item.

Basic Cheesecake

Some prep-work to do before beginning. Haul your eggs, cream cheese, and cream out about 30 minutes before you start. If you’re like me, you’ll be mixing this manually with a spatula, so you want your ingredients – the cream cheese in particular – to be room-temperature and malleable. We officially start by making the crust and then working on the batter in the meantime as the graham cracker layer bakes and cools. There are lots of tricks to eliminate the bubbles, so you can opt in (or out) of what you think is too time-consuming, but I basically pulled out all the stops for this one, and the results were very good.

Ingredients

  • 55 g graham crackers, crushed to crumbs
  • 26 g butter, melted
  • 6 g sugar, brown
  • 7 g butter, melted (for greasing pan)
  • 500 g cream cheese
  • 3 g salt
  • 175 g sugar, white
  • 12 g flour (optional)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (5 g)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (3 g)
  • 60 ml 35% M.F. cream (53 g)
  • 1 egg yolk, large
  • 3 eggs, large

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F
  2. In a small bowl, mix the graham crackers, melted butter, and brown sugar together.
  3. Using the 7 g of melted butter, butter the bottom of your springform pan. The remaining butter will be used later to grease the sides before pouring the cream cheese mixture in.
  4. Press mixture onto the bottom of your springform pan. Do this firmly, but not by packing it down hard. You still want to be able to cut through this layer! The back of a spoon is useful to even out and get to the edges.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes. Toasty is good. Set aside and let cool. Crank your oven to 500° to pre-heat and prep for the next baking step.
  6. In a large bowl, mix cream cheese, sugar, and salt, in a large bowl until smooth.
  7. Add flour (optional). This is to help stabilize your cake and prevent cracks.
  8. Add lemon juice and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth.
  9. Add cream. Mix until smooth. (Is your arm tired yet?)
  10. Add yolk and eggs. Mix until smooth – but make sure you do not over-mix (another no-crack trick – something about the proteins)! You want a homogeneous mixture, but only just.
  11. Use the remaining melted 7 g of butter from earlier to grease up the now-cool sides of the spring-form pan.
  12. To get a smooth cheesecake, we pull a Thomas Keller manoeuvre. Strain your cheesecake mixture before pouring into your pan. Or if you’re lazy like me, strain it right into the pan. There’s been a bit of leftover (but not much), both times I made this.
  13. Now, we need to eliminate bubbles from your batter. Lift your pan about an inch and drop it. Do this a few times until you feel you’ve ousted any of the larger pockets of air. I must have done this for a couple of minutes.
  14. Here’s where we get crazy (crazier?). It’s water bath time! Start by boiling some water. Pull out some foil and a holding pan that will contain your springform pan. Since I used a small pan, I needed to only use 1 sheet of foil. You may have to double it for larger pans, as you want to prevent water from seeping in. Place your foil-wrapped springform pan into the holding pan, and then for ease-of-mobility, on to a cookie tray. Pour the now-boiled water into your holding pan. Place this onto the centre rack of your oven.
  15. Bake your cheesecake for 10 minutes at 500°F and then turn your oven down to 200°F for 1 hour. Do not open your oven! Baking your cheesecake slowly is the idea.
  16. Testing for doneness: take your instant read-thermometer and see if it is at least 150°F. You don’t really want to exceed 160°F, but I did the first time and it was still good. Under 150°F? Close the door and bake for another 10 minutes before checking again. If the centre a little jiggly, this is fine. It will set overnight.
  17. Take your cake carefully out of the bath and remove the foil. There might be some water in there, don’t freak out. I can only surmise that it’s condensation. That, or the water jumped up and around a 4″ foil barrier. Set on the counter to cool. While cooling, find a bowl that you can use to cover the entire cake.
  18. After 10 minutes, take a flat knife and run it between the side of the pan and the cake to loosen the cake from the pan. This is so that the cake doesn’t stick to the springform pan as it cools (preventing cracks again).
  19. Cover your cake with the bowl you scrounged up from step 17. Leave your cake to cool for 2-3 hours, letting the temperature to come down slowly (no-crack hoojoo again).
  20. After 2-3 hours, put the cake in the fridge to set overnight.


To serve, remove the cake from the fridge about 15-30 minutes before to take off the chill. I paired it with a traditional strawberry sauce for my final cake, but I thought the salted caramel I had on the test cake was better. Overall, I was very pleased with how this recipe turned out and I consider it a keeper. In future iterations I’ll skip a “don’t crack” superstition each time and note the results. The less I have to do and still retain my badge, the better!

2 Responses to “The Basic Cheesecake”

  1. Jen

    Note to self: can’t skip water bath. Top got all toasty and more burned (but not burnt!) than a NY Cheesecake should be…

    Reply
  2. Jen

    Huh. Toastier top today, closer to what a NY-style cheesecake should be. Didn’t remove a step. Weird. Enough batter left over to make two mini cakes – about 1 cup. Wonder if I missed something…

    Reply

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