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Advice requested on making 1st cheesecake

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  • masha Nov 19, 2007 11:34 AM
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I am planning on making a pumpkin cheesecake for Thanksgiving. I've never made a cheesecake before but this looks pretty simple. The recipe specifically instructs not to use a non-stick pan because it will raise the temperature and cause scorching. But the only springform pans I could find were non-stick (I looked in 5 stores), so that is what I plan to use. The instructions that came with the pan said to reduce the temperature by 25 degrees. Do you think this adjustment will work?

Any other advice for a cheesecake novice?

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  1. I am certainly no expert, but doubt it will matter. I have found cheesecakes to be quite robust to all sorts of errors and adaptations...for instance, I completely botched instructions for the cheesecake water bath (see my post at http://www.chowhound.com/topics/459509), but even that turned out deliciously. Might as well follow the pan instructions to reduce the temperature...however, I have always used a nonstick pan, but never bothered to read the pan instructions...and my cheesecakes have still been good....

    1. Make sure all of your ingredients are truly room temperature.

      I would use the springform pan, but wrap the bottom in foil really well & bake in a water bath @ no more than 325 degrees.

      Does your recipe say to use a water bath & at what temperature are you meant to bake it at?

      2 Replies
      1. re: dbug31

        I agree with the above, but I also recommend that you use a water bath. The high-sided Wilton cake pans work well for cheesecakes in a water bath, but you must be vigilant about using a parchment liner on the bottom. http://www.wilton.com/store/site/prod...

        Be very careful not to over-beat, as this will incorporate air, and cause cracking as it cools. Use the paddle attachment on a Kitchen-Aid, as opposed to the whisk.

        I like to turn the oven off a few minutes before it is recommended, and let the cake stay in the closed oven for a additional 20-30 minutes.

        .

        1. re: Kelli2006

          I turn off the oven, crack the door w/ a wooden spoon and leave it for an hour. With that and the waterbath, I never get cracks.

      2. Are your pans dark? I have a nonstick springform, but it's not dark. I have only ever made the Three Cities of Spain cheesecake (from Gourmet), but it seems like a basic recipe. I didn't change the oven temp, and I didn't use a water bath. Came out just fine.

        If your pans are dark, then you probably want to lower the temp just a bit. Water baths are supposed to prevent splitting, but I've read they don't really do that. That's what a nice layer of sour cream on top is for...

        2 Replies
        1. re: renz

          The pan is dark. The recipe does not call for a water bath. I think I'll go with the consensus advice (and the pan's instructions) to reduce the temperature by 25 degrees, but not bother with a water bath.

          1. re: masha

            Go with the water bath, it really really makes a difference for cheesecakes, and it's not that much of a bother. Just wrap the outside of the pan well in aluminum foil.

        2. Don't overthink it - I think cheesecake's hard to screw up. I've never used a water bath & they've been fine. The biggest mistake I ever made with cheesecake it not straining the seeds out of rasberries when I used them once - make for a kinda crunchy texture, but it tasted fine.

          1. I think that the issue on the pan is not so much whether or not the pan is non-stick, but whether or not it is dark. I have been told this by more than one professional baker whose judgment I respect and I have found it true myself as well. It seems to me that most non-stick pans are dark, though I am not sure on that one. It may be that whoever wrote the recipe you are using is sort of jumping to the conclusion that it is the non-stick part of the pan causing the raising of the temperature and the scorching, but in actuality, I would lay odds that it is the color of the pan. Wilton spring form pans are fairly accessable and sometimes you can find them from Kaiser, though the Kaiser are sometimes the dark, nonstick kind. Check out some craft stores or Walmart (if in your area) for Wilton products. Most of my baking pans are not Wilton, but for this specific item, it's not a bad choice and not all that hard to find.

            Not all cheesecake recipes call for a water bath, but I can't imagine that it would hurt to use the water bath. Make absolutely sure that you wrap the pan and a good way up the side in aluminum foil and check periodically to make sure the water hasn't all evaporated.

            Good luck and have fun!

            1. Consider putting some sort of topping on the cheesecake to cover any cracks that may develop. This will take all the pressure off you about using/not using a water bath or what temperature to cook your cheesecake.

              In the case of a pumpkin cheesecake, consider using a layer of sweetened sour cream. A fairly basic recipe is 2 cups sour cream, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla. Combine the ingredients and spoon the mixture over the cheesecake when the baking is complete. Cook the cheesecake an additional 5 minutes. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and cool according to the basic recipe.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Indy 67

                Sounds similar to the Libby's recipe, I think, and it definitely works...

              2. Another trick to avoid cracking (I think I learned this from Rose Levy Beranbaum's "Cake Bible") is to run a knife carefully around the edge of the cheesecake. Do this right after removing it from the oven. By releasing your cake from the edges of the pan before cooling, when it shrinks as it cools, it won't crack due to being stuck on the sides.

                1. I used to work at a restaurant that had the best cheesecake made from scratch and I still make it at home the way we did there. I whip the hell out of the batter to get it nice and creamy THEN I let it sit in the fridge overnight to settle and tap the bottom of the vessle on the counter to help release the air.
                  I bake in a 250 oven for an hour and a half with no water bath.
                  The length of cooking time depends on the size of your pan - I do use the non-stick and never noticed a difference.
                  The only difference I have noticed was when I tried to speed the process up by increasing the oven temperature - HUGE change in texture, height and overall apperance and believe it or not, taste too. The difference was so big I actually couldn't beleive it and made another cheesecake right away just so I could compare it to the yucky one and see exactly what happened. needless to say we were cheescaked out and a lot of it went into the garbage. You know how it goes - if it's hanging out in the kitchen it's just begging to be eaten!
                  Good Luck and ENJOY!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: GIAD

                    GIAD, you let the whipped batter stay in the fridge overnight and then baked it the next day? Interesting, never heard that one before.

                    1. re: dolores

                      Oh yes. Supposedly the air rises to the top and the tapping helps to release it. We used to make it and pour it into 5 gallon buckets. Sometimes you just wished you could jump right in!

                  2. Thanks for all the advice. I did reduce the temperature by 25 degrees but did not bother with the bain marie. As predicted, there were some cracks but it tasted delicious. While the suggestion to apply a topping such as sweetened sour cream certainly would have improved the cosmetics of the cheesecake, it would have defeated one of my main reasons for selecting this recipe, which was that it was a naturally low-sugar recipe suitable for a diabetic member of our dinner group. Next time, I'll try the bain marie.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: masha

                      I have never tried the stuff, but isn't there some sugar substitute of some kind that is made for baking? Come to think of it, it may have some sugar in it, but at a sharply reduced level. Not sure and not sure how it tastes or how its use affects recipes, either. Congrats on your attempt and thoughtfulness.