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Baking Cheesecake-- Is it as "temper~mental" as I've heard it is?`

Hi- I'm just wondering if it is true that cheese~cake can be tricky tomake from scratch?
I've been told that it is very important to follow the recipe exactly, using exact ingredients, exact cooking time & temperature as well as the quality of ingredients even effecting the overall outcome...
I'm about to bake my very first home made cheese cake, but I am a little nervous about it! lol
I'd really appreciate some tips from any experienced cheese cake bakers out there!
:)
Thank you :)

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  1. hi there,

    I find cheesecake the exact opposite! it is easy peasey and very forgiving. It's easy to substitute things and measurements don't need to be precise. Just use a recipe from a source you trust. Do you want to post the recipe you're planning to use? Then we can comment on which bits might be tricky for a first timer.

    hb

    1. No, it's not hard. You can play w/ the ingredients, even adding entire blocks of cream cheese, eggs, etc. and it turns out as long as you:

      1) use a water bath (pour boiling water into a large pan around the cheesecake)
      2) turn off the oven when the outer 1/3ish is cooked
      3) leave it in the oven, turned off, door ajar (w/ wooden spoon works) for an hour as it cools.

      Don't be nervous! Even if it cracks, it'll still taste good.

      1 Reply
      1. re: chowser

        Exactly. And to add a couple more tips:

        All ingredients should be at room temperature to avoid over mixing.

        I like to actually run a paring knife around the edge of the cheesecake when I turn the oven off. This will prevent cracking because it will be able to pull away from the sides of the pan without resistance.

      2. I would agree with hillsbilly, it's quick and simple and you can play with the ingredients, a bit more or less sugar, cream cheese, sour cream, vanilla, lemon juice, or even one less egg, matters not one bit. A touch of brandy and some melted chocolate to swirl in before adding to the pan, a package of cookie dough chopped up, fruit syrups you name it they can go in and the cakes turn out great. I have literally made hundreds (for a restaurant) and never had one not set or taste great.

        1. I agree with the others that it's not too hard. Make sure your ingredeitns are room temperature so the cream cheese blends nicely with the other ingredeients. I never follow recipes exactly - for cheesecake, I'm heavy-handed with vanilla because I love the flavor. I've never used a water bath as one response recommends, but I do leave it in the oven to cool slowly and it seems to prevent cracking (drives my mom crazy because she's been making cheesecake for years and hers always cracks!)
          My favorite recipe is the barefoot contessa's. It's in her Family Style cookbook or on the food network site: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/in... . She uses a bit of sour cream in it...

          Good luck!
          ladyberd
          http://ladyberds-kitchen.blogspot.com

          1 Reply
          1. re: ladyberd

            ladyberd, the cheesecake link doesn't work, getting 404 error on page message, don't know why. Here's a new one:

            http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/in...

            I agree, great recipe, epecially the raspberry topping.

          2. Agree with the others posters, do not have fear of baking cheesecake. Just don't overbake, turn off the oven when the cake is quite jiggly in the center. An accurate oven temp or using a oven thermometer is advisable. A lower oven temp is always better for baking cheesecake; they need gentle heat; that's why water baths are used.

            I have one trick for blending the eggs into the room temp cream cheese, so you don't end up with lots of tiny unblended cream cheese lumps in the batter, which can happen when adding the eggs too quickly: separate a few of your eggs, add one egg yolk to start, mix in thoroughly, add second, then as the mixture starts to loosen up, you can add the rest of the eggs and leftover whites, one at a time, until well combined. It's important to mix the eggs in very well before adding another. Mixing in a very small amount of egg to start with will guarantee a smooth batter.

            There's a whole big world of cheesecake out there, have fun!

            1. I only did it once and i didn't have any trouble. However, I did do a lot of research and made a list of tips. Here is a copy:

              Cheesecake Tips and Techniques
              Master the art of cheesecakes with some simple pointers
              Cheesecake's distinct texture relies on cheese blended with eggs and sugar, but it's the kind of cheese that informs the character of the cake.
              • Dense New York-style is made with cream cheese; lighter Italian with ricotta. (These distinctions are full of ironies: New York-style relies heavily on Philadelphia cream cheese, and what we think of as Italian is actually more Little Italy than Verona.)
              • Other cheeses can be used, such as Neufchatel (a form of cream cheese); cottage cheese; or fresh cheeses like fromage blanc, mascarpone and even tangy goat.
              • Texture varies from one step away from eating straight cheese to light and ethereal.
              Mixing
              Cheesecakes, unlike other cakes where beating air into the batter is key, suffer if over-mixed. For best results, have all the ingredients (cheese, eggs, liquids and flavorings) at room temperature before blending.
              Cracking
              The big bugaboo with cheesecake is cracking. Cheesecakes, like custards, rely heavily on eggs to set, which means they must cook gently and slowly. Otherwise the eggs puff, overcook and get grainy, then constrict when cooled, resulting in an undesirable split in your smooth cake.
              The main trick with cheesecake is gentle, coaxing heat. Just as you want them to cook slowly, you also want them to cool gradually. Quick changes of temperature upset the structure of the cake, causing cracks. For a moister, creamier cake, turn off the heat when the center's still loose and let cool in the oven.
              • Many cheesecakes, like our classic one, are baked in a water bath (a pan of water) to moderate the temperature. Since water remains at a constant temperature, the cake sets slowly, resulting in a super-creamy cheesecake.
              • With richly flavored cheesecakes, like our peanut butter or chocolate ones, the same result can be achieved by baking slowly at low temperatures.
              • To prevent the cheesecake from cracking as it cools, run a thin knife around the edge of the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. After chilling, remove the springform ring (but not the metal base).
              A crack in your cheesecake is not the end of the world. Simply use it as a starting point when cutting your first slice.
              Cutting Cheesecake
              Dip a knife in warm water and wipe dry before slicing each piece.
              Freezing
              Because of the high fat content, most cheesecakes freeze well for up to two weeks if wrapped tightly in both film and foil. But cheesecakes with a high water content, such as our Fresh Cream Cheesecake or Passion Fruit Cheesecake, will become icy, so freezing is not advised.

              1. In my opinion you really cannot mess up cheesecake.

                And even when you do the worst that you get is ugly cheesecake that still tastes good.

                Because, after all, it's really hard to make cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, vanilla and eggs taste bad.

                1. Cheesecake is easy and strict adherence to measurements isn't required (although recommended). The only hard part is baking it just right... not overdone (browned/cracked surface, grainy texture) or underdone (almost runny). If you crack the surface just create a fruit glaze to pour over the top (which I usually make regardless). A little practice and you'll see what the right 'jiggly' texture is.

                  Get a good springform pan and parchment paper if you want to be able to plate it nicely although eating it right out of a cake pan suits me just fine. Using a water bath helps cooking but wrap a springform pan in foil first to keep the water out.

                  1. I screwed-up my first time when I used warm tap water instead of boiling water for the water bath. Obviously, took much longer to bake & consistency wasn't right. No problems since I figured out the problem though.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: pharmnerd

                      I've done that. The cheesecake was underdone but oh so creamy and good. But, I'll confess to eating cheesecake batter, too.

                      1. re: chowser

                        They should make an ice cream flavor out of that ... Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Batter Ice Cream.

                        Someone call Ben & Jerry's ...

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          I wonder if you can just put that batter into an ice cream maker...

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              Double dare. I've been thinking of doing the same thing. I have to freeze the Danvier first.

                              1. re: chowser

                                I've done it with leftovers. It tastes just like you think it would and the texture can range from a bit stiff to alright.

                                1. re: chowser

                                  Go ahead make my day ...

                                  (I'll report back if I ever try it)

                      2. Actually I have better luck with cheesecake then I do with regular cakes. They're so versatile, you have many options when it comes to crust, the interior can be flavored with pureed fruit or chocolate. You can also make wonderful toppings wuth fruits that are very beautiful and delicious.

                        1. I made cheesecake for the first time a few months ago and couldn't believe how easy and delicious it was - so much so that I've made it a few times since. I used Fine Cooking's recipe for New York Cheesecake with cranberry sauce - but omitted the sauce.

                          I'm told that the true trick to keeping it from cracking is not to overmix once you've added the eggs. You can beat the tar out of it *before* the eggs are added, but once they're added you should only mix the batter enough to incorporate the eggs. Too much air into the eggs will cause the cheesecake to puff and then fall and crack.

                          I followed this advice, used a water bath, removed it from the oven as soon as it was done, and had nary a crack.

                          link to recipe http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/ne...

                          1. I've made a zillion cheesecakes (ok, so maybe 100) and I agree completely with hillsbilly. Super simple and very forgiving. Also travels well! :)

                            DO make sure your cream cheese is room temp so it blends well.

                            I have NEVER used a water bath and mine always come out great. I also agree with the tip of running a knife around the edge to prevent cracking. Mine never crack. When I take it out of the oven (assuming it is not a recipe that stays in the oven post-baking), I let it cool for about 10 mins, then run the knife around it and let it finish cooling.

                            I hate a dry cheesecake, so I bake until JUST set in the middle. When you think it's done, grab the edge of the pan (while it's still in the oven) and give it a little jiggle. It should NOT slosh in the middle, but move a little bit. Think the Jello jiggle. Maybe even a tad less jiggle than that. Start checking it a good 15 mins before the recipe calls for.

                            It will continue to cook a little bit once you take it out of the oven and will set up nicely as it chills in the fridge. Letting it chill overnight is best, but you can usually get away with 4 or 5 hours.

                            My favorite cookbook for cheesecakes is nothing fancy - the Kraft Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese Cheesecakes cookbook. Amazon shows some third party vendors selling new for $100 (are they insane? I paid $4.77 - sticker's still on it...admittedly it was about 25 years ago!), but you can get it used for $10. I just made their Apple Caramel Sundae Cheesecake on Friday. One of my favorites - SOOOO good! They have lots of fun varieties.

                            1. Agree with everyone here -- cheesecakes are not temperamental, except for the cracking. Two tips:

                              Bake at 500 degrees for 10 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 200-225 and bake for another hour or two until the internal temperature is 150-160 degrees. (All degrees Fahrenheit.) Crack-proof cheesecake.

                              And, even if it doesn't look so pretty, cover it with a thin layer of sour cream and then top with fruit -- thin slices of kiwi or mango are great, and will hide any flaws.

                              Here are some very detailed instructions for you:
                              http://www.cookingforengineers.com/re...

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Pia

                                That's a great site for all the details in all manner of cooking. Love their photos.

                                A important tip the link suggests is to temp the cheesecake, rather than rely on the jiggle method, for doneness; it's more accurate for someone who is just starting out with cheesecakes and may not feel confident deciding how jiggly is too jiggly. So get out your instant read...

                                1. re: Pia

                                  What a wonderful site! I'll be forwarding it to an engineer friend who wants to learn how to cook. He regularly comes over to my place to learn how to make specific things (usually Mexican or Italian) but he'll love this site and be able to try things at home.

                                  As for cheesecake - don't be intimidated! They're very easy and everyone loves them. Mine usually crack so I just cover with some lightly sweetened sour cream. Next time I'm going to try the tips here to prevent cracking. I don't use a bain marie because I don't have a pan large enough, but leaving in the oven with the door cracked and running a knife around the edge before the cheesecake has cooled are great ideas.