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cheesecake, cold water bath

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I've been using a water bath when baking my cheesecakes and decided to try cold water instead of the usually recommended hot water for the bath in order to further reduce the temperature differential between the perimeter and the center. My cheesecake was more evenly baked with the cold water and continued to achieve the crack-free, no browning surface I obtained with the hot water bath. Has anyone tried cold water? Why is hot water usually used with a water bath?

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  1. Baked goods prepared in cake pans cook from the outside rim to the center, meaning that the outside of the preparation cooks faster than the center. Using a water bath helps to equalize the distribution of heat. When you use s water bath the outside rim (depending on how deep your water is) shouldn't get much above 212 degrees at sea level. Starting with warm water accelerates the heat gain (even to the modest level of 212 +/-) at the rim so it will still bake more quickly than the center. Starting with a cold water bath retards the heat rise in the cheesecake, allowing it to more evenly absorb the heat. You're wise to use the cold water bath. It's a shame that so many insist on warm water - but to each his own.
    Note: The cracking is a result of overcooking so regardless of which "bath style" you choose you can still run into that issue.

    2 Replies
    1. re: todao

      And it's also very interesting to note how many cookbooks suggest boiling the water first before adding to the waterbath, for a number of preparations, including cheesecakes and baked custards.

      1. re: todao

        The first cheesecake I made was without a water bath and it was uneven, brown and with some minor cracking. I like my cheesecake smooth and creamy so since then, I've used a water bath and have never had any browning or cracking. I don't think the filling has ever gotten higher than 165 degrees at the center and it's usually 155 to 160. I always remove the cheesecake from the oven immediately and cool it at room temperature for a couple of hours. I've never left it in the oven to cool or used a knife to separate the cake from the sides to prevent cracking. The water bath is the key for me, the colder the better.

      2. I like the creaminess of starting with cold water but it does take longer to cook.

        12 Replies
        1. re: chowser

          Yes, it does, but it's easy enough to remedy, I use a thermometer or the eyeball-the-jiggle method for doneness anyway, no timers ever.

          1. re: bushwickgirl

            If I didn't set a timer, I'd be here for far longer than the cheesecake had to be in the oven and it would be burnt.;-)

            1. re: chowser

              I should have written "do not rely on timers ever" as I would do the same as you, without setting some kind of reminder; drift off into something else and not think about cheesecake until I smelled it, which at that point would be too far gone. So yes, I use a timer, I just don't rely on it for doneness.

          2. re: chowser

            I use a thermometer for my oven and to check the cheesecake temp. My goal is to bake one that is uniformly done. Even with a water bath mine are still less done at the center. I'm going to try baking until the outer edge is a little less than 160 degrees and lowering the oven temp from 325 to 300. I recently had some cheesecake at a restaurant that was almost perfectly uniform and very smooth and creamy, the best I've ever had. So, it can be done. I guess I'll just have to keep on trying.

            1. re: bozoyoyo

              Have you tried low temperature, overnight? It works great, smooth, creamy, no water bath needed.

              1. re: chowser

                Would that be safe to do with the raw egg in batter? When you add together the overnight baking time and the cooling, you might end up with a real monster of a cheesecake.

                1. re: bozoyoyo

                  Sure, at 200 degrees, for 8 or so hours, would get that custard to your 160. You fully cook the cheesecake, unlike a regular temperature where I turn off the oven when it's 1/3 cooked on the outer edge. Here's an example but any cheesecake recipe will work:

                  http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/ov...

                  1. re: chowser

                    wow you guys sound like scientists! I am too simple I suppose. I have been making my white chocolate cheesecake recipe for many years to rave reviews and just found out about water baths helping it in the past 5 years. I have always used hot. I will try the cold. my problem is my recipe takes FOREVER! I put on the timer but it is only my eyes that can make sure it is done. It is always way jiggly in the middle NO MATTER WHAT! it also usually cracks even with the water bath. people do not care because it tastes so good but I would love to have consistent results and be able to serve it without it falling apart even thought it is the creamiest recipe ever. I am intrigued by this overnight recipe and the brandy addition...going to try it soon...but not sure how the upside down thing is gonna work...

                    1. re: lmapplebee

                      It's supposed to be jiggly in the middle when it's done. It hardens up after the oven is off. Overcooking it is one reason it cracks. But, really, if people love it, who cares what technique you've used or what it looks like?:-)

                      1. re: chowser

                        you are right. Thanks!

                    2. re: chowser

                      I have never heard of this method and I want to try it. There are so many benifits to slow heat when cooking meats, but I never thought to use w/ cheesecake... You don't need to coveer this to prevent moisture loss over 6 - 8 hours?

                      1. re: weewah

                        No, it's moist enough for that low of a temperature.

            2. I never use a water bath when I bake cheesecake. I use a low oven (about 325˚) and cook it slow. Then when the cooking time is expired, I turn off the oven, open the door and leave the cake in there until the cavity cools off.

              I've never had a leak. Never had an uncooked center. I *have* had cracks, but I don't serve my cheesecakes until they've had a day to sit and the cracks resolve themselves as the cake relaxes, the flavor develops and the moisture redistributes.

              8 Replies
              1. re: rainey

                Tried it once-didn't want to deal with it ever again. I must be lucky- never a leak, never uncooked either- but the top DOES get brown (as do the sides-which I find tasty) and yeah, sure it cracks but that doesn't slow us down a bit...

                1. re: Boccone Dolce

                  Personally, I don't know why you wouldn't want it to be brown. Pale and anemic doesn't sound very attractive to me.

                  The one thing I forgot to mention is that when it's first done it will be very inflated. As soon as the edges of the top begin to cool I coax them back inside the springform. Then as it cools and contracts, the top and sides are free to contract along with the rest of it.

                  1. re: rainey

                    I love the creaminess of a pale, anemic cheesecake, that melt in your mouth creamy feel so that's what I strive for and always make. Recently, someone brought a ricotta cheesecake to a party--it was dark (looked overcooked to me), big cracks, dry looking, obviously had puffed in the middle and then fell, not at all something I normally would look twice at. It was absolutely delicious. Not melt in your mouth creamy but there was a great heartiness to it and it had strong flavors vs the mellower taste of creamy cheesecake. I'm sure the marsala raisins didn't hurt. Anyway, that's my next quest--to replicate something like that.

                    1. re: chowser

                      The infinite possibilities of cooking and food are wonderful, no?

                      For me, I want color -- red carrots and purple cauliflower and black tomatoes and browned cheesecake -- and dense flavor.

                      1. re: chowser

                        I'm worried that I'm sounding judgmental.

                        I know what I want. I'm happy for everyone else who knows what they want. And even more thrilled that our joy and skills in cooking make whatever these things may be available to all of us. ...in just the way that strikes us as being "right". ;>

                        1. re: rainey

                          No, not judgmental at all. :-) I love both intense flavors and subtle ones. For me, often what seems "right", as with my cheesecakes, becomes just one of many "rights." I need to get the recipe for my friend's sicilian cheesecake now. This has given me the craving.

                          1. re: chowser

                            I agree.

                            And then there's a fine line sometimes in writing between emphatic/enthusiastic and dogmatic. ;>

                    2. re: Boccone Dolce

                      If I'm understanding you correctly, I don't think it's luck at all. I've been doing cheesecakes (even more recent recipes that specify water baths) without for about 35 years. So long as you go slow, it works like a charm.

                  2. I made a cheesecake last week using 35 degree water for the water bath. When it was done, the temp difference between the center and the outer edge was about 5 degrees. It turned out to be the most evenly baked cheesecake I've done. I guess I'll be using ice water for future cheesecakes.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: bozoyoyo

                      I just finished the last piece of my latest cheesecake. I used an ice water bath and this time I baked at 300 degrees instead of 325 and that did the trick for me. When I took it out of the oven, the filling was 161 degrees at the center and at the outer edge. This is my first uniformly done cheescake. The cake was very smooth and creamy, yet firm and that's just the way I like it. I might try 275 next time just to see what happens. This might have been the tastiest one I've done as well. i used 1 1/2 teaspoons of both vanilla and lemon extract. What a delightful combination!

                      1. re: bozoyoyo

                        wow you are tenacious! I just checked the beginning of this thread--it has been a year to date almost since you first posted this! I have not made my cheesecake for awhile but will try your suggestions when I do. I have a question that is a either ethics related or etiquette-not really sure....just wondering what anyone here has to say...do any of you ever not share your cheesecake recipe and if so why??

                        1. re: lmapplebee

                          I make 3 or 4 cheesecakes each year. It was 6 months since making one prior to this. I try to improve it every time I do one. Let me know if you want me to post my recipe. I would be happy to share.

                          1. re: bozoyoyo

                            Hi,
                            First of all, thanks for sharing all these helpful tips.
                            I've recently made a cheesecake, using a hot water bath, and while there were no cracks, and it was firm enough to unmold (baked in a non-springform pan) and serve, I thought it was too creamy and soft in the center.
                            I'm really happy I found this thread. I'm looking forward to trying your methods for the next one, and would love to try your recipe, if you're willing to share it.
                            Thank you!

                            1. re: micser

                              Sorry to be so long to reply but I've been preoccupied. I'll try to post my recipe tomorrow. I'm not aware of any slick way to post a recipe to this forum so I'll just type it out.

                              1. re: bozoyoyo

                                Thanks, bozoyoyo!
                                I really appreciate your taking the time to reply, and whenever you can, that would be great.

                                1. re: micser

                                  The following is my current recipe for a Philadelphia style cheesecake. If you like your cheesecake brown and dry, this one is not for you. If you’re particular about how your cheesecake turns out, you’ll need a couple of oven thermometers to check the temperature of your oven (my oven bakes 40 degrees hot) and an instant read thermometer to check the temperature of your filling before and after baking.

                                  I use a springform pan 9 3/8” diameter and 2 5/8” deep. You’ll need parchment paper to line the bottom of the pan and heavy-duty foil to wrap the pan for the water bath. Refrigerate 3 quarts of water and get out a roasting pan for the water bath.

                                  Crust:

                                  2 cups (12 sheets) Graham Crackers crushed
                                  2 tablespoons sugar
                                  1 stick of butter melted
                                  A one gallon plastic bag for crushing the crackers with a heavy glass or rolling pin

                                  Combine crackers, sugar and butter. Line the bottom of the springform pan with parchment paper, allowing excess to extend outside the bottom of the pan. Oil the sides or apply paper there as well. Press and form the crust on the bottom of the pan. I use a measuring cup for this. I don’t bother bringing the crust up the sides. Bake for 9 minutes at 350. Remove from oven and cool uncovered at room temperature for an hour or two. Wrap the pan with 2 sheets of 18 inch wide heavy-duty foil, cut to fit, when pan is cool.

                                  Filling:

                                  3 packages regular Philadelphia cream cheese
                                  1/2 cup sour cream
                                  1 cup sugar
                                  3 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract and 1 ½ teaspoons other extract (lemon, orange, almond). Lemon is very nice.
                                  3 large eggs

                                  Microwave the cream cheese for 45 sec or until it’s 75 deg. Add the sour cream and mix at medium speed until combined. The “experts” recommend a paddle type mixer but I use a regular egg beater type. Scrape the sides of the bowl frequently throughout the mixing process. Mix in the cup of sugar. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and mix in the extract. Slowly combine the egg mixture with the cream cheese mixture at low speed until smooth.

                                  Pour the filling (about 70 degrees) into the foil wrapped springform pan and place it into the roasting pan. Pour the 35 to 40 degree water into the roasting pan until it is 1 ½ inches up the side of the springform pan. Place the roasting pan into the oven and bake at 300 degrees for 80 minutes or until the center of the cheesecake is 160 on the instant read thermometer. When done, remove the roasting pan from the oven, the springform pan from the water bath and remove the foil from the pan. That water is very hot so if you prefer, lift the springform pan out of the water bath while the roasting pan is still in the oven. Set the cheesecake aside to cool uncovered for 2 hours at room temperature and then refrigerate for 4 hours uncovered. Cover the cake at this point and allow another 18 hours before removing the cake from the pan.

                                  I hope that explains it. If not, feel free to ask for clarification.

                                  1. re: bozoyoyo

                                    Thank you so much, bozoyoyo!
                                    For sharing your recipe, taking the time to type it up, and including these detailed instructions, as well.
                                    I'm trying to achieve a cheesecake that is neither brown nor dry, but is firm and not too creamy, and I'll be very happy to make this cake.
                                    Many thanks, and happy fourth of July!

                                    1. re: micser

                                      Give this recipe a try and if it's too creamy for you, give it an extra 5 minutes next time or you can try reducing the amount of sour cream. Good luck with it. I'd be interested to know how it turns out.