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Creating a Perfect Cheesecake


M3brewboy
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In the December 2003 issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine there is a recipe for the perfect Cheesecake. There is an entire page on doing a water bath and the benefits. However, just last Saturday on PBS I watched the 30 minute program from Cook's Illustrated and Cris Kimball and another woman specifically said not to do a water bath for your cheesecake.

How can the same organization speak of Cheescakes in the same month and provide conflicting information? Anyhow, I tried the water bath just like the magazine recipe called for and my crust got soaking wet somehow. Any one else notice the conflicting information? Any advice?

Thanks in advance!

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Funny you should mention this. I was planning to make a bourbon pumpkin cheesecake to bring to Thanksgiving dinner (and maybe a couple extra for the weekend), so I printed off two recipes from Epicurious. The ingredients were similar, but one said to bake at 325 in a water bath for 1'45", the other said to bake at 350 with no water bath for about an hour. I took the no-bath option.

Recipes that call for a springform pan to be immersed in a water bath generally also say that the outside of the pan should be wrapped in a layer or two of heavy-duty aluminum foil, as does the CI recipe. I'm surprised that your crust got soaking wet. Could the water have splashed over the foil somehow?

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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Cheesecake preferences are personal- I am in the water bath camp, prefering a creamy cheesecake custard with no crust. For reasons I don't quite understand, some actually prefer the dense consistency, sunken middle and noticeably brown crust of a cheesecake exposed to direct oven heat. Go figure.

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Thanks for the reply Alex. I did wrap foil around the pan (a double layer of foil just like the recipe called for), and I was extremely careful. My best guess is that somehow the water leaked in through the foil somewhere.

I'm not so discouraged that I won't try it again. More than anything, I was just curious about the conflicting information from Cook's Illustrated.

Thanks,

Gary

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Thanks for the reply Alex. I did wrap foil around the pan (a double layer of foil just like the recipe called for), and I was extremely careful. My best guess is that somehow the water leaked in through the foil somewhere.

I'm not so discouraged that I won't try it again. More than anything, I was just curious about the conflicting information from Cook's Illustrated.

Thanks,

Gary

Maybe Christopher's evil twin handcuffed him to his wood stove and took his place on the show.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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The famous Lindy's cheesecake is made without a waterbath, or so I've been told. Food writer James Vialls told me his father so admired the Lidny's version (and this was back in 1954), he asked his waiter for the recipe, slipping him a 20 dollar bill while telling him that his wife simply 'had to have it'

The waiter returned with the details handwritten on a paper napkin. According to these notes, at Lindy's the cake is first balsted with high heat to set the outside, then baked slowly at a very low temperature to avoid curdling the eggy cheese mixture, and finally finished the cake in the receding heat of a turned off oven.

In my own research I've found many versions of wobbly, delicate and creamy cheesecakes abked in shallow earthenware dishes set in wood burning ovens. I can't help but think this was the original way it was done before people had ovens in their homes.

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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They have three basic recipes for cheesecakes depending on the texture you want: rich and cream, light and airy, or dense. The rich and creamy cooks the longest and has a water bath. Here's the changes for the other two:

LIGHT AND AIRY CHEESECAKE

Follow recipe for Rich and Creamy Cheesecake, separating eggs. Add yolks, rather than whole eggs, at instructed time. Continue with recipe, stirring in cream and sour cream. Beat egg whites to soft peaks. Fold whites into batter, pour into prepared pan, and bake, reducing cooking time to 45 to 50 minutes.

DENSE AND FIRM CHEESECAKE

Follow recipe for Rich and Creamy Cheesecake, disregarding instructions for water bath. Bake cake at 500 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees (leave oven door open until oven temperature reduces). Bake until cheesecake perimeter is set but center jiggles like Jell-O when pan is tapped, about 1 hour longer. Continue with cooling instructions in basic recipe.

My guess is that you have instructions (and saw instructions) for two different types of cheesecakes. They do also have a recipe where they suggest checking for doneness (as said in the above post by Katherine) by using a thermometer. They suggest removing the cheesecake when the center reaches 150 degrees F. A cheesecake cracks at 160 degrees, apparently. They also say to let it only cool a few minutes and then to use a knife to cut it away from the sides of the pan or else it will crack as it cools.

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Take this show with a grain of salt(;}.

Remember this is TV! They make food too complicated. Remember the most important part is to create, eat, play,enjoy,and have fun with. In the culinary world it's the rule breakers entice our curiosity.

I Will Be..................

"The Next Food Network Star!"

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They had an article about NY cheesecake that was started in a 500 oven with no water bath. Kimball is one of those guys who would get cut trying to sneak a carrot baton out of the pile on the cutting board in front of me. I generally trust the stuff they put out in the magazine, having worked my way through a bunch of it. I actually use some of their recipes at work, where I'm supposed to assign all rights blah blah blah to the Corporate Entity. Little do they all know.....

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Like Wolfert, I'm a fan of the Lindy's/Villas' recipe.

I seem to recall in another e-gullet thread that someone said Saran Wrap doesn't melt at normal oven temperatures. If that's true, maybe Saran would be a more waterproof wrap for the bottom of a springform for those that prefer the water bath type cake?? Since the water bath can't get much above 212 F, the Saran should be OK.

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I was the person who mentioned Saran wrap for blind baking (a tip picked up from some book,magazine or TV show I can't remember). I think it would lose it's clingy properties when soaked in hot water and would be less effective than foil. I've used foil pretty successfully in the past.

Edited by rickster (log)
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My opinion for what it's worth......

First-Cooks magazine...for the most part consists of unmemorable recipes. For great tasting baked goods this is NOT the publication to turn to. Sure they tinker around, blah blah blah....yes it's interesting to learn what reactions different ingredients provide (and for that it's an interesting read) but please don't think this is "the source" on baking.

Second-although they show cheesecakes being baked in springform pans-the truth is springform pans suck....for many reasons. Facts are cheesecakes can be baked in any pan. I prefer a regular 3" deep cake pan (in fact I believe I read an article in Cooks for the "Perfect" NY cheesecake and even they touted that a regular cake pan should be used)! When baked in a regular cake pan-it will never let water leak in an ruin your crust. To unmold, the only tricky part is inverting your cake. But once your cake is cold or frozen it pops out perfectly if you apply some heat to the exterior...just like you do to a jello mold.

Third-most professional kitchens bake certain items in hotel pans covered with plastic wrap, then with a layer of foil. The plastic protects any reaction with foil (where foil erodes onto the top of the food being baked) and provides a tight seal.

Therdogg-you need to experiment further, because not using a waterbath does NOT mean your cheesecake will be dense and sunken in the middle, nor browned! It's all in your recipe, technique and skills and I'd bet that none of the major popular manufactors of cheesecakes use waterbaths to bake their cheesecakes.

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I never use a springform pan to bake a cheesecake. I use stoneware. After first blasting the cake with high heat I bake it in a slow oven at a very low temperature to avoid curdling the eggy cheese mixture, and finally finish it off in the receding heat of a turned off oven. In this way, you can serve the cake in a very attractive dish. And, this slow baking is very forgiving, it will actually produce a better cake with a fragile texture and subtle flaovr.

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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I've baked a lot of cheesecakes in springform pans with double foil and rarely had a problem. You do have to take it off right away in case any water did get in. And Cook's Magazine, if it still exists, is not Cook's Illustrated. I generally like Cook's Illustrated, but the previous poster is right, not all the recipes work well. I once made a lemon icebox cake that I got razzed for next day, Hollandaise cake, the sous chef called it.

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I did the double rapped in foil method for years and leaks (depending upon the gage of the foil) happen and are a needless waste of materials and energy. Removing it from the foil after this happens won't matter when you remove it because once your crust is soggie-that's it-damage done.

Condesation: doesn't happen while baking or cooling only after they are refrigerated for a period of time. It won't penatrate your cake though. And if this happens, you can blot it dry with paper towels.

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I have also done cheesecakes for years in the water bath with a double layer of heavy duty foil and rarely have a problem. I usually bake Rose Levy Berenbaum's Cordon Rose Cheesecake- although I have done many different cheesecakes this way and it creates the rich custardy consistency. Try it again.

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I'm making a NY style cheesecake for holiday entertaining.

The cake will be frozen first, then defrosted pre-serving. I

have some frozen blueberries that I would like to make into

a topping WITHOUT making them look opaque How do I do

this...have had milky look previously when I thickened w.

cornstarch.

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I'm making a NY style cheesecake for holiday entertaining.

The cake will be frozen first, then defrosted pre-serving. I

have some frozen blueberries that I would like to make into

a topping WITHOUT making them look opaque How do I do

this...have had milky look previously when I thickened w.

cornstarch.

If you cook the blueberries with water long enough, the blueberries themselves have pectin in them, which will thicken your sauce/topping. If it's not enough for you, you can try adding some pectin (it comes dried in little packets in the baking/canning section of your grocery store), or you can add some gelatin to your mixture. When you refrigerate your cheesecake, it will firm up.

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  • 8 months later...

I've had great success with water baths but I'm going to be working in a very small kitchen with not a lot of counterspace so I don't want to be dealing with a bunch of pans filled with boiling water.

I read recently that those Wilton Bake-even strips serve the same purpose. Has anyone tried them?

Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Orison Swett Marden

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I have had the problem with leaking foil on the water bath. The plastic and foil method was introduced to me from a friend that works in the restaurant business. I have baked cheesecakes with plastic wrap and foil with seams on the outside that have still failed for me. I have also had success doing this. I think it may have been due to the quality of the plastic wrap. My solution was to buy wider foil so I would not have to join any seams. Two layers of really large foil around the SF pan is what I have used the last 5 or 6 cheesecakes with no leaking.

I was once diagnosed with a split personality but we are all okay now.

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First-Cooks magazine...for the most part consists of unmemorable recipes. For great tasting baked goods this is NOT the publication to turn to.

Sinclair, If this is on an older thread I apologize. What are your favorite publications for baked goods? Thanks

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