Cheesecake is one of the most popular desserts of all time. In recent years, it has even found its way into other sweet dishes such as ice cream and frappes. You could easily find great cheesecakes at restaurants or at your local bakery. However, like with most things in life, cheesecake can taste much better if you learn how to make it yourself. If you don’t know where to start, we’ve prepared this handy guide for you to learn how to make amazing cheesecake from scratch.
Preparing the Filling
The best cheesecake in the world has a filling that doesn’t feel grainy and doesn’t have cracks. If your cheesecake does have a couple of cracks in it, don’t worry. We’ll talk about how to fix that a little bit later. First though, let’s learn how to make the best cheesecake filling. You need to make sure that all your ingredients are at room temperature, especially your cream cheese and eggs, so take them out of the fridge in advance. You should also use the best ingredients you can get your hands on, since you won’t need a lot in the first place.
Using cold ingredients leads to a lumpy filling, which makes the cheesecake less enjoyable. In some cases, it could even make the cheesecake inedible. So avoid using things like cream cheese straight from the fridge. Softened, room temperature ingredients combine together easier and produce a smoother texture. If you can’t wait for your cream cheese to get soft, you can put it in the microwave and heat it in 20-second intervals. Just make sure that you place it in a microwavable container and that you take it out of the foil first.
Add in two pounds of full fat cream cheese to make a cheesecake that’s good for eight to 10 people. Aside from cream cheese, you’d also want to add a bit of sour cream or heavy cream to make the filling moister. This gives it a smoother, softer consistency as well. About half a cup will do the trick. Using sour cream gives the cheesecake some tang, which would help cut through its richness. Two tablespoons of freshly-squeezed lemon juice also help with this, but it’s completely optional.
The next ingredient for this cheese cake filling is a cup of granulated sugar. Mix the sugar, sour cream, and cream cheese thoroughly to avoid any lumps from the cheese as well as graininess from the sugar. Adding a tablespoon of cornstarch or two tablespoons of all-purpose flour helps prevent the eggs, which we’ll add later, from coagulating. Don’t worry, this won’t alter the flavor of the cheesecake. All this does is it makes the cheesecake creamier and reduces the likelihood of cracks appearing. Add just a tiny bit of salt also.
A teaspoon of vanilla extract boosts the flavor of the cheesecake to make it a better match for whatever fillings and toppings you decide to add. After adding vanilla extract, put in three large, whole eggs one at a time. Pop in an extra yolk to improve the consistency. You could also add a whole egg instead of just a yolk if you want a lighter dessert. Mix gently once the eggs are added so you don’t lose the airiness of the filling. Make sure to scrape the sides to remove any lumps. An over-mixed cheesecake filling is a dense one and that’s no good.
Making the Crust
Preheat your oven to 350º F. Take a spring-form pan and wrap it with some aluminum foil. This will give the cheesecake added protection as it bakes in a water bath. Afterwards, rub the sides and bottom with some unsalted butter. This prevents the cheesecake from sticking to the pan. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Make sure you get butter in all those nooks and crannies to ensure the cheesecake stays intact when you remove it from the pan.
Some people call for a pie pan, but inverting a delicate cheesecake on to a cooling rack could be difficult, especially for novice bakers. Spring-form pans have removable sides which allow you to simply slide the cheesecake off on to a dish or a stand for much cleaner presentation. You’re going to need a nine or 10-inch spring-form pan for this recipe.
Like with the filling for the cheesecake, the crust requires only a couple of ingredients. Just make sure that you use the best ones you can find. Combine one and a half cups of Graham cracker crumbs – you can find some already crushed or you can crinkle some yourself in a re-sealable bag using a rolling pin or a heavy bottle – with a quarter cup of confectioners’ sugar, a third of a cup of melted, unsalted butter, and a pinch of salt. Mix thoroughly in order to avoid a lumpy consistency.
Press the crust to the bottom and sides of the pan. You can use the bottom of a drinking glass to get even layers. Pre-bake the crust until the edges start to brown. This step usually takes around eight to 10 minutes. You can also tell if the crust is cooked once it becomes fragrant. Let your cheesecake crust cool for a couple of minutes after baking before you add the filling. You can pour in the filling once the sides and the bottom of the crust have become cool to the touch. Spread the top evenly using a spatula.
Baking the Cheesecake
Take your pan and place it in the middle of a large baking dish or roasting pan. Boil a few cups of water then use that to fill the container to about an inch or two below the edge of the foil. Do this carefully so as not to get any water on the cheesecake itself. Put this in the oven for around 50 minutes to an hour. If you use a 10-inch pan, it’ll take less time. If you use a 9-inch pan, it may take a bit longer. You’ll know it’s ready when the outer layer is set and has a puffy appearance. The middle should still move a little though, like Jell-O when shaken.
Avoid leaving your cheesecake in the oven for too long. It would be better to take the cake out a couple of minutes early rather than over-baking it since it will continue to cook as it cools. Also, don’t put your cheesecake directly in the fridge after baking. Instead, remove the sides of the spring-form pan then place it on a wire rack and let it cool to room temperature first.
This may take some time, but condensation could appear if you put a warm cheesecake in the fridge. This will give the top of your dessert a sloppy texture. Putting a cheesecake in the fridge too early may also cause cracks to appear. It could also cause it to become denser in some cases. If your cheesecake does come out cracked, heat a kitchen knife using boiling water as soon as possible. Dry off the knife then run it along the imperfections. This will help close the cracks for a more seamless appearance.
Once at room temperature, allow your cheesecake to chill for at least four hours in the fridge. You can let it stay in there, left uncovered, for up to three days. We know that you’d really want to eat your cheesecake right now, but stay put. This is an important step in the cheesecake setting process.
Topping Your Dessert
One of the toppings you’ll most commonly find on a cheesecake is berries in some sort of sweetened sauce. To make this, combine two tablespoons of sugar, a quarter cup of water, a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, and two teaspoons of cornstarch as a thickening agent. Heat this mixture in a saucepan over medium heat. Once thick, add four cups of fresh or frozen berries. Continue to cook until bubbly, but not boiling. This could be either strawberries, blueberries, or something else. You could even use fruits that aren’t berries if you’d like.
Now it’s time to top your cheesecake. Thirty minutes before serving, take your cheesecake out of the fridge. If you have some on hand, use some unflavored dental floss to cut your dessert into even slices. Using dental floss gives you nice, clean edges on every slice without fail. Transfer it carefully to a plate then top with your fruits in sauce. Enjoy immediately for the best taste and texture.
It’s important that you store your cheesecake properly so you can enjoy it as a dessert for future meals or just as a snack. Wrap the cheesecake well and store it in the fridge away from pungent foods. This will keep for a couple of days. If you want to store it for a longer time, pop it in the freezer instead. The freezer is also a great option if you want to bake your cheesecakes in advance.
That’s how to make mouthwatering cheesecakes in the comfort of your own home. If you follow this recipe, we’re sure you’ll be able to make a dessert that’ll be a talking point at any gathering for all the right reasons.