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America’s Favorite Dessert: Cheesecake (What Else?)

America’s Favorite Dessert: Cheesecake (What Else?)

How could a dessert made from cream cheese, sugar, and eggs be anything but sublime? No wonder we love cheesecake!

By FamilyTime

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Cheesecake is America's first choice when it comes to the dessert table and no cheesecake is better than the one you make yourself.

Cheesecakes must mellow for at least 24 hours before serving; 48 hours is even better. Add to this do-ahead factor is that they are easy to make. What could be better for a busy family? 

Two Styles: New York and Italian
New York-style cheesecakes are made with cream cheese. These are characteristically creamy and sweet; deliciously and decadently rich. They are the familiar cheesecakes most Americans love.

Much beloved Italian-style cheesecakes are drier and lighter. These should be made with fresh ricotta, which is not always easy for the home cook to acquire. Here, we concentrate on New York-style cheesecakes.

Mixing the Batter
For the best texture, use full-fat cream cheese. Reduced-fat products do not blend as well with the other ingredients, will taste bland, and their texture will be rubbery. (If you want to use reduced fat cream cheese, go for it -- but stay away from nonfat cream cheese. It does cheesecakes no favors!)

Make sure the cream cheese is lump-free and soft before blending it with the other ingredients. A good way to do this is to beat it with the sugar until smooth.

Beat the batter only until creamy. Overmixing will aerate it so that it will be more apt to crack in the oven.

The Crust
As they bake, cheesecakes form a light crust, which is why not all require crumb or pastry crusts.

Thin crumb crusts -- made with crushed graham crackers, chocolate or vanilla wafers, or gingersnaps -- are the most popular. Pastry crusts, which are more substantial than crumb crusts, are preferred by some cooks.

Most recipes recommend baking cheesecakes in a springform pan, which makes unmolding easy. When unhinged, the sides of springform pans are easy to remove. If you don't have a springform, it's possible to unmold the cheesecake from a standard pan. Grease it well.

Crustless cheesecakes and those with crumb crusts will be creamier and moister if they're baked in a water bath. Wrap the springform pan in a double layer of foil to prevent leaking and set the pan in a larger pan. Pour an inch or two of water into the larger pan.

Cheesecakes with pastry crusts should not be baked this way. The extra moisture will leave the pastry sodden.

Do not overbake cheesecakes. This contributes to cracking and dries out the cakes. Remember that they continue to bake as they cool in the switched-off oven.

Cooling and Unmolding
For most recipes, it's advisable let the cake sit in the oven for about an hour after turning off the heat. Some recipes instruct you to keep the oven door closed, others suggest propping it open with a wooden spoon.

Next, let the cake cool completely on a wire rack. Then, still in the pan, cover it with plastic or foil and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to four days.

Let the cheesecake return to room temperature before serving. This takes about an hour on the countertop. Run a thin knife around the cake before removing the sides of the springform pan.

If you have baked the cake in a standard pan, run a knife around the edge and wrap the bottom in a warm, damp cloth to loosen it. Set a plate over the pan before inverting the cake.

Cut the cake with a sharp, thin knife dipped in hot water and wiped dry between each cut. Some people prefer a wire cheese slicer or even taut dental floss to make clean slices.

But What About the Cracks?
Even the most carefully mixed, baked, and cooled cheesecakes might crack. The crack can be hidden with a fruit topping - or ignored. Cheesecakes, in all their creamy, sweet, rich glory, taste great -- cracked or not!


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Tagged With: cheesecake, dessert, cream cheese, flavor, chocolate

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