Cheesecake is known and loved almost everywhere. There are hundreds of different recipes and varieties, I think it wouldn’t be far from the truth to say that in each country you can find its special version of this famous dessert.
What is confusing – is the fact that not only the ingredients vary from recipe to recipe, but the procedures may differ significantly as well. Some of the cheesecakes are baked and some aren’t, others have to be refrigerated to set and another even frozen. Why are there so many options and where is the logic?
What is a cheesecake?
If we take a closer look at the word cake, we will find out that it means “a sweet, baked, breadlike food”, “baked, leavened or breadlike confection, made with or without shortening, and usually containing flour, sugar, baking powder or soda, eggs, and liquid flavoring”, “…usually moulded, made in a round or rectangular shape”.
‘In some baking discussions, cheesecakes are included along with flour-based cakes. Technically, however, cheesecake is the same type of preparation as baked custard or pumpkin pie filling. It is a liquid mixture of milk, sugar, eggs and cream cheese that becomes firm when the eggs coagulate. The fact that it happens to be a cake has nothing to do with its composition1.’
Cheesecakes, which supposed to be baked, are made around the globe in many kids, commonly using local cheese as a main ingredient. Nevertheless, most cheesecakes are made with cream cheese. One of the most famous varieties – New York-style cheesecake is one of the richest of these,it is made with cream cheese and heavy cream.
Italian variety of cheesecake is made of Ricotta cheese, german cheesecake contains quark, a sort of fresh cheese.
There are some lower-fat cheesecake recipes, but they are not so smooth and generally less popular.
Baking cheesecakes with water bath
Cheesecake may be baked with or without water bath.
Baking in a water bath results in cakes with browned tops and unbrowned sides.
Baking without a water bath results in browned sides and a lighter top. If you are not using a water bath, you may use either deep-layer cake pans or springform pans (pans with removable sides). However, for baking with water bath deep cake pans are used, other types are not appropriate.
How to bake a cheesecake with a water bath
To bake with a water bath, place the filled mould or pan inside a larger pan. Fill the outer pan with water and bake at 175°C (347°F) until set.
Cheesecake without baking
Unbaked cheesecakes are set with gelatin, and technically they are closer to bavarian creams and mousses rather than baked custard.
This type of cheesecakes contain custard, cream cheese and whipped heavy cream or whipped egg whites (or both) to give them more light and fluffy texture.
Cream cheese mixture is stabilized with gelatin and has to be refrigerated to set. Here you can find the detailed recipe.
Accurate measurement of gelatin is crucial. If not enough gelatin – the cheesecake will be too soft and won’t hold its shape. Adding too much gelatin results in a firm and rubbery dessert.
Recipes may vary, but generally, four main ingredients, which are: custard cream, cream cheese, whipped cream and gelatin have to be combined and chilled to set.
Gelatin is softened in a cold water, stirred into hot custard sauce until dissolved, and chilled. Whipped cream is then folded in. The mixture has to be poured in a mold and send to a fridge to set.
Crumb base for cheesecake
Crumb crusts are very popular as a base for cheesecakes. Cracker or cookie crusts are commonly used because they have an appealing flavour and are very easy to make. As an option, vanilla or chocolate wafer crumbs, gingersnap crumbs or another more exotic varieties might be used. Just make sure that the flavour of the crust is compatible with the creamcheese filling.
Baking a crumb crust before filling or assembling a cheesecake makes it firmer and less crumbly, and gives it a toasted flavour.
Shortbread, pastry crusts and sponges are also good as a base for a cheesecake.
Recipe of graham cracker crust for a cheesecake
- 150 g Graham cracker crumbs
- 75 g Sugar
- 75 g Butter, unsalted,melted
Cracker crust procedure:
- Combine the crumbs and sugar in a mixing bowl.
- Add the melted butter and mix until evenly blended. Make sure that the crumbs are com[pletely moistened by the butter.
- Spread the mixture evenly on the bottom and sides of the 23-cm pan. Press another pan on top to pack the crumbs uniformly.
- Bake at 175°C (347°F) for 10 minutes.
- Cool completely before filling.
Assembling and decorating cheesecakes
Fruit jelled compote is often used to add some zest to a simple cheesecake. It may be added as an extra layer inside the cheesecake or as a decoration on the top. You can use canned fruits with gelatin or fresh fruit puree stabilized with pectin as well.
Ground nuts are also good as a complement to a cheesecake.
Cheesecakes are often decorated with some fresh fruits or berries, ground chocolate, cookies etc.
1Professional Baking, Wayne Gisslen, ISBN 978-1-119-14844-9
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