The thing about cheesecakes is they're so much better when made at home, but folks are often scared of them. Maybe it's the springform pan or the hot water bath that so many recipes call for. When it comes right down to it, so much of the success of a good cheesecake is based around time, temperature, and accuracy in your approach to whipping the ingredients, so let's spend a moment with some prize-winning tips.
5 Tips and Tricks to Make the Perfect Cheesecake
1. Pay attention to temperature: First, you must follow instructions and allow your cheesecake to chill. Many recipes call for a 6-hour overnight chill time and I know this seems excessive to many home bakers, but it really is necessary if you want a completely set cheesecake that will come out of the pan with ease. Second, cheesecakes absolutely taste best at room temperature, so after chilling let it stand at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.
2. Soften the cream cheese: Word to the wise: bring your cream cheese to room temperature before making a cheesecake. Much like using a springform pan, this is one of the non-negotiables if you want a smooth, lump-free cheesecake.
3. Don't stress over cracks: Many cheesecakes crack on the top. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever made one that didn't crack just a little. This has a lot to do with temperature and the rate at which your cheesecake heats up, but the good news is that it can be fixed. My instant (and tasty) trick is to spread a layer of sour cream over the cooled cheesecake. It will give it a clean finish and add a little extra creaminess to each bite.
4. Prebake your crust: Many recipes don't require you do this, but I guarantee you're going to have a crisper, lovelier crust if you do. With any kind of crumb crust (like graham cracker, for instance) you'll just want to give it a quick 10 minute bake in the oven before filling it with your cream cheese filling. No pie weights or fuss required.
5. Whip, whip whip: If you think about your idea of a great cheesecake, it's probably super, super creamy. To get that at home, your batter must be completely smooth, so be sure to beat your batter more than you think you need to. Sure, it may be lump free but you don't want to stop until you have what Dorie Greenspan calls a "satiny" batter. I find I often have to beat my batter for an extra 1 to 2 minutes after the point at which the recipe says to stop to achieve this satiny texture.
A Few of Our Favorite Cheesecake Recipes:
• Dorie Greenspan's Creamy Cheesecake - Serious Eats
• Perfect Cheesecake - Simply Recipes
• Lemon Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust - Epicurious
• Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Cheesecake - The Food Network
(Images: Martha Stewart)