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story.lead_photo.caption Golden Girls Cheesecake - Photo by Mitchell PE Masilun

When most of us think of cheesecake, New York style with its dense creamy texture comes to mind. But there's a whole world of cheesecakes: German and Polish cheesecakes made with quark, gravity-defying Japanese cheesecake, Brooklyn-style cheesecake with a sponge cake crust, Italian cheesecakes made with ricotta cheese, country cheesecakes with the tang of buttermilk ... the list goes on.

CHEESECAKE TIPS

■ Have all ingredients at room temperature. Placing eggs in a bowl of warm water will speed the process. Let cream cheese stand on the counter for at least an hour. The entire block needs to be room temperature, not just the surface.

■ Beat the cream cheese and sugar until completely smooth before adding the eggs and other ingredients.

■ Add the eggs one at a time. Avoid overmixing the batter after adding the eggs.

■ Fully heat the oven before baking; most ovens require 15 to 30 minutes to heat.

■ Baking the cheesecake in a water bath — place the cheesecake pan in a large roasting pan and add enough hot water to the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan — will help the cake cook more evenly and can reduce cracks, however, not all recipes call for it.

■ Cracks are a simple fact of cheesecake. Most often cracks are the result of overbaking. To reduce the likelihood of cracks, err on the side of underbaking rather than overbaking. The cheesecake should have a slight jiggle in the center when it comes out of the oven.

■ Swirled or marbled cheesecakes are more likely to crack because of the differing consistency of ingredients.

■ Adding a couple of tablespoons of starch such as all-purpose flour or cornstarch can help reduce cracks. However, cheesecake with starch added will be firmer and not as creamy.

■ If you find cracks unappealing, hide them with whipped cream, fruit, sauce or other toppings.

■ For lusciously tangy cheesecake, substitute some or most of the cream cheese with goat cheese.

■ Cheesecakes can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator to serve a whole cake, or cut and serve individual slices from the freezer. Let the cut slices thaw slightly, about 15 minutes, before serving.

White Chocolate-Blackberry Cheesecake is made using our basic cheesecake formula flavored with four ounces of melted white chocolate and a swirl of blackberry jam. Photo by Mitchell Pe Masilun
White Chocolate-Blackberry Cheesecake is made using our basic cheesecake formula flavored with four ounces of melted white chocolate and a swirl of blackberry jam. Photo by Mitchell Pe Masilun

CREATE YOUR OWN CHEESECAKE

Our basic cheesecake formula is 1 egg, up to ¼ cup sour cream or heavy cream, and ¼ cup sugar per ½ pound of cream cheese.

For a plain 9-inch cheesecake beat 1 ½ pounds of cream cheese with ¾ cup sugar and a pinch of salt for 3 minutes or until smooth and creamy; add 3 eggs, one at a time, mixing until incorporated between each addition; stir in up to ¾ cup sour cream, 1 to 2 teaspoons lemon juice and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. To vary the flavor, stir or swirl up to 1 cup fruit jam or puree such as blackberry, strawberry, apricot and/or up to 12 ounces of melted and cooled chocolate into the batter. Pour into a springform pan lined with crust of your choice; place pan in a water bath and bake in a 350-degree oven for 40 to 60 minutes or until edges are set and center is jiggly.

CRUSTS

Cheesecake crusts are optional, but most recipes include a crumb crust. For cookie crumb crusts use 1 ½ to 2 cups cookie crumbs and 4 to 5 tablespoons of melted butter. Approximately 18 creme-filled sandwich cookies whirled in a food processor equals about 1 ½ cups crumbs. Depending on which brand you use, 10 to 14 whole (full sheets) graham crackers equals about 1 ½ cups crumbs. No additional sugar is necessary if using cookie crumbs. Add 2 to 4 tablespoons sugar for cracker crusts, if desired. For added flavor, substitute up to half of the cookie or cracker crumbs with ground nuts. A pinch or two of cinnamon or cardamom is a nice addition for plain cookie or graham cracker crusts. Chocolate crusts will benefit from a pinch of espresso powder, cinnamon or even cayenne pepper.

Mix the crumbs, melted butter, sugar and spices together, then press into the bottom of a pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes, or freeze crust until firm.

We made the following recipes using 10-cup capacity, 9-inch springform pans with 3-inch sides. Slightly larger or smaller pans can be used, but the baking times will vary.

George Geary, author of The Cheesecake Bible, was a baker in Hollywood during the 1980s. This is an adaptation of the cheesecake Geary made for the Friday-night tapings of the sitcom The Golden Girls.

Golden Girls Cheesecake

Crust:

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs

2 tablespoons brown sugar, optional

4 tablespoons butter, melted

Filling:

1 ½ pounds cream cheese, at room temperature

¾ cup PLUS 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

3 eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (I used a Microplane rasp-style grater)

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping:

¾ cup sour cream

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees. If desired, line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar (if using) and melted butter until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press crumb mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Freeze until firm. Or bake 8 minutes. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth and creamy, scraping paddle and sides of bowl with a rubber spatula occasionally. With the mixer running on medium-low, gradually add the sugar. Once all of the sugar has been added, beat 3 minutes on medium-high. Reduce speed to low and add the eggs, one at a time, mixing just until incorporated between each addition. Stir in lemon zest, juice and vanilla.

Pour batter over the prepared crust, smoothing with a rubber spatula. Bake on center rack for 45 minutes or until edges are beginning to brown and center is jiggly. Remove cake from oven. Leave oven on. Let cake cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. The center will sink slightly.

In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, sugar, lemon zest and juice and the vanilla. Pour over center of cheesecake, using a rubber spatula to spread the topping to within ¾ inch of the edges. Return pan to oven and bake 5 minutes more.

Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 2 hours or until completely cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving.

Make 10 to 12 servings.

Recipe adapted from The Cheesecake Bible, second edition by George Geary

Dulce de Leche Buttermilk Cheesecake

¼ cup butter

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs

1 ½ pounds cream cheese, at room temperature

½ cup sugar

3 eggs, at room temperature

¼ cup buttermilk

1 (14-ounce) can dulce de leche OR 1 ¼ cups homemade dulce de leche, divided use

⅛ to ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

To make the crust: Melt the butter and combine it with the graham cracker crumbs. Press the crumbs into the bottom of a 9- or 10-inch springform pan, shaping the crumbs up and around the sides of the pan to create a crust. Wrap bottom of pan in foil or use a silicone cheesecake wrap. Set the pan in a large roasting pan.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the filling: Use a mixer to whip the cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl for 5 minutes, or until fluffy. Add the eggs, buttermilk, half of the dulce de leche and the cinnamon; mix lightly until just blended. Be careful not to overmix.

Pour the filling into the crust. Pour hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Transfer the roasting pan to the oven and bake the cake for 1 hour or until just set. Cool completely at room temperature. Spread remaining dulce de leche over top. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 6 hours, before serving.

Recipe adapted from The Animal Farm Cookbook by Diane St. Clair

Cherry Swirl Cheesecake is a variation of Citrus Swirl Cheesecake. Photo by Mitchell Pe Masilun
Cherry Swirl Cheesecake is a variation of Citrus Swirl Cheesecake. Photo by Mitchell Pe Masilun

Citrus Swirl Cheesecake

1 ½ to 1 ¾ cups lemon cookie crumbs

4 tablespoons melted butter

1 ½ pounds cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

3 eggs, at room temperature

¾ cup sour cream

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 to 1 ½ cups Orange Curd (recipe follows)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Have ready a kettle of boiling water. If desired, line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Wrap the bottom of the pan in foil or use a silicone cheesecake wrap.

In a medium bowl, stir together the cookie crumbs and melted butter until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press crumb mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Freeze until firm. Or bake 8 minutes. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth and creamy, scraping paddle and sides of bowl with a rubber spatula occasionally. With the mixer running on medium-low, gradually add the sugar. Once all of the sugar has been added, beat 3 minutes on medium-high. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing just until incorporated between each addition. Add the sour cream, lemon zest and vanilla extract. Scrape down sides of bowl and mix again to incorporate.

Place the foil-wrapped pan in a large roasting pan. Carefully spoon ⅔ of the batter over the crust. Spoon ⅔ of the orange curd over the batter and spread evenly. Cover the curd with the remaining batter and drizzle the remaining curd over the top of the filling. Using the tip of a butter knife, swirl curd into filling to create a marble effect. Pour the boiling-hot water into the roasting pan, adding enough water to come halfway up the sides of the baking pan. Carefully transfer roasting pan to oven.

Bake 45 to 55 minutes or until edges are puffy and the center is jiggly. Remove roasting pan from oven and let the cheesecake cool in a water bath until the water cools to room temperature, about 45 minutes. Remove pan from water bath and cool completely on a wire rack. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Recipe loosely based on a recipe in Marbled, Swirled and Layered by Irvin Lin

Variation Cherry Swirl Cheesecake, substitute 4 ounces of the cream cheese with fresh goat cheese. Substitute cherry curd for the orange curd. Use a chocolate or almond cookie crust.

Most curds are made with citrus fruits such as lemons, but berries and cherries make delicious curds, too.

Fruit Curd

1 cup freshly squeezed citrus juice such as grapefruit, orange or lemon OR 1 cup juice from freshly pureed and strained berries or cherries (see note)

Finely grated zest from 1 citrus fruit such as grapefruit, orange, mandarin, lemon or lime

4 tablespoons butter, softened

¼ to ½ cup granulated sugar, depending on sweetness of fruit

1 egg PLUS 2 egg yolks

Pinch of salt

In a small saucepan, bring the juice to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat and simmer until juice is reduced to about ¾ cup.

Transfer the juice to a measuring cup to cool, and stir in the zest.

In a large glass or stainless-steel bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the egg and yolks, one at a time, beating on low speed until well combined. Increase speed to medium and beat 1 minute. Beating on low speed, drizzle in the cooled juice. The mixture will look curdled, but don't worry, this is OK.

Add enough water to a medium saucepan to fill by 1 inch. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a bare simmer. Place the bowl with the juice mixture over the simmering water. Whisking constantly, cook mixture until it is smooth and thick, 15 to 30 minutes. The mixture is ready when it is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon and running your finger through it leaves a trail.

Cover the curd with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic to the surface of the curd and refrigerate until well chilled. Use within one week or freeze for up to two months.

Note: If making curd with noncitrus fruit, add 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Makes about 1 ½ cups.

Japanese-Style Cheesecake Photo by Kelly Brant
Japanese-Style Cheesecake Photo by Kelly Brant

This gravity-defying cheesecake is less sweet than most. Unlike American-style cheesecake, it is best served warm.

Japanese-Style Cheesecake

10 ounces cream cheese, cut into cubes

½ cup whole milk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

7 large eggs, separated

Juice of ½ lemon

⅔ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup cornstarch

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

Kosher salt

1 cup granulated sugar

Confectioners' sugar, for decorating

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment. Place a 3 ½-inch-wide strip of parchment around the inside of the pan so that it comes up about 1 inch higher than the edge; set aside.

Heat the cream cheese, milk and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.

Whisk together the vanilla, egg yolks and lemon juice in a large bowl until smooth. Pour the cooled milk mixture into the yolk mixture and whisk until smooth and combined. Whisk in the flour and cornstarch until combined; set aside.

Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and ½ teaspoon salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the granulated sugar and continue beating on medium speed until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes longer.

Gently fold the egg white mixture into the yolk mixture in 3 batches, making sure not to overmix (you want the whites to stay as fluffy as possible). As soon as the white streaks disappear from the batter, pour it into the prepared pan.

Place the cake pan inside of a larger pan and pour enough hot water into the larger pan so that it comes 1 inch up the sides of the cake pan. Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce the oven to 250 degrees degrees and continue baking until the cake has doubled in size, is golden brown on top and around the edges and jiggly in the center but set, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Let the cake cool for 10 minutes. Remove sides of springform pan and place cake (and pan bottom) on a platter. Remove parchment ring. Sprinkle the entire top with confectioners' sugar and serve warm.

Recipe adapted from Food Network

Food on 01/23/2019

Print Headline: Say cheese (CAKE)!

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