Sunday, 1 July 2012

The Essence of Cheesecake

Cheesecake makes me slightly nervous, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

I've always been a bit suspicious of it, purely because of the whole 'cheese...cake' thing. Even from the time before I knew it was actually made of cheese.

Don't laugh like that, I'm sure everyone used to think the same way. Just like with carrot cake. "It can't possibly be a cake made of carrot, can it? No, no, it must be a silly name that doesn't make sense, like angel cake that isn't made of angels."

Anyway, even before that I was suspicious because I wasn't completely sure. And since I learnt that it really was made of cheese I just became even more doubtful. I'll be honest, I've only eaten cheesecake once or twice in my life. And even after I'd tried it I was a bit doubtful.

But I decided to make it, because as they say, you should always know your enemy, and maybe they'll become your friend. Or... something.

It's important to note here that I'm talking about baked cheesecake. Several people asked if I would make unbaked cheesecake when they heard about it. The trouble is, because unbaked cheesecake is (surprise surprise) not baked, it's not really something you can describe rationally. There isn't any kind of minimum amount of egg you need to get the texture right, or precise ratio of flour to liquid to make sure it sets. You just bung some cheese and sugar and whatever else tastes nice together, and put it on a biscuit base.

So, no, is the short answer. Baked cheesecake only for the foreseeable future.

I distilled a ratio as usual, and it's got quite a few elements, but I decided they were all necessary. I'll include some example quantities if it makes you feel better.

6 Biscuit : 3 Butter : 24 Cream Cheese : 6 Sugar : 1 Flour : 6 Egg : 3 Cream

Whoah. So long it only just fits on one line. Still, it's not too complicated to make. In fact it's super-duper easy.

  • Quantities first. For mine, which made a flattish cake in a 9-inch or so pan, I used the following:
    • 150g Digestive Biscuits
    • 75g Butter
    • 600g Cream Cheese
    • 150g Sugar
    • 25g Plain Flour
    • 150g Egg (3 Eggs)
    • 75g Cream
  • Start by crushing up the biscuits. The easiest way is to put them in a big freezer bag and then bash them up with a rolling pin (very therapeutic).
  • Melt the butter and mix it together with the crushed biscuits. Then spread it into the base of the tin and press it down as much as possible. Remember to grease/line the tin first.
  • Put the tin in the fridge while you make the rest of the mixture. It's not essential but it helps the butter in the base to firm up before you pour on the mixture.
  • The next step is to just mix all the other ingredients together. The order is really optional as long as they end up mixed by the time you're done. I first mixed the cheese and the sugar, then added the flour, then the eggs one at a time and then the cream last.
  • Pour the mixture into the tin over the biscuit base.
  • Now bake it. For once, I'm breaking my golden 180C rule. Cheesecake needs to be cooked at a much lower temperature to stop it from burning and to keep the texture soft and creamy. Bake it at about 150C. It takes quite a long time. Mine was between 1 1/2 and 2 hours. It can be difficult to tell when it's done if you've never made it before (like I hadn't). Looking at the top of the cake is a good way - check the colour. It should be a bit golden brown, but not too dark and definitely not crispy. Another technique is to jiggle the tin a bit and check the texture. You want a little bit of wobble in the middle, but it shouldn't be slopping around or looking like it's actually liquid.

When it's done, make sure you let it cool completely before you eat it. The top will sink a lot once it's out of the oven, because it will puff up hugely while it's in there, but don't panic.

I did of course taste my finished cheesecake. It got some pretty good reviews from family members. But I'm afraid I have to tell you that I just don't get it. It's just a dense and creamy cake, which sort of tastes like cheese. Am I missing something?

1 comment:

  1. yes, you are! add some lemon juice and vanilla, and taste the difference. i also loke to replace the cream with sour cream.