Tuesday, December 23, 2008

{TWD} Tall and Creamy Cheesecake: the bain(marie) of my existence

Historically, my dealings with bain-marie, or water bath, cookery have not been happy ones. I knew that it would only be a matter of time until TWD brought me face to face with this watery technique. We successfully dodged the bain-marie bullet when making Crème Brûlée, but with the Tall and Creamy Cheesecake, the Water Bath Powers-That-Be had me directly in their crosshairs. With an inherently leaky pan (removable bottom), no less.

But I was optimistically buoyed by my recent success with another longtime nemesis (yeast), so I cleaned my freezer to make sufficient room for this fabulous cheesecake that I planned to freeze whole and pull out with a flourish for a big finish to a big dinner over the holidays.

Because this was my very first cheesecake, and because I was going to have to freeze it right away, I decided to stay with a mostly plain and simple cheesecake. I wanted to be able to taste the basic recipe before I branched out flavor-wise on future cheesecakes.

I was, however, captivated by the idea of using a gingersnap crust. Then I happened to read in Cook's Illustrated that "no matter the brand or the amount of butter and sugar I added - and despite prebaking - [ginger snaps] refused to form a crust that retained its crispness." Well. I certainly didn't want to start my first adventure in cheesecake-making with a recalcitrant crust, so I adopted CI's suggestion to add ground ginger, ground cinnamon and ground cloves to a basic graham cracker crust. The result was a very lightly spiced crust, which I decided to pair with just a touch of lemon in the plain filling, because lemon goes so well with gingersnaps and gingerbread.

cook's notes:

- My 9" springform pans are not deep. I do have an 8" springform with deep sides. I checked the cylinder-volume calculator and realized that my pan would be perfect for a 3/4 scaled recipe. This 3/4 conversion for this recipe is easy: 3 bricks cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, 3/8 tsp salt, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla, 3 large eggs, 1 cup heavy cream/sour cream (I used half cup of each).

- I added 1 1/4 tsp fresh lemon juice. I wanted to hint at lemon, just as the crust hinted at gingersnap.

- I used 4 oz Philadelphia regular, 8 oz Philadelphia 1/3 reduced fat, 12 oz Fresh Market cream cheese. The Fresh Market cheese was not as white nor as creamy as either of the Philadelphia varieties. After buying the cream cheese, I read in Cook's Illustrated that their testing of 5 different cream cheeses left Philadelphia Original as the clear leader for eating and cheesecake. I can see why.

-My advice: read the directions before you start making the recipe. Read the directions again. Read the directions as many times as it takes for you to realize that you should be boiling the water for the water bath while you are beating the filling for 10+ minutes. Otherwise you will have to wait for the water to boil while everything is otherwise ready to go. And it might be late at night (with lots more time required to bake, rest, cool, etc.)

- [Edit: I wrapped my pan in a double layer of heavy duty aluminum foil]

- I baked my (smaller than Dorie's) cheesecake 1 hr 15 min, then left it for 1 hour in its water bath in the oven.

- Although the bain-marie is meant to prevent cracks in the surface of a cheesecake, mine developed a significant fissure.

- When I removed the pan from the bath, I found there was water inside each of the foil layers. Uh oh. That didn't look good. I don't have any idea how I could have prevented that.

- When I un-molded the cake, sure enough there was a band of soggy crust at the bottom. My grand plans of freezing a whole cheesecake went out the window. So I decided to cut, photograph, and taste the thing.


Maybe that "v" in the foil over on the right is where the water got in? But the water level was below that (see how the lower part of the foil is darker?) There weren't any holes in the foil.
- Once I cut into it, I found that the seepage was more or less confined to a ring around the bottom outside edge. I knocked that edge off all the way around, saved a few pieces for tasting, and froze the rest. I didn't have a great strategy for freezing it, however, and it kind of broke up as I removed it from the bottom of the springform pan. I'm pretty sure it will end up being served in bowls and consumed with spoons.


Note the soggy crust at the bottom :(
the verdict:

The cheesecake was tall, creamy, and delicious. My, oh my, it was good! The pictures make it look crumbly and dry but it wasn't (I think that was my shoddy cutting-with-warm-knife technique) It wasn't dense; rather, very smooth and even a bit on the fluffy side. I loved the taste hints of gingersnap and lemon. My husband was wild over this.

Overall, it was frustrating to be so careful (I thought) and still manage to ruin the finished product. I'm not sure I will make another cheesecake - at least until the next one comes up as a Tuesdays With Dorie choice.

Bains-marie = the bane of my existence!



The Tall and Creamy Cheesecake was chosen by Anne of AnneStrawberry. You can find the recipe on pages 235-237 of of Dorie Greenspan's book Baking From My Home to Yours. The recipe will also be in Anne's post on December 30. I have no doubt that most of the Tuesdays With Dorie bakers hit this one out of the park. To see some amazing flavor combinations and otherwise delicious, un-soggy cheesecakes, as well as some more holiday goodies, head over to the TWD blogroll and see what they're all baking up.

32 comments:

Cristine said...

Bummer that the water leaked into your cheesecake! But at least you were able to salvage it! It looks yummy!!!

Cathy said...

Nancy, your post comes at the perfect time, because I am making this today! Your cheesecake looks perfect. I would never, ever guess by looking at the pictures that it gave you any trouble. I am sure that this will be just great eaten from a bowl with spoons (much more fun than the traditional plate/fork method). I like your modifications to the crust and your addition of a little lemon to the cheesecake. Oh, I am so excited to make this, but really trying not to get my hopes up too much because my chances of failure are so high.

Merry Christmas to you and your family! I've thoroughly enjoyed your blog this year!

Di said...

Well, your cheesecake still looks good, even if it got a bit soggy! You can always turn it into cheesecake pops. =) (Daring Bakers April 2008) Did you use regular foil or heavy duty? I've had few problems with water leaking when I use the heavy duty foil.

Prudy said...

Thanks so much for the tip-I'm skipping the water bath. Why risk it? Not that yours looks like a cautionary tale-it looks like a recipe for success. I want cheesecake now, but I also want your daughter's scones. I hope your trip was a ton of fun, but of course it was! Merry Christmas!

Natashya said...

I think that's why they put the cherries on the cheesecakes - to hide the cracks!
It looks awesome, good call on the lemon, my favourite.
Where is this cylinder converter?

n.o.e said...

Hi Natashya, I've added the link to the volume calculator to my main post, but here's the cite:
http://referencedesigner.com/calc/cal_07.php

I use online calculators all the time for adjusting recipe sizes and pan sizes.
Nancy

spike. said...

The spicy crust sounds delish. I really loved this recipe-I'm posting about it next week. Have a great Christmas

leanne said...

I cannot wait to make this! It looks wonderful. I will have to watch the water bath...

Jules Someone said...

Sorry the crust was a little soggy. Good for you for trying something new!

LyB said...

I am so nervous about making this cheesecake! Yours looks delicious, though, soggy crust or not. :)

Carol Peterman said...

That is a gorgeous cheesecake! I made this last week for a dinner party and was blown away at how fantastic it was. My trick to avoiding a soggy crust is to invest in an extra wide roll of foil so you don't have a seam. I have a "no-leak" pan, but it leaks. The only way I have ever managed a dry crust in a water bath is to use the really big foil so there is no place for the water to seep in. I keep the large foil just for this purpose. It is a bit awkward to store, but worth it for a perfectly baked cheesecake with a crisp dry crust.

Katrina said...

My cheesecake is in the oven. I didn't do the water bath, as I just don't like those either. I read on the P&Q that some didn't either and their cheesecake was fine. I won't mind if it has cracks, especially since you did the water bath and say you still have cracks. Although, your pictures look great. Can't wait to taste this--tomorrow night.
I skipped the pudding TWD today.
Hey, I'm having a giveaway on my blog, check it out.
Happy Holidays!

The Food Librarian said...

This looks beautiful!!! Thanks for all the helpful hints too. Happy Holidays to you and your family!!! - mary the food librarian

Mary Ann said...

Your cheesecake looks really good. I am planning on making mine tomorrow and serving it with Christmas dinner. Sorry about the slightly soggy crust, but the spices sound wonderful!

Geri said...

Too bad about the water, but it still looks good. I like the lemon and the height.

Megan said...

The water seepage has happened to me several times - and I hate it when that happens!

It still looks great and as long as it tasted good consider it a success!

Happy Holidays!

Steph said...

Nancy, it looks nice and tall. I wasn't going to make this today, but after seeing your post I just took out 2 blocks of cream cheese from the freezer. Hopefully I can get it defrosted, made and chilled for tonight (hopefully!).

I find that lining the inside of the pan works really well so that the foil is snapped around the pan making it tighter. Then pull up the overhang foil so that water doesn't leak in. I actually read the CI article about the gingersnaps too. I was planning on making their pumpkin cheesecake as a variation, but I don't think my family is ready for pumpkin yet. Seriously.. how can they?! Pumpkin is amazing! Happy holidays!!

Peggy said...

Nancy - welcome back! I've missed you so much. I'm going to be making a cheesecake today as well. Yours looks really tall and wonderful. I'm going to use Ellie Krieger's and make a fresh raspberry one. Hope your trip was wonderful and Merry Christmas to you!

Marie said...

I think your cheesecake looks absolutely wonderful!! Nobody would have ever guessed from your photos that anything was wrong with it. I can't wait to make it myself! Merry Christmas!

Amanda said...

Here's wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas!

Judy said...

Your cheesecake turned out beautifully despite the leakage. I used two layers of heavy duty foil, criss-crossed and folded up the sides and had no leakage problems. I've done quite a few cheesecakes with water baths and have never had any issues. I don't mind the cracks because there are so many different kinds of cheesecake fillings and no two behave the same. This one was really, really delicious!

Pamela said...

That cheesecake looks stunning. I've never done the water bath thing, and I'm a little nervous to read of the little leak you had. But now I've gotten some good ideas on how to prevent that, thanks to those who commented on here! Great job. Can't wait to try it!

Lisa magicsprinkles said...

Cheesecake aside, I'm wishing you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas!

Mara said...

I love your cheesecake..! I did a 7" deep springform and I might have had a little leakage, but it was not bad at all. It was soo yummy!! I love your detailed rundown.

Marthe said...

Well, despite the leakage your cheesecake still looks great!! Didn't it taste amazing?

I made mine without a water bath and it turned out perfect!!

Leslie said...

Talk about snatching victory from the jaws of defeat! I'm glad it turned out to be delicious with all that you went through. You may want to try this again with larger sheets of the heavy duty foil, so they extend beyond the rim of the pan (just fold them down a little). The water can boil or simmer in the water bath, and that can make it seep into the layers of foil.

Carla said...

My crust was soggy too. I'm not sure if my foil leaked or I just had bad luck. I didn't have the cracking problem though. Great cheesecake for your first time!

TeaLady said...

I always put my water bath on the shelf below the cheesecake. Always works fine for me. I made minis cause one big one is just too much at once. And you can freeze the extra cakes. Yours look wonderful. Gingersnaps would make a great crust.

Piggy said...

I think your cheesecake looks perfect, especially the top which looks so smooth. I agree with you about reading the recipe many times before we start, well, I didn't and ended up going to bed at 3am because I started baking only at 11.30pm!

Jess said...

Your cheesecake looks beautiful! As do so many of the other recipes on your blog. I'm trying this with the water bath next time, and I'll be extra prepared now!

AmyRuth said...

Yep those darn water baths can be tricky. Would never have guessed you to have the trials and tribulations with your cheesecake. It looks fantastic!!! So glad you thought it was good. I know you'll be bach! hehe As Carole Peterman suggested using the wide heavy duty - 2 sheet just cradle your pan, sort of, and you really don't have to fill up with water half way at all. Just a little under that should be fine. At least that has been my experience. You're a pro. You'll be fine. Either way, its a great recipe for a great cook/baker!
Happy 2009 AmyRuth

Anonymous said...

I had problems with a soggy base too. I used extra wide foil - two layers with no seams. There is no way the water leaked through the foil or boiled over the top. The only thing I can think happened is that condensation from steam caused the problem. And, if so, I don't see how to stop that.

Joanne