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.
- 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.
Note the soggy crust at the bottom :(
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.