What Is Cheesecake?

The dessert that everyone wishes they could eat every day

What Is... Cheesecake?
flickr/devin.berg

According to Barbara Ann Kipfer's The Culinarian: A Kitchen Desk Reference, "Cheesecake is a dessert consisting of a layer of sweetened soft cheese (cream cheese, Neufchâtel, cottage cheese, and ricotta) mixed with cream, sugar, eggs, and flavorings and set in a cracker-crumb or pastry base." While that may be a fairly accurate definition, it doesn't capture the passion that a great many people feel for this veritable dessert. Why, it's as American as apple pie. (Besides, whoever heard of a cheesecake made with Neufchâtel?)

Indeed, cheesecake is in the collective consciousness of eaters everywhere in America. Heck, there's even a huge restaurant franchise that sprung out of making this calorie-laden dessert. Just how many calories are in Cheesecake Factory's cheesecakes? Take one three-quarter-pound slice of their Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake and you're in for a button-busting 1,540 calories. That's right. And 59 grams of saturated fat. That's like two slices of cake in one. (Photo courtesy of flickr/manu contreras)

Click here to see the Ricotta Cheesecake with Berries and Lavender Recipe.

But who cares? If it makes you feel good, eat it right? Now, if you've made up your mind to have some rich, creamy goodness, you might as well do it right. Here are some things to keep in mind as you're creating your masterpiece.

Use a springform pan. This will make life a lot easier. A springform pan is a round metal pan with straight sides held together by a spring-loaded latch and a removable bottom. Line the sides with parchment paper and coat lightly with oil to make cake removal a snap. When you're ready to remove the cake, just pop the latch and remove the paper. Tada!

Take the chill out of the ingredients when making cheesecake. This is especially true for cream cheese, which becomes more workable as it reaches room temperature. So make sure to leave the ingredients out for about 30 minutes before starting. If you're in a bit of a hurry, you can go ahead and put the block of cream cheese in the microwave for about 15 seconds (unwrapped, of course) per eight ounces. (Photo courtesy of flickr/Back to the Cutting Board)

If you want a creamier consistency for the cheesecake, place a water bath in the oven — this will create steam and keep the cake moist. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean; however, the cake should also still jiggle slightly when moved. Resist the urge to dig in right away; the cheesecake should rest for about half an hour before unmolding, and then cool in the refrigerator for a few hours until solid.

When serving cheesecake, take it out of the refrigerator until it reaches room temperature. Use a long slicing knife dipped in hot water to keep the knife from sticking as you slice. Slice with long, smooth strokes. Finally, enjoy! And don't eat it all by yourself.


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