This week we have a guest post from Chef Melanie Underwood my favorite instructor at The Institute of Culinary Education. We are also giving one lucky winner an autographed copy of her new book Making Artisan Cheesecake: Expert Techniques for Classic and Creative Recipes available in stores August 15th, but you can pre-order it now!
I love desserts, especially ones that are easy, versatile, and gorgeous – and cheesecake is just that! What I love most about cheesecake is how easy it is change the recipe to make it your own. This basic New York Style from my book, Making Artisan Cheesecake is adapted from Nick Malgieri’s recipe from The Introduction to Pastry and Baking class at The Institute of Culinary Education, where I have been teaching for 19 years.
This crust I made with ground almonds, a touch of sugar and melted butter – but you can change it by using any type of ground nuts or gluten free cookie. Sugar is optional or you can increase it slightly if you like it a little sweeter and you can substitute your favorite oil for the butter. I love coconut oil, so I use that most often, as well as nut oils. The other alternative, which is beautiful, but a little more work, is to use a baked cake as the crust. Red Velvet Cake would be stunning with cheesecake topped with just blueberries.
If using this delicious red velvet cupcake recipe, divide the recipe in half and make sure to butter your 9 or 10-inch pan.
Speaking of pans, what type should you use? You can use a springform, cake or my personal favorite and what I only use at home – a push pan. I use these because I have not had any problems with leaking and they come in different shapes, which I really appreciate! A few tips for baking successful cheesecakes (i.e. smooth and no cracking tops):
- Have all ingredients really at room temperature, especially the cream cheese.
- Mix your ingredients until just combined.
- If you are using a springform pan, you will want to wrap your pan to prevent water from leaking into the crust. I like to wrap mine tightly in plastic wrap around the outside of the pan first and then in foil. Try to have the plastic and foil come almost to the top of the pan.
- Use a water bath. What’s this? Also known as a bain-marie, it helps prevent cracks and also give the cheesecake an extra creamy texture. To prepare a water bath: Place the springform pan in a large cake pan or a roasting pan (one that is around the same height or lower than your springform pan). Pour the batter over the crust and level it with a small offset spatula. Place the the roasting pan with cheesecake in the oven and pour almost boiling water into the roasting pan (it should come up halfway around the sides of the pan).
- Do not overbake. The cheesecake should still look jiggly in the center (about the size of a nickel or quarter). As the cheesecake cools, it continues cooking and will have the perfect texture.
- Loosen the edge from the pan when removed from the oven.
- Chill in the refrigerator overnight. This helps the cheesecake set completely. If you try to unmold a cheesecake from the pan that isn’t fully chilled, the cheesecake can collapse.
- Use a hot knife to slice cheesecake for the most beautiful slices. I always cut any cake by cutting it in quarters first and then further dividing, depending on how many slices I want.
- I only keep cheesecake in the refrigerator for a maximum of three days, wrapped loosely in plastic wrap. Any longer and the crust becomes soggy. Most people don’t have this problem as the cheesecake is gone after a day – at least in my house. If you do need to keep it longer, I recommend wrapping it in plastic wrap and freezing for up to 2 months.
- 2 cups (190 g) finely ground almonds or other nut
- 2 tablespoons (26 g) granulated or brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons (42 g) unsalted butter, melted or coconut oil
- 1 pound (460 g) cream cheese
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- 2 cups (460 g) sour cream
- 4 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF ℉ (180ºC℃, or gas mark 4).
- In a medium bowl, combine the ground cookies or nuts and sugar. Add in the butter and stir with a rubber spatula to combine, making sure all the butter is absorbed and the crumbs or nuts are evenly coated.
- Place the mixture in a 10-inch (25 cm) springform pan. Using the palm of your hand or the bottom of a glass, press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the pan.
- Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, or until slightly firm, toasted to a golden brown and have a nutty aroma. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely, about 10 minutes.
- Lower the oven temperature to 325ºF℉ (170 ºC℃, or gas mark 43).
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese on low speed until softened, scraping down the sides of the bowl, underneath the paddle, and the paddle frequently with a rubber spatula, about 2 minutes. Add in the sugar and continue mixing on low and scraping down the sides, bottom, and paddle until there are no visible lumps. Add in the sour cream and mix just until combined. Add in the eggs, one at a time, and mix just until combined, about 10 seconds after each egg. Stir in the vanilla extract.
- Prepare the springform pan for a water bath. Pour the batter over the cooled crust and spread it evenly with a small offset spatula. Set the springform pan in a roasting pan and prepare the water bath. Bake for about 1 hour, or until the cheesecake is firm around the edges but the center (about the size of a quarter) is still jiggly.
- Remove the roasting pan from the oven, and then remove the cheesecake from the water bath and the foil from the sides of the springform pan. Gently run a small sharp knife or spatula around the edges of the pan.
- Allow to cool at room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 8 hours to set completely. Gently run a small sharp knife or spatula around the edges of the pan, release the latch on the pan, and lift the ring straight up. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
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Making Artisan Cheesecake: Expert Techniques for Classic and Creative Recipes is available in stores August 15th, but you can pre-order it now!
Making Artisan Cheesecake: Expert Techniques for Classic and Creative RecipesThe first 200 people who pre-order and send in their proof of purchase will receive a mini e-book with bonus recipes! In addition to the e-book, everyone will be entered to win a one-on-one Skype with Chef Melanie. She will answer all your baking questions and even help you develop your own cheesecake recipe! To receive your e-book and be entered to win the one-on-one Skype please email proof of purchase of the book (a photo of the receipt or forward your email receipt) to MakingArtisanCheesecake@hotmail.com
For more information please visit www.Melanieunderwood.com
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