Cheesecake has never been a favorite of mine. It’s a rich, creamy dessert that so often is just too much to each after a heavy meal. I know for many people it’s the be all end all of dessert. I’ve found it’s either that or key lime pie. For me, it’s anything chocolate. Leaving my preference to the side, I think it’s a great party dessert. It’s a sweet that you can slice into minuscule slivers so everyone gets just a taste. It’s a crowd pleaser. It’s also a way to serve a gluten free dessert that doesn’t require making pastry crust. Crumbled up cookies (even gluten free ones) are the perfect answer to a graham cracker crust.
For our Christmas dinner buffet this past year, I decided cheesecake would be the perfect dessert. Well, perfect for everyone else. However, I had never before endeavored to bake a cheesecake. So the great cheesecake bake off started in mid-december or you could call it the great cheesecake battle. Me against the cheesecake, per se. I tried two different recipes, one being a more a sour cream cheese cake and the other being a classic New York style cream cheese cheesecake. Needless to say at least in the taste comparison the New York one won the battle hands down.
My next challenge was getting the cheesecake not to crack. Well, I found that I needed Philadelphia cream cheese-no stand ins or impostors would work. Also, letting all the ingredients warm to room temperature was a must. A warming draw preheated and turned off is very helpful for hurrying along this task. Cream cheese, sour cream, and eggs all need to be unchilled. Finally, I had have faith in the cheesecake. Timing is utterly important in such a dessert. Some will add in a bit of flour as a stabilizer- I think of this as cheating. Time, temperature, and letting the air bubbles release all played a part in the perfect cheesecake. It really is a testy dessert. No wonder I had to make five of them before I had a dessert I was willing to serve on Christmas. Needless to say, our friends were quite thrilled to eat the discarded attempts. The one below got a little too toasty brown but it was close to perfect with no cracks to be found.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my holiday cheesecake battle as a dear friend of ours requested a cheesecake for her birthday. Another attempt? But I’m rusty after six months of not baking one! Well, I dusted off the springform pans this past weekend and gave it another go. I kept in mind all those details that made that December cheesecake come out so well, but this time I made it chocolate. The result was gorgeous. I’m looking forward to digging into it soon. Yes, I’ll wait for the birthday girl but if she doesn’t take her bite quickly enough I might just get the first taste.
Oh by the way, the recipe that we all decided was delicious? Cook’s Illustrated of course.