My 5 best tips for making cheesecake…

December 11, 2017

Many people feel intimidated about making cheesecake.  It’s definitely one of my favorite desserts to make (and eat)!  There are soooo many different variations and creations you can make… and let’s face it; it tastes way better than cake! (I’m not much of a cake fan at all.)

More often than not I tend to bring desserts to get-togethers because I love to bake; and I often choose to bring cheesecake.  Some of my favorites include: Triple citrus cheesecake, German chocolate cheesecake, grasshopper (mint/chocolate) cheesecake, and most recently, white chocolate peppermint cheesecake.  You can find more information on the white chocolate peppermint cheesecake below.

First, I want to share with you some tips for making cheesecake that will hopefully make the process seem a little less daunting. Please keep in mind that I do not have a culinary degree or any formal training related to baking/cooking; all of what I know, and am sharing with you is just tips that I’ve read and learned along the way from my own experiences. For any professionals reading, feel free to leave further comments with your own useful information for us to all benefit from. Thanks!

Tip #1: Follow the recipe.  Yes, some of you – you know who you are – tend to improvise or not completely adhere to the recipe.  There is a reason it says to mix things a certain way or in a certain order; if you want your cheesecake to turn out, please do as the recipe says.  A perfect example is to add the eggs in one at a time.  Which brings me to….

Tips #2:  Do not over mix the cheesecake batter, especially after adding the eggs, as most cheesecake recipes will tell you.  Normally mixing the eggs in is one of the last things you’ll be instructed to do, one at a time, and only mix just until incorporated.  Over mixing will lead to a cracked cheesecake.

Tip #3:  Most (not all) of my cheesecake recipes call for a tablespoon or two of flour; this helps with the consistency and to prevent cracking as well.

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Tip #4:  Using the water bath baking method will help achieve that perfect creamy consistency.  Make sure you thoroughly cover the outside of the spring form pan (yes, extra tip – a spring form pan is a must!) with a couple layers of foil.  I crisscross the layers and bring them up the sides to ensure it’s entirely covered; you do not want water seeping in the bottom of your pan and making your crust soggy. Ick.  Then place prepared pan full of contents in a larger baking pan; I use my large roasting pan.  Fill with hot/warm water surrounding the cheesecake until it reaches 2/3 or ¾ way up the sides of the spring form pan.  (If your recipe didn’t already call for a water bath, you may need to adjust the baking temp and/or time. You may also need to pre-bake the crust depending on what you’re using.) I typically bake in a water bath at 325* for 1 hour. Then rest in the water/oven a little longer with oven turned off to allow further cooking.  Depends on how big/thick your cheesecake is as well…. And how it looks; which leads us to …

Tip #5:  The hardest part can be determining when the cheesecake is done or when it is time to remove it from the oven, as there isn’t a simple test like inserting a toothpick. Unfortunately, with cheesecake, it needs to be removed from the oven before it looks like it is completely done; it will still have a ‘jiggly,’ unset appearance in the middle.  The outside 2-3 inches (depending on the size of your cheesecake) should be set, or more firm.  If it starts to appear like it is becoming dry or you see a small crack start to form, or any type of separation occurring – I would remove it from the heat.  It is also best to remove it from the heat gradually, for example turn off the oven and possibly even crack open the oven door. It is also best to let is cool before moving to the refrigerator.

Now for the recipe I promised to share with you:  White Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake (adapted from ‘Baked by Rachel’‘s recipe). It’s funny that I love this cheesecake, because I am not a fan of white chocolate at all and I’m not in love with peppermint either.  However, the white chocolate taste is very subtle and the combination of the chocolate crust and peppermint bark throughout the cheesecake is like a refreshing candy cane dipped in chocolate. This is the perfect dessert for the Christmas season!

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White chocolate peppermint cheesecake
(Adapted from ‘Baked by Rachel’)

First you will need to make the peppermint bark:

5 oz white chocolate
5 oz dark or milk chocolate (I used dark)
2 tsp vegetable oil (divided)
½ tsp peppermint extract (divided)
Crushed candy canes (approx. 2-3)

Place dark chocolate and 1 tsp vegetable oil in microwave safe bowl, microwave in 20 second intervals, stirring occasionally until melted. Stir in ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract. Spread on cookie sheet lined with wax paper and sprinkle with approximately half of the crushed candy canes. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Then repeat process using the white chocolate chips. Spread on top of the chocolate mixture, sprinkle with crushed candy canes again, and chill.

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For the cheesecake: Use a 10” spring form pan; prepare for water bath by covering outside with foil.
Crust:
30 chocolate sandwich cookies (not double stuffed), crushed
4 Tbsp butter or margarine, melted

Cheesecake:
4 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese (I use 1 regular and 3 reduced fat; no one ever notices)
1 ¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp heavy whipping cream
5 oz (or 2/3 cup) white chocolate
2 ¼ tsp peppermint extract
4 eggs
Dash of salt

Topping:
1/3 cup (or 5 Tbsp) white chocolate
5 oz cream cheese
2/3 cup cool whip topping
2 Tsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Directions:
Prepare the peppermint bark ahead of time (best if the day before).
Preheat oven to 350*. Use food processor to crush cookies. Combine cookie crumbs and melted butter. After preparing 10” spring form pan with foil, add cookie crumb mixture and press into pan. Bake for 10 min. Set aside.
Reduce oven temp to 325*
Chop peppermint bark into small pieces and set aside.

Mix cream cheese and sugar until creamy and smooth. Melt white chocolate in microwave or double boiler; let cool a couple minutes then mix into cream cheese mixture. Then add flour, cream, salt, and peppermint extract. Mix well. Then being careful to not over mix, add one egg at a time, beating after each addition, just until incorporated. Stir in half of the peppermint bark pieces, by hand.
Empty mixture on top of crust and then place into larger pan and prepare water bath as directed above.

Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, then turn oven off and leave in oven and water bath for another 15-20 min. Then remove and allow to cool. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

For the topping combine all ingredients, starting with white chocolate, cream cheese, and sugar; then add in the cool whip and vanilla. Mix well, until smooth. Remove outer edge of spring form pan and frost with topping. Chill for another 4 hours.
Before serving, sprinkle with bits of crushed peppermint bark, crush candy cane pieces, and top with whipped cream.
Enjoy!

Do you have questions or tips you can share with us? OR cheesecake recipe requests?  I’d love to hear them! Please leave a comment!

Good food…for the most part…

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December 4, 2017 

Well, sometimes you win some – like grand slam, out of the park – and sometimes you lose some…like big fat flop. In reference to food, we had some of both this weekend.  It had been a while since I had such a baking flop! I was so excited to make Carrot Cake Cheesecake for a special birthday this weekend, as I’ve made it in the past and its super yummy!  I put a teaser on Facebook and couldn’t wait to share a picture of the finished product with you all… but perhaps I was a little too proud of my baking abilities.  It definitely was NOT picture worthy…edible, but not picture worthy.  Honestly, it could have benefited from a few extra minutes in the over (as if 15 extra minutes wasn’t enough already).  Oh well, like I said, ya win some, ya lose some…live and learn.  Thankfully the celebration was with my family and they were all kind and said it was delicious; but I have tasted it when it was delicious and this did not measure up!  Hopefully it will be share-worthy next time I make it! 

On to the things that were share-worthy: 

Fresh sautéed pears over French toast for Sunday morning breakfast hit the spot after a quick 10 mile run.  It was a crisp, beautiful December morning at 30* and another beautiful sunrise.  They aren’t all brilliantly vibrant in color, but they are all beautiful.  The run was exactly what I needed as I felt God ‘fall fresh on me;’ needed to feel renewed and to destress.    

For the birthday celebration my hubby was firing up his new smoker that he built himself a couple months ago.  His tastiest creation so far has been this melt-in-your-mouth, super tender and moist, bursting with flavor, beer-can-chicken.  It is seriously so good- like the grand slam, out of this park good I mentioned earlier; by far the best chicken I’ve ever had.  Honestly, he doesn’t really ‘know his way around the kitchen,’ so for him to prepare two rubs and a marinate to inject into the chickens, all by himself – and have it taste this amazing, I am super impressed!  I’m going to have him share more details on his homemade smoker and beer-can-chicken recipe in the near future….stay tuned. In the meantime, this is for your viewing pleasure (and if there was only a way for you to smell the aroma that lingered around the outside of our house)… 

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I also had the pleasure of helping my little chef, Lila, create her own pasta salad side dish to go with dinner…stay tuned for more on that later in the week.  And lastly, my sister-in-law brought the tastiest oven roasted, maple glazed mixture of vegetables; they were so good everyone, including the kiddos asked for seconds! I might be able to share that recipe in the near future as well!  Lots of yummies to be on the lookout for! 

 Finally, here is the recipe for the pears we enjoyed for breakfast.  The recipe was adapted from Annie’s Eats, which is one of my favorite food blogs (she now offers more than just recipes…).  In her recipe the pears are intended for a homemade granola, which I have made before and is very satisfying as well; I would recommend it!  They would also be a great topping for waffles or in a ‘stuffed French toast,’ perhaps on pancakes as well….or even ice cream (sweet after thought)!

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Sautéed Pears 

2 Tbsp butter 

5 pears (I used bartlett)  

2-3 Tbsp honey 

1 tsp vanilla 

½ tsp cinnamon 

 Melt butter, add pears, cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until pears start to soften, edges begin to appear translucent, and juices are released.  Then stir in the honey, vanilla and cinnamon until well combined. Continue to cook a few more minutes.  Enjoy. 

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