Updated: Feb 16, 2019
Good cheesecake is to die for. Creamy but light, soft and airy, tangy but not too crumbly, smooth but not gummy, velvety rather than gritty. Few simple ingredients if mixed together well - indulgence guaranteed. On the other hand, it’s so easy to mess it up. In a search of the perfect recipe I have baked and eaten a lot of semi-satisfying cheesecakes. Hence, I am so eager to share with you this recipe which I believe hits all the right spots. If you watched Friend’s Cheesecake episode you know for what reaction I am going for. Literally - it will disappear that quick!
Every time I am trying US cheesecake recipe I am dreading the reference to spreadable white soft cheese. As Sparks writes in her book Bravetart (2017): “When the New York State inspector dropped by Philadelphia’s factory in November 1883 he found the milk is skimmed and is run into the emulsifier, where it is mixed with lard. The inspector deemed the milk too sour for routine analysis and declared the entire facility a loss. Whether the crackdown led Philly’s owner to reform his lardy ways, or whether consumers simply couldn’t resist the clever brand, Philadelphia cream cheese came to dominate the industry”. That was and in many cases still is the filling of American cheesecakes which gives heavy and gummy flavour.
Sadly, most of cheesecakes you get which are claiming to be NY style cheesecakes are far from the famous original.
As Park’s notes, the famous NY style cheesecake comes from recipes like the one published in the New York Times as ‘A Good Cheesecake’. The early XX century NYT Cheesecake recipe in terms of ratios is very similar to ratios used in Eastern European Cheesecakes (maybe Jewish connection?) and calls for good quality, full fat cream cheese (no lard or skimmed milk!). Then in late 20s came Jewish New Yorker Reuben which using Break-stone’s brand cream cheese (cottage/lardy cheese was used elsewhere) put the recipe out there into boozing NY deli scene. Once picked up by New Yorkers the baking treat made it’s name appearing in movies, shows, songs making it what it is now - the American classic.
I knew that there must be something better out there and not expecting too much I have tried Park’s recipe which is inspired by old-fashioned NYT recipe. The result is exactly spot on: light, creamy, soft and airy, tangy, smooth and velvety slice of heaven. I have taken my old Polish cheesecake ratios and overlay Park's technique. What Park’s gave me in terms of technique was: a) recommending to boil double cream before pouring it hot into the soft cheese (to close air bubbles - main reason cheesecakes deflate) b) baking it a’la soufflé. In the recipe posted in blog I am using Park’s technique and Eastern European ratios - the combination is fantastic.
Few good quality ingredients and you are good to go. Don’t be put off by pompous soufflé-like baking connection. It’s nothing else than baking in high temperature, removing steam and then baking in low temperature with slow cooling after cheesecake is baked.
As a result you will get light, soft and airy cheesecake. It grows beautifully and does not deflate like classical soufflé going wrong :) It puffs up and leaves beautiful, rustic looking skin on top. It tastes scrumptious straight from the oven or cooled.
It’s RUSTIC, rough and ready piece of indulgence.
Yield: 16 servings
Form: 21cm round baking tin with removable bottom or spring form
Active time: 25 minutes prep + 65 minutes baking +1hr cooling in the oven + 12 hours cooling in the fridge (optional)
- 11 Wholegrain Digestive or Oreo Biscuits
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (50g), melted
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1kg cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon potato starch (optional)
- 3/4 cup (150g) white granulated sugar
- 6 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed clear lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed clear orange juice
- 3/4 cup (175ml) double cream (38%)
*cup = 250ml tea cup
1. For the crust: blend biscuits into a powdered mass, add two spoons of melted butter and salt. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper before attaching the sides. Spread the crumbs evenly on the bottom of the pan. Refrigerate for 5 minutes to cool slightly.
2. Preheat the oven to 230C, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position.
3. For the filling: combine cream cheese with lemon juice, orange juice, salt, potato/corn starch (if using) and vanilla extract. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add sugar all at once mixing until well combined (2-3 minutes). Add all eggs at once (no need to separate yolks/whites), mix on low speed until combined. Don’t over mix. Bring double cream to boil and add hot to the cheese batter while mixing on low speed only until combined (or mix gently with wooden spoon). You will get fairly thin texture. Pour the cheese batter on top of the crust.
4. Bake 20-22 minutes at 230C. Then turn off the oven and crack open the oven door to vent for 10 minutes. After that time switch back the oven and bake 35-40 minutes at 120C until the edges of the cheesecake feel firm but the centre is still wobbly. Switch off the oven but don’t open the door. Leave the cheesecake for 1 hour in the closed oven to cool. Then take out the cheesecake and let it cool at room temperature for 1 hour. The cheesecake is good to eat warm or you can opt to refrigerate for 12 hours.
1. Good quality cream cheese and organic eggs are key ingredients.
2. Where specified keep ingredients at room temperature. If you don’t have time pop in cheese for a very short while to warm oven or microwave. It needs to be at room temperature.
3. You can opt to add potato starch. Potato starch binds ingredients reducing the risk of deflating. I have baked this recipe with and without and it worked both times not impacting the flavour. If you do add the potato starch though you will need to be careful after adding boiling cream as the batter may go lumpy (whisking fast sorts it out).
4. Don’t over mix, especially after adding sugar. Air bubbles are created during this step and aerating too much will result in cheesecake puffing up too much during baking and then deflating during cooling process.
5. Clean edges of bowl from the residues after every part of mixing.
6. Double cream - boiling and pouring into cheese mass helps reducing air bubbles and should be the last quick step before popping the tin into the oven.
7. Step 4 - You need to be checking your oven temperature as cakes bake differently in different ovens. At the initial phase of baking you want cheesecake to puff up some 2 cm above the tin rim and turn golden. Few dark and golden spots may appear and that's OK (this gives lovely rustic look to the cheesecake). If required you can rotate the tin half way through the baking to ensure even browning. You want evenly baked golden top with few rustic looking dots all over.
8. The cheesecake will slightly deflate but should not decrease more than 2-3cm - it’s normal during the cooling process. Cheesecakes don’t like sudden change in temperature hence it's recommended to remove the steam after high temperature baking and cool in the closed oven at the end.
9. Storage - keep in the fridge for up to 12 days.
Jazz it up:
1. Couple it with a glass of Malbec! :) It’s RUSTIC, rough and ready piece of indulgence. That’s all.
2. If you like your cheesecake to be more dense and pale then skip the soufflé style baking and set your oven at 125C for 75-85 minutes. Cool for 60 minutes in the closed oven and for 1 hour at the room temperature before refrigerating.