Not an auspicious start. But at least it’s only a week that I have to keep up. :)
Day 2 was cheesecakes. I don’t usually use recipes for cheesecakes unless they are some variation I’ve never tried before (rare, but it does happen). Folks are afraid of making cheesecake at home a lot of the time but unless you are aiming for Cheesecake Factory perfect looks, great tasting (and often better than Cheesecake Factory), quality cheesecakes are super easy to make at home. They are very lenient with ingredients. Got 2 eggs and not 3? Use 2. Got 4 bricks of cream cheese to use up instead of 3? Use 4. Want to halve the sugar? Go ahead. Put some cocoa in there? Don’t go crazy but sure.
Nicole’s Cheesecake Guidelines
1. Basic ratio stuff: 1 egg and 1/4 cup sugar per 8 ounces of cream cheese minimum. You can exceed this if you want. Throw in an extra egg or two if using 16 ounces or more of cream cheese. I wouldn’t use more than 1 cup of sugar per 24 ounces of cream cheese though. Sour cream gives it a bit more tang. Use up to 1/4 cup per 8 ounces of sour cream. If you add flour, it will give it a more cake like and less custard like texture. Up to 40 ounces of cream cheese with proportional sugar, eggs and sour cream will fit in a 9” springform pan (the size of pan that 90% of recipes call for) but you will be cooking it for longer than an hour. Mix ins – use up to 1 1/4 cup of other stuff like chopped nuts, chocolate chips, dried or fresh blueberries, cranberries, etc. There are all kinds of recipes out there that don’t follow my guidelines (I know, I know – such scofflaws they are) and turn out wonderfully but the above will give you a basic starter cheesecake outline.
2. Crust basics: Standard graham crust is 1/4 cup sugar, 1 1/2 cups crumbs and 1/4 cup melted butter. You can use pie crust, chopped nuts, more sugar, cocoa, powdered sugar, crushed cookies (skip the extra sugar in that case)… Baking it for 10-15 minutes before putting the filling in will give it a bit more resistance to softening up from the liquid in the filling but you don’t have to bake it ahead of time at all. Easy peasy crust forming method is to use a straight sided measuring cup or glass to press the crust into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
3. Cream cheese basics: If you don’t beat long enough, once you add liquid, you will never, ever get lumps out of cream cheese. Make sure it is super, super softened before you start mixing. If you beat too long, you’ll incorporate too much air and your cake is more likely to crack. But hey, if you’re putting something on top of your cake like whipped cream or a sour cream layer it doesn’t matter as much. And if your cake is vanilla or has other chunky additions, you can err on the side of not beating enough and no one will notice much.
4. When is it done? When about 3 inches of the center jiggles lightly when you shake the pan. It will continue to cook so don’t sweat it. You can cook the cake till there is no jiggle if this makes you nervous – this is technically overbaked but that’s how my mom insists they need to be cooked and they just turn out a bit more cake like than creamy. I don’t think I’d leave them in the oven for the full hour afterward though. Maybe just half that. And I’ve eaten many a cheesecake where the center was spoonable and not forkable and it was just as yummy.
5. Drafts: Don’t peek at your cake. Don’t open that oven until you are ready to check for jiggles. Check fast, and if it is done, run a knife around the edge to loosen it from the pan. This helps prevent cracks by loosening the cake so it doesn’t get pulled as it cools and shrinks down.
6. Homemade cheesecake is never to be scoffed at. If someone turns up their nose at a cake with cracks, it’s time to find new friends.
Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake
1 1/2 cups chocolate or plain graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
16 ounces softened cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
Heat oven to 325F. Stir together butter, crumbs and sugar. Press onto bottom and slightly up sides of 9” springform pan (if yours are old like mine, you want to wrap them in foil across the bottom and up the outsides to prevent butter spillage in your oven. That smoke detector is super annoying.) Bake 10 minutes.
Beat together cream cheese, sugar and cocoa. Beat in eggs one at a time and add vanilla with last egg. Pour into crust. Bake 55-60 minutes till sides are set but center is still a little jiggly (about 3 inches of jiggle circle is good). Run knife around edges of cake. Turn off oven, close door and let cake stay in there for another hour. Remove from oven, cool completely in pan on rack. You can do this a couple of days in advance if you want. Just wrap it up well and put in the fridge still in the pan till you are ready to deal with it again.
Melt chips and cream together, stirring till smooth. Let cool to room temperature or just above. Beat remaining cream to stiff peaks and fold in cooled chocolate. Spread this over the cooled cake layer and let set up 4 hours in fridge. Run knife around sides to loosen again and remove springform ring.
You can replace the 1/4 cup cream with liqueur of some kind if you want – that extra liquid is just to lighten the chocolate so it folds better into the whipped cream. Plus, it’s not like they typically sell 12 ounce containers of cream or at least they don’t where I live. May as well use up some more of it!
Mine was not this pretty. But it all got scarfed up with many a “wow.”