What is Cheesecake?
Cheesecake is a rich dessert dish made with cheese, typically cream cheese, although cottage cheese or even sour cream may be used, depending on the recipe. The texture of this dessert is extremely rich and creamy, and the taste can range from sweet to highly tangy. In some places, cheesecake takes the form of a savory tart, rather than a dessert food. Many pastry shops sell them, and they are also a featured dessert item at restaurants around the world. One can also be made at home with relative ease.
Technically, cheesecake is a pie or custard, not a cake at all. In most cases, it is made with a crumbly crust that is often created using crushed cookies or graham crackers. Cheesecake may also be made like a custard in a large mold without any crust at all. It is typically served chilled, and may be topped with fresh fruit, glazes, or whipped cream. Allowing it to chill for a day will create a dessert with a rich, mature, complex flavor, so many cooks make it the day before it is needed.
There are a wide range of variations on this dessert, from the dense, tall New York cheesecake to the more light, mild French cheesecake. Cheesecake may be baked with eggs, or uncooked with gelatin. As a general rule, it is made in a springform pan and unmolded for eating. This dessert is also very high in fat, with a luxurious texture which can only be created through a high fat content.
To make a basic crust for a cheesecake, grind up 4 ounces (114 grams) of graham crackers, chocolate cookies, or another cookie of choice, and combine the crumbs with 1 tablespoon (12.5 grams) of sugar and 4 tablespoons (60 grams) of butter to create a grainy paste. Press the dough into the bottom of an oiled springform pan, trying to distribute it evenly with the aid of a flat bottomed glass to press it down uniformly. Pre-bake the crust at 325°F (163°C) for 10 minutes, until it turns aromatic and dark brown. While the crust bakes, work on the filling.
This filling is for a rich, creamy New York style cheesecake, which requires a tall springform pan. Start by blending 2.5 pounds (1.13 kg) of cream cheese with 1.5 to 2 cups (300 - 400 grams) sugar, depending on desired sweetness. Add a pinch of salt, 2 teaspoons (11.8 ml) of lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon (5.9 ml) of vanilla. Once creamed, add 0.5 cup (118 ml) heavy cream, following with six eggs and two egg yolks.
The cheesecake filling should be dense, but still pourable. Pour it into the springform mold and tap the mold to remove any bubbles before placing the pan into a preheated 500°F (260°C) for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 200°F (95°C) and cook until the center of the cake is 150°F (66°C). Once finished, allow the cake to cool completely on a cake rack before chilling it. Unmold to serve.
Probably one of the best things about cheesecake is that it can be made with less sugar than other cakes, without it affecting the end result. If the recipe calls for say, 1 cup of sugar, I'll use 3/4 cup of Splenda and 1/4 cup of sugar. That little bit of regular sugar seems to take care of any aftertaste. Plus, since there's no flour in a cheesecake, or very little, making it with artificial sweetener means it's easier to adapt to a low-carb diet. You can't take all the carbs out, but you can make it a lot friendlier for people who have to watch their carb intake.
Ground almonds and melted butter can also be substituted for graham crackers. However, a mix of the graham crackers and ground almonds would produce a good crust that is also lower-carb. Sometimes, you just have to get creative with these things.
There are also good no-bake cheesecake recipes available that can be adapted for lower carbs with little trouble. Again, you just have to think about what the sugar actually does in the recipe. In a cheesecake, it mostly provides sweetening, as opposed to texture or browning.
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