07 November 2013

Cracking Up

If you copied off the recipe below, take a look at it. I've made a few changes to it, as well as to the basic recipe I posted here.

The biggest bugaboo to cheesecake baking is cracks. The cake will crack if the temperature changes too rapidly because the air trapped in the eggs expands. The secret, then, is to prevent large temperature swings, but there are a few other things you can do as well.

The first thing is to add the eggs to the batter last. Mix the batter well before adding the eggs to smooth it out, then add the eggs and mix only enough to blend them in. This will minimize the amount of air that gets trapped in the egg whites, thus minimizing the chances for cracking.

Another tip is to add a few tablespoons of flour or cornstarch. The "sciency" explanation is that the starches in the cornstarch or flour blocks the proteins in the egg whites from over-coagulating, which keeps them from setting too soon and causing cracks. This seems like cheating to me, but if it works without affecting the taste...as one of my old chiefs used to say, if you aren't cheating at least a little bit you aren't trying.

Overbaking a cheesecake can also cause cracking. You want to turn the oven off or remove the cheesecake from the oven when the middle is still slightly undone. Turning the oven temperature down to 325 during the baking lets the cake heat up slowly, further preventing the large temperature swings. Letting the cake cool in the oven with the temperature turned off for an hour or so helps as well.

Speaking of temperature swings, something else I found was baking the cake in a water bath. The water bath tends to regulate the temperature and prevent hot spots. To do this, wrap your springform pan in heavy aluminum foil to prevent leaking and put the filled pan inside a larger pan (a foil baking pan should work well for this) that is at least 3-4 inches high. Put a kettle on to boil with the lid removed while you are preheating the oven and take it off the heat when steam starts to form, before the water actually boils. Put the cake inside its two pans into the preheated oven. Fill the outer pan 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep and bake the cake as directed.

Another tip when using a springform pan is to run a thin-bladed knife around the edges to separate the cake from the pan sides when you take it out of the oven. This lets the cake shrink from the sides of the pan which will also help to prevent cracking.

If all else fails, the crack usually appears near enough to the center to serve as a starting point for cutting. If it isn't, fill it with topping.

The best thing about cheesecakes is even if it does crack...you get to eat your mistakes.



armedlaughing said...

I was gonna say...
Sour cream, cherries, blueberries, something!
And/or lower to temp a bit.


Larry said...

Right on both counts!

Thanks for stopping by gfa!