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Cheesecake Density Dilemma

Meryl's picture

WHAT can be done to make a cheesecake more dense and firm? I want it creamy, but as someone on eGullet described, not as if I'm eating sweetened cream cheese. It seems many people are trying to solve this dilemma. How to achieve a creaminess that's not overly creamy, mixed with a slightly drier cakey texture. I remember in the good old days when I lived in NYC, I experienced that exact texture at the Carnegie Deli. Their ultra-high NY Cheesecakes were superb.


Paula Wolfert said she thinks if you drain the cheese for a day or two you would get that dense texture. Do you agree?


I've also heard that using all whole eggs instead of yolks, might make a difference because of the drying effect of the whites. The NY Cheesecake recipe I use has 5 whole eggs and just 2 yolks, so I'm wondering how much effect, if any, only 2 yolks would have as opposed to using two whole eggs instead? Or perhaps replacing the 2 yolks with just the whites?  What do you think?


The other specifics in the NY Cheesecake recipe I use, are: 40 oz cream cheese, 1/4 cup sour cream, 3 Tbsp flour, 1 3/4 cups sugar, 1 tsp each lemon and orange zest, 3/4 tsp vanilla. It's baked at 500 F for 10 minutes to brown the top, then at 200 F for close to 2 hours, ie, until the top is set 3 inches from the edges. I don't use a waterbath, but just set a shallow pan of water under the rack where the cheesecake is sitting. (I've also made it without the pan of water - texture was basically the same, except there was a crack). I've noticed a slighter firmer texture after chilling it for 48 hours as opposed to 24, but no difference in the 48  as opposed to 72 hours.


    



Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands - and then eat just one of the pieces. --Judith Viorst


Edited 10/8/2004 5:55 pm ET by Meryl

There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.

AmyElliesMom's picture

Well, it's been years since I made cheesecakes on a regular basis, but I know we didn't use sour cream at all.

It was cream cheese, egg yolks and eggs (don't remember the ratio now...) and sugar and vanilla. We didn't put flour it it, either (I'm thinking that is there to compensate for the liquidity of the sour cream). Also, it was done in a waterbath, which I think helped the texture. We used a solid pan, not a springform.

I think using more egg yolks would make a denser, more creamy texture, but I could be wrong.


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Biscuits's picture

Try substituting ricotta cheese for part of the cream cheese.  It will firm it up but still stay creamy. 

Life is tough - but it's tougher when you're stupid - Major Jeffrey F. Richardson, USMC

Ancora Imparo -

Meryl's picture

Thanks for the suggestion, but I hate ricotta cheese!


Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands - and then eat just one of the pieces. --Judith Viorst

There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.

Biscuits's picture

Personally - I do to!  (G)  But it would certainly give you the effect you were looking for.

Life is tough - but it's tougher when you're stupid - Major Jeffrey F. Richardson, USMC

Ancora Imparo -

UncleDunc's picture

Do you mean actual density, weight per volume measure? Cream cheese is pretty dense stuff, denser than any cheesecake I ever remember eating.

Meryl's picture

No, maybe "dense" is not the right choice of words. I mean firmer and drier.


Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands - and then eat just one of the pieces. --Judith Viorst

There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.

evelyn's picture

I don't follow an actual recipe for my 'everyday' cheesecake, just sort of wing it each time.  What does stay the same though is 4 8-oz containers of Philladelphia, 1 8-oz container of thick greek yoghurt, 4 whole eggs, 2 tblsps of corn starch, sugar to taste, and lemon juice to up the tartness.  I play off this recipe by adding whatever I think might taste delicious that particular moment in my life (always in the 'sweet' context) or just by leaving it plain.  It is lovely, dense, with very good mouth-feel and freezes beautifully.

 

In life, learn the rules so that you know how to break them properly.
Meryl's picture

Thanks, schnitzel. Yes, I've seen this one, but it only uses 1 1/4 lbs cream cheese. The ones I had at the Carnegie Deli were VERY high, - they must have used at least 3 1/2 lbs of cream cheese! Maybe they've changed their recipe since I've been there?


Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands - and then eat just one of the pieces. --Judith Viorst

There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.

Gretchen's picture

Then just double or X1 1/2 the recipe and make it in a deeper springform.

Gretchen

Gretchen
Wolvie's picture

Meryl, I made cheesecakes all the time for a restaurant in MA when I lived up there. My NYC recipe is similar to yours, but no sour cream. They come out with the creamy mouth feel you want, but dense and firm.


Basic recipe


40 oz cream cheese, room temp, well beaten - in fact have everything at room temp
5 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 cream
3 tbsps flour
dash salt
1 1/4 cup sugar


Mix the well beaten cream cheese with the flour. Add the sugar, mix well. Add the eggs, then the egg yolks one at a time, making sure each in incorporated before you add the next one. Add the cream last. Pour into you pan and bake.


I bake mine at 450 F for 10 minutes, then 205 for 1 3/4 - 2 hours, depending on what size pan I used. The center still needs to be just a bit jiggly. I don't use a water bath, I never get any cracks. This method does disturb the tried and true of not mixing the cream cheese much, but I've never ever had a problem, and everyone has always loved the cakes. This is the base recipe for all of mine, I just play additives, etc. The chocolate cheesecake I  make is very good, as is the pumpkin, caramel, etc.


Have fun!



"People that are really very weird can get into sensitive positions and have a tremendous impact on history."


George W. Bush


"Through pride we are ever deceiving ourselves. But deep down below the surface of the average conscience a still, small voice says to us, 'Something is out of tune."  Carl Jung

 

Gretchen's picture

What size pan does this make?  I have some small springforms (maybe 6") that I would like to use. What adjustment would you suggest for time, etc.?

Gretchen

Gretchen
Wolvie's picture

this is for a 9 x 3" high or 10 x 2" high.


You can get 2 - 6" out of it, they will be thinner of course.


baking time. still 10 minutes at 450, then I'd check at 40 minutes to an hour.


As a matter of fact, I'm doing "muffins" from this recipe today. I'll let you know how many I get. :-)



"People that are really very weird can get into sensitive positions and have a tremendous impact on history."


George W. Bush


"Through pride we are ever deceiving ourselves. But deep down below the surface of the average conscience a still, small voice says to us, 'Something is out of tune."  Carl Jung

 

Gretchen's picture

Thanks. I'll stay tuned.

Gretchen

Gretchen
MadMom's picture

Actually, I think the two 6" pans would be the highest of all...over 3", if my math is right.  Three 6" pans would be just under 2" high.

Things are going to get a lot worse before they get worse.
Lily Tomlin

Meryl's picture

Thanks, Wolvie - yes, it's almost the same recipe I use, except for the complete beating of the cream cheese before adding the other ingredients, less sugar (yours using 1 1/4 cups, mine uses 1 3/4 cups), no zests, and the addition of cream instead of sour cream. I like using the sour cream, because it gives it a great extra tang. I love the NY Cheesecake recipe I use, but just want more dryness/firmness/slight cakiness . I'm just wondering, could my results have anything to do with the FL climate, ie, humidity? Maybe I should go against the rules, bake it longer, and not leave it jiggly in the center. Although, it seems to me, that would just overbake the sides.


It just occurred to me that since yours uses 1/2 cup less sugar, perhaps that has something to do with a firmer texture. Mine uses more sugar, which would create more moisture. It needs the sugar, however, to balance out both the zests and the sour cream. Maybe I should omit the zests and reduce the sugar!  



Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands - and then eat just one of the pieces. --Judith Viorst


Edited 10/9/2004 4:01 pm ET by Meryl

There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.

Wolvie's picture

I have found that the recipe does not require the extra sugar at all. In fact, the taste is much better without, let alone the texture. :-)


Try it. Just once.



"People that are really very weird can get into sensitive positions and have a tremendous impact on history."


George W. Bush


"Through pride we are ever deceiving ourselves. But deep down below the surface of the average conscience a still, small voice says to us, 'Something is out of tune."  Carl Jung

 

Meryl's picture

"I have found that the recipe does not require the extra sugar at all. In fact, the taste is much better without, let alone the texture. :-)


Try it. Just once."


Okay, I will! 



Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands - and then eat just one of the pieces. --Judith Viorst

There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.

MEANCHEF's picture

I know exactly what you mean.  The cheese cakes I loved from NYC have that firm dry cakiness which every single "NY cheesecake" recipe will not produce.  I have never been able to duplicate it either.

Meryl's picture

"I know exactly what you mean.  The cheese cakes I loved from NYC have that firm dry cakiness which every single "NY cheesecake" recipe will not produce.  I have never been able to duplicate it either." Finally! SOMEONE who knows firsthand exactly what I'm talking about! Thank you, thank you, thank you. Now, dear Meanie, you absolutely MUST come up with a duplicate, even if it takes you the rest of your life. LOL. And if you ever do, I want to be the first to know about it!


Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands - and then eat just one of the pieces. --Judith Viorst

There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.

CookiM0nster's picture

Have you tried playing with oven temperature? I know the texture you're after too, and while I admit I've never tried to duplicate it myself, My impression is that it's most likely achieved by baking the cheesecake in a very hot oven, for at least part of the time. I'd bet anything that dense, dry texture comes from overbaking the edges.

Meryl's picture

So you think I should try baking it a higher temp, rather than for a longer time? As it is, I'm already baking it almost 2 hours at 200 F, so the higher temperature may be a better idea! I start it at 500 F to brown the top, so after that, how high do you think I should bake it? (I realize this is all guess work, and I solemnly promise I will NOT blame you if it doesn't work out! LOL).  BTW, do you think more flour would help at all?


Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands - and then eat just one of the pieces. --Judith Viorst

There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.

Meryl's picture

I just read the following online:


"Neufchatel", will yield a harder, more crumbly cheesecake, according to Pam Anderson, author of The Perfect Recipe."


Of course, this was written as a negative, and she recommended using whole fat cream cheese. But maybe I should try it, or use half Neufchatel and half whole fat. Anyone have any thoughts on this?



Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands - and then eat just one of the pieces. --Judith Viorst

There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.

CookiM0nster's picture

I'm thinking somethign like 400 to 450 to start with, then turn it down to finish cooking. Off the top of my head I'd say finish it at 300 or 325, but let me investigate a bit and come back with more suggestions. I know this is how a lot of NY cheesecake places bake theirs.

More flour might help, but I'd still try higher temps first.

Edited to say Greg Patent calls for 525 for 10 minutes followed by 200 for an hour in Baking in America.


Edited 10/10/2004 12:46 pm ET by COOKIM0NSTER

Meryl's picture

"Edited to say Greg Patent calls for 525 for 10 minutes followed by 200 for an hour in Baking in America." That's basically what I'm doing now, but baking longer at the lower heat - 500 F for 10 minutes, 200 F for 1 hour 50 minutes.


Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands - and then eat just one of the pieces. --Judith Viorst

There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.

CookiM0nster's picture

I thought the high heat part sounded pretty brief. I'd say give it a shot baking longer at the high heat, and when you lower the temperature, don't go all the way down to 200. Keep it a bit hotter.

Now you've got me all curious. If I weren't cooking Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow I'd try this myself. I think I'll have a go once the turkey leftovers are gone.

P.S. Astrid is right that quark will give you a drier texture, and Farmer's cheese and ricotta will too, but I'm pretty sure the classic NY cheesecake has none of those in it.

Meryl's picture

"I thought the high heat part sounded pretty brief."


Any longer on the high heat, and the top will burn - trust me! It browns very fast, so I wouldn't recommend it. Once I tried to loosely cover it to slow it down, and that was one of the dumber things I've done in my baking "career" - the top stuck to the foil. Even though I kind of tented it, it sank down.


"I'd say give it a shot baking longer at the high heat, and when you lower the temperature, don't go all the way down to 200. Keep it a bit hotter."


Sounds like a good idea - maybe I'll try it at 350 F.


Meanwhile, I really don't know which to do first, test it at a higher temp, ie, 350 F, add more flour, replace the yolks with whites, use a drier cheese to replace some of the cream cheese, etc. If I do more than one test item or method at a time, then I won't know which is working and which isn't. And I really don't have the money or patience to do them all! Plus there are only 2 of us here, so there would be tons of leftovers, even if I gave some out to some of the neighbors. Meanwhile, I just did my usual NY Cheesecake recipe last week, so I have lots of slices left over, sitting in my freezer.


 "P.S. Astrid is right that quark will give you a drier texture, and Farmer's cheese and ricotta will too, but I'm pretty sure the classic NY cheesecake has none of those in it."


I doubt it also. I'm sure it's all cream cheese, but how do they do it?????


"Now you've got me all curious. If I weren't cooking Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow I'd try this myself. I think I'll have a go once the turkey leftovers are gone."


Maybe if you tried one test and I tried another, using the same recipe, of course, we could share the "pain" of making so many cheesecakes. The standard recipe I use is great, very delicious and creamy and similar to so many others that call themselves, "NY Cheesecake," but I just want a REAL New York Cheesecake. (BTW, the recipe I use is from Gourmet - here's the link:http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/recipe_views/views/102592  I've tweaked it a bit, of course.



Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands - and then eat just one of the pieces. --Judith Viorst


Edited 10/10/2004 6:35 pm ET by Meryl

There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.

CookiM0nster's picture

"Maybe if you tried one test and I tried another, using the same recipe, of course, we could share the "pain" of making so many cheesecakes."

Sounds like a plan! Let me know which variation you want to start with and I'll pick another. Also make sure to let me know your recipe tweaks.

Meryl's picture

Great! Do you want to use the one I mentioned? If so, I'll post it with my tweaks.  


Edited to say, if anyone else wants to help out with this experiment, please don't hesitate to chime in!



Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands - and then eat just one of the pieces. --Judith Viorst


Edited 10/10/2004 8:08 pm ET by Meryl


Edited 10/10/2004 8:10 pm ET by Meryl

There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.

RuthWells's picture

Hiya Meryl -- I'm joining this thread late, but I have a feeling my grandmother's New York/Jewish cheesecake recipe is along the lines of what you're looking for.  It is not custardy; has a creamy texture but not at all wet.  Definitely rich, but light at the same time.  And it has a pedigree, of sorts -- when she and my grandfather owed a restaurant in Poughkeepsie (NY), folks would come from miles around just for her cheesecake, LOL!  I'll try to scare up the recipe for you if you're interested.

Ruth Wells


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Ruth Wells

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