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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.

Meryl's picture

Of course I'm interested! - although it may be similar to the one I'm using, which is not custardy either and is very creamy, but still not like the authentic NY Cheesecake, like at the Carnegie Deli, Stage Deli, etc. Have you ever tried any of their cheesecakes???  


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.

RuthWells's picture

My gramma's cheesecake isn't a smooth creamy -- it's a creamy with texture.  That's the best way I can describe it!  I'll hunt the recipe up for you tonight.


I don't think I've ever had cheesecake at the Carnegie Deli, but who knows....... my memory is getting worse every day!  ; )


 


Ruth Wells


"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw

Ruth Wells

"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw

www.lemonade-and-kidneys.blogspot.com

www.ruthssweetpleasures.com

http://www.pkdcure.org/Default.aspx?TabI...

CookiM0nster's picture

OK, I think I can find some time to bake this weekend. Since Wolvie says her plain cheesecake comes out with the texture we're looking for, why don't I start there - just making her cheesecake as per her instructions.

Wolvie? recipe please?

AnnL's picture

She posted it up above...


http://forums.taunton.com/tp-cookstalk/messages?msg=20298.9


 


AnnL
Transitions Farm
Gardening, cooking, and riding Central Mass.

Ann
"The elders were wise.  They knew that man's heart, away from nature, becomes hard; they knew that lack of respect for growing, living things, soon led to lack of respect for humans, too."  Chief Luther Standing Bear, Lakota Sioux

CookiM0nster's picture

Duh! Thanks Ann!

Meryl's picture

Okay, let me know how it turns out, ie, if it's drier/cakier as in a real NY Cheesecake. If so, GREAT. If not, I'll try a test with one of the variables, such as more flour, etc., and hopefully, you'll want to do a different test, such as using your idea to bake it at a higher temp! I have no doubt that Wolvie's is a superb cheesecake, but I do have my doubts about it having that classic, drier NY texture, especially since her recipe is very close to the one I've been using from Gourmet.


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 have no doubt that Wolvie's is a superb cheesecake, but I do have my doubts about it having that classic, drier NY texture, especially since her recipe is very close to the one I've been using from Gourmet."

I know. It's pretty much the same NY cheesecake that appears in all of my cookbooks too. Aside from the lower baking temperature (which I expect to work against the dryness factor we're looking for), the only difference is the addition of a bit of cream and less sugar. If I really get my act together, I'll try both recipes. Can you post your tweaks?

It just occured to me that whatever recipe I try I'll be baking at higher heat. Our ancient gas oven has a habit of not lighting at 200, so the lowest I can go is 250. Maybe that can be my tweak for this round?

MEANCHEF's picture

I think there has to be more flour/cornstarch to get the right texture.

CookiM0nster's picture

I'll add it to the list of tweaks.

Meryl's picture

I can do the added flour test. I'll probably use the Gourmet one, because I just made it a few weeks ago, and still have some leftovers. I can compare the results side by side (not that I'd even need to, because the texture difference will be obvious, if it happens).  


The Gourmet recipe now has 3 Tbsp flour - how much more should I add? Should I do 1/2 cup or something?


Many times solutions are so obvious and simple that they're impossible to find. I was thinking that maybe baking it longer, ie, too long according to the rules, could make it dry enough, or would it just ruin it? Since the basic method is to bake cheesecakes until not quite set in the center, ie, set about 3" from the edges, leaving a 3" wobbly center, what if I kept baking it until that wobbly center was no longer wobbly, ie, overbake it? Would it do anything? What do you think? 



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 10/15/2004 9:41 pm ET by Meryl

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

AmyElliesMom's picture

Having overcooked many a cheesecake in my day, yes, it will be firmer, but not necessarily drier. It will have an overbrown top you may have to discard. (stupid frickin' afternoon shift, never taking my cheesecakes out of the oven before the dinner shift...grumble grumble...)

I'd cover it over most of the edges with foil for the last part of the baking if you want to try to "overcook" it. Just keep the runny middle open.


DON'T PANIC


You live and learn. At any rate, you live..

- Douglas Adams

 

Save the Earth! It's the only planet with wine and chocolate.

Meryl's picture

Okay, thanks for the tips!


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.

Neetie's picture

I couldn't find your post yesterday so I posted my recipe separately but now I have found you here it is again


From London England


 


. I too think that a lot of American cheesecakes are all cream and no cheese. Here is my recipe which works a treat and is very easy


1lb or 2  cups of curd cheese( this is a medium or low fat cheese and does not actually have visible curds I think you call it farmers cheese or pot cheese in the US or you can also use quark)


juice and rind of 1/2 lemon ( this is very important as modern cream cheeses are very bland) 2 eggs  1/4-1/3 cups sugar according to taste I personally go according to the taste of the mixture 5 ozs plain yoghurt(natural yoghurt) 2 tbs custard powder or corn starch.


Chuck all ingredients into the mixer and beat till smooth, taste and adjust the quantity of sugar.


Make a crumb crust in a high sided 8" cake tin, preferably loose bottomed bake at 350 F or a bit less for between 30 and 40 min.


If you wish to you can make a topping 10zs sour cream beaten wirh 1tbs sugar. When the cake has cooked remove from oven leave for 10 min. Turn oven up to400 spread the topping over the cake put back in the oven for about 8 min to set the topping.


Sometimes the top( without the topping) cracks I don't know why.. but it tastes very good. Give it a TRY IT'S EASY .


I am having trouble finding my way round this forum, much more difficult than making cheesecake


 

Meryl's picture

Thanks, Neetie, and Welcome to CT! One of the tests I will probably do somewhere along the line is 4/5 cream cheese and 1/5 farmers cheese, as Charlotte Baker suggested. We'll see what happens.


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

Bear in mind this is just my intuition, and it wouldn't be the first time I was wrong, but my bet is that the answer is in some combination fo the following: more flour, higher heat (aka slight overbaking), fewer eggs, and the addition of some sort of non-egg liquid like cream or sour cream. Basically, cheesecake is a custard. To get that dryness I think in the end what we want to do is essentially curdle it slightly.

Meryl's picture


You're probably right - it will end up being a combination of several variables. The problem is that when we do the tests, won't we have to do one change at a time, so we can see what effect it has? Unless we say the hell with it, and do two changes at a time, such as a combination of more flour and higher heat, or whatever? That's why I wish more people would help us out with this experiment!


Anyway, here's the NY Cheesecake recipe I've been using, along with my tweaks. Some of the tweaks are specifically noted, while others are just written in as part of the instructions. I chill this for 48 hours and serve it cold, simply because it's firmer that way. (The original crust was much too sweet for me, so I use my own). It's a delicious cheesecake!


NEW YORK CHEESECAKE


Ingredients:


MERYL'S CRUMB CRUST


1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs


5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


1 Tbsp sugar, optional (sometimes I use 1 Tbsp sugar, other times I omit it)


CHEESECAKE


5 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, softened to room temperature


1 3/4 cups sugar


3 tablespoons all-purpose flour


1 tsp finely grated orange zest, minced (from about 1/2 orange) (original recipe uses zest of 1 orange)


1 tsp finely grated lemon zest, minced (from about 1 small lemon)


5 large eggs


2 large egg yolks


1/2 teaspoon vanilla (I use 3/4 tsp)


1/4 cup sour cream (note: original recipe does not use sour cream)


Directions:


CRUMB CRUST


Mix together crust ingredients and press onto bottom and 1 inch up sides of a buttered 9" springform pan. Fill immediately or chill up to 2 hours.


CHEESECAKE


Preheat oven to 500°F.(475 F for dark pans).


With an electric mixer, beat together cream cheese, sugar, flour, and zests until smooth. Add eggs and yolks, one at a time, then vanilla, beating on low speed until each ingredient is incorporated and scraping down bowl between additions. Mix in sour cream until just blended.


Put springform pan with crust on a shallow baking pan/cookie sheet and pour filling into crust, (springform pan will be completely full). Bake on baking pan/cookie sheet (to catch drips) in middle of oven 8-10 minutes, or until puffed and lightly browned. *Tip: put pan of water on the rack below the rack where the cheesecake is. This will keep moisture in the oven and prevent the cheesecake from cracking.


Reduce temperature to 200 F (175 F for dark pans), and continue baking about 1 hour and 50 minutes to 2 hours, until cake is mostly firm and center is still slightly wobbly when pan is gently shaken. Cake should be set around 3 inches from the edge.


Run a sharp knife around top edge of cake to loosen, and cool completely in springform pan on a rack. Chill cake, loosely covered, at least 24 hours, preferably 48 hours for a better texture. (I chill it 48 hours).


To serve, remove pan sides and transfer cake to a plate. Serve chilled or at room temperature. (I serve it chilled).


Makes 10 servings


Adapted from Gourmet - Crumb Crust by Meryl


 



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 10/16/2004 4:15 am ET by Meryl

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

Meryl's picture

Hey, Mean, do you want to participate in this experiment? We'd love to have you involved!


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

"If I really get my act together, I'll try both recipes."


WOW! You're a brave woman. What are you going to do with all that cheesecake?!!!


Can you post your tweaks?"  


Yes, I'll post the recipe later tonight with all my tweaks. I just woke up from a nap, so I want to clear my head before I post it with my side notes!


"It just occured to me that whatever recipe I try I'll be baking at higher heat. Our ancient gas oven has a habit of not lighting at 200, so the lowest I can go is 250. Maybe that can be my tweak for this round?" 


Or how about at a higher temp as you originally suggested, such as 300 -350? 



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.

Wolvie's picture

well, I think for me it comes out with the texture you and Meryl describe, and as I have had many times in NY. I think the reduction in sugar gives it the dryness it needs. I'm not sure about what my overbeating the cream cheese does, but perhaps that helps. More air.


I have baked this at 250 no problems -



"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

 

CookiM0nster's picture

Like I said, I have my doubts, but I'm certainly willing to be proven wrong, that's why I'm going to try it.

Wolvie's picture

well, however it comes out, I hope you like the taste anyway. :-)


The only other thing I can think of for dryer is a bit more flour - it will be interesting to see it with that tweak. I don't think a reduction of the egg will do it.


Can't wait for all the variations and the finalist!


One interesting thing - I made the basic cheesecake with splenda the other day - came out much dryer than ususal. In fact, as I tasted it, I thought perhaps this was the texture you meant. I do know that splenda is a disaster for custards in general, but my Mom is diabetic, and I wanted her to be able to eat more than one "muffin". That's the other thing I did, muffin size. I baked them 3 different ways. High -low temp twice for various times, and all low for a longer time. After chilling, the all low were the densest, which makes sense. The two high lows were just a bit different, but not much.



"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


Edited 10/17/2004 8:04 am ET by Wolvie

 

CookiM0nster's picture

I[m sure it will taste good. The fact that your cheesecake is delicious is not and has never been at issue!

Wolvie's picture

I know, I know. :-)


I've been thinking about that splenda thing and how it effects custard. I think that for a full size cheesecake, it would create a dryer texture. I'll have to see.


 



"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 agree - the 1/2 cup less sugar should give yours a drier texture than many of the others. Just how much drier is the question! I'd love to try your recipe, but I like my cheesecakes slightly sweeter, still very tangy, but with slightly more sugar. I've done a cheesecake before with the same proportion of sugar to cream cheese as yours, and there was just not quite enough sugar for me. If I try your recipe, I'll want to increase the sugar by 1/4 cup, which would give it only 1/4 cup less less sugar than the Gourmet one. Unfortunately, that might defeat the purpose of creating a drier texture, unless of course your extra beating of the cream cheese is a variable also. Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to hearing CM's report!



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 10/16/2004 5:12 pm ET by Meryl


Edited 10/16/2004 5:14 pm ET by Meryl

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

Wolvie's picture

ahhh. I think most cheesecakes out there are way to sweet - that's why I cut the sugar down.


I like the tang part better. :-)



"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

 

Wolvie's picture

I forgot to add that I sometimes use a tsp of vanilla when making plain cheesecake.


"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

 

APonKP's picture

I will be thrilled to see how this experiment works.  I love cheesecake that's creamy, too, but know the "drier" one and am nuts about it.  I had it first in New York as a child, then in St. Louis at a German bakery at Union Station as a teenager.  I thought it was made with ricotta.  I can't imagine anyone who has tasted good sweet ricottas (like the Calabro hand packed, or the Bellweather Farms cow or sheep) not liking ricotta.  Maybe Meryl doesn't like the supermarket variety.  Interesting about the quark.  (Wonder if the Greek yogurt, FAGE, at Trader Joe's, would work since it seems like whole milk quark to me.)

ps. I'd help with the testing, but there's no time right now.  We are off to Mendocino, County.  We'll be staying at the Apple Farm, and taking Sally's classes for Apple cooking.  Pure heaven.  Can't wait. 

One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.  A.A. Milne

One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.  A.A. Milne
Meryl's picture

AP on KP,


If you're interested in participating in our NY Cheesecake test, let us know when you'll be available, and if CM agrees, we can start it when you come back. I'm in no hurry, especially since I have 7 slices left in my freezer from the one I made two weeks ago. 


 


 


 



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.

APonKP's picture

Sorry to be just now replying.  I wasn't kidding when I said we were leaving soon. <g>
Now that I'm going to be home tomorrow, I would like to try the recipe Neetie posted or any other I can find that has farmers cheese.  I would love to use Bellweather Farm's farmers cheese if I can find it, but it would be really expensive by the time I got so many of the little containers.  Trader Joe's used to have it, but now have only the creme fraiche.  We will be in Berkeley on Wednesday to get our grandson's and son's birthday presents, and if we have time to go by the Cheeseboard, I think we will.  I'll see if they have a farmers cheese in bulk.  I'm kind of talking to myself here.

Today, I have no eggs, no cheese, nothing for a crumb crust.  I don't like grahm cracker crusts.  Maybe I'll try an animal cookie crust like Cooks Illustrated did, or crushed arrowroot cookies, or crushed Nabisco chocolate cookies.  The main thing I'm interested in is the filling.  Another thing I need is a deep cheesecake pan.  LOL!  I may have to shop for a week before I get everything.  I think I can get the pan at Dean & De Luca, or the CIA up here.

I just remembered, CM and Wolvie will be at Tracy Fest soon, so I guess there is no rush to compare.

I definitely would like the lemon addition and prefer very little sugar.  I think I'd like it best without the topping.  Now look what you have started.  Just when I've been avoiding desserts!


One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.  A.A. Milne

One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.  A.A. Milne
Meryl's picture

"I just remembered, CM and Wolvie will be at Tracy Fest soon, so I guess there is no rush to compare."


That's true. And I probably won't be doing my test with the extra flour for at least another few weeks, especially since I don't have any room in my freezer for any leftovers. The freezer's about to explode.


"I definitely would like the lemon addition and prefer very little sugar.  I think I'd like it best without the topping.  Now look what you have started.  Just when I've been avoiding desserts."


Sorry. LOL. I've been on a cheesecake kick lately, which I can't shake. I LOVE the recipe I always use from Gourmet just the way it is, nice and creamy, and dense, but in a creamy way, if that makes any sense. But I really want to find a way to make the other drier/cakier style - I remember it used to stick to the roof of my mouth. It would start off drier, but then would eventually become creamier as it warmed up in my mouth. Mmmmmmmm. I guess in that way, it's sort of like chocolate. If the Carnegie Deli can do it, why can't I???! 



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 10/18/2004 7:02 pm ET by Meryl

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