The tricks to making a successful cheesecake are simple. They also make sense when you understand the reason behind them.
Eggs, a major component of cheesecakes, don’t like to be heated quickly or subject to high heat. Instead they like to be handled gently and with a little tender loving care. They freak out when the heat is too fast or too high, curdling or puffing up, both of which we don’t want in a cheesecake. This is why having all ingredients at room temperature to begin with helps. Another trick is some sort of water – either in the form of steam or a water bath, to mitigate the formation of a crust and to gentle the heat. Lastly, letting the cheesecake cool down in the oven helps gentle the change in heat and prevents those craters we don’t want to see in our cheesecakes.
The recipes that ran in the Portland Press Herald today, Vanilla Cheesecake and Lemon Curd Cheesecake, are both favorites in our family. There I also write about how to freeze and thaw cheesecakes, making them a perfect make-ahead dessert. The Lemon Curd Cheesecake has been a holiday dessert for years, appeasing those who are done with the chocolate overload.