Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cheesecake Catastrophe or How Not to Make a Pretty Cheesecake

I decided to make a gooseberry cheesecake a week ago.  I failed to document the incident with pictures so I considered not even posting about the whole scenario.  When I found out yesterday was National Cheesecake Day I felt it my duty to provide advice on what not to do since I'd become painfully of aware of it through experience.  I’m considering a reenactment, but I hate to waste the gooseberries in the effort.

Let's begin with the recipe.  For the record, I can only claim a tiny bit of credit for this recipe.  It is a modification of EatingWell’s Marbled Pumpkin Cheesecake.

Gooseberry Cheesecake

  • 1 cup crushed vanilla cookies
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 cups gooseberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 20 ounces low-fat cottage cheese, (2 1/2 cups)
  • 12 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, (1 1/2 cups), softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg whites, or 4 teaspoons dried egg whites, reconstituted according to package directions
  • 8 ounces reduced-fat sour cream, (1 cup)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Make it
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Boil water for the water bath. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Wrap the outside bottom of the pan with two layers of foil.
  2. Combine the crumbs and oil in a bowl and press into the bottom of the pan.
  3. To make the filling: Cook gooseberries, sugar and cornstarch until berries pop and the mixture thickens slightly in a saucepan.  Puree cottage cheese in a food processor until very smooth, scraping down the sides of the workbowl once or twice. Add gooseberry mixture reserving ¼ cup, and cream cheese; process until smooth. Add egg, egg whites, sour cream, vanilla and salt; blend well. Pour filling into the crust.
  4. Place the cheesecake in a roasting pan and pour in enough boiling water to come 1/2 inch up the side of the springform pan.
  5. Bake the cheesecake until the edges are set but the center still jiggles, about 50 minutes. Turn off the oven. Coat a knife with cooking spray and run it around the edge of the cake. Let stand in the oven, with the door ajar, for 1 hour. Transfer from the water bath to a wire rack; remove foil. Let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. Refrigerate, uncovered, until chilled.
Sounds lovely, right?  Just follow the instructions and everything will turn out great, right?  Sort of.

I forgot the salt when I added the other ingredients in step three, but remembered before I poured the filling in the pan.  I gave the filling a couple of pulses in the food processor to make sure the salt was mixed in.  DO NOT DO THIS.  There is a reason all the serious processing occurs before you add the eggs.  It they get too whipped before you bake the cheesecake too much air will be in the filling and it will crack when it cools.

I baked the cheesecake for the length of time prescribed by the recipe.  It jiggled a lot, but I couldn't remember what it was like when I made the pumpkin one a couple years ago so I decided it was probably okay and turned the oven off.  While I waited for it to cool I did a little internet research.  Just a little jiggle, but not soupy and a hint of brown? Hmm.  I turned the oven back on and gave it a while longer.  For reference, the cheesecake should have about the same amount of jiggle as a jello jiggler.  It might also help to remember that a cheesecake is a custard, not a cake.  At least that might be helpful if you make custard.

Once I had determined that the cheesecake had baked long enough I took off the foil as directed and put the cheesecake on a rack to cool.  The recipe didn't explicitly say when to remove the outside of the spring form pan so after a couple hours I set the cheesecake on a plate, took off the ring, and put it in the fridge.  DO NOT DO THIS.  Put the cheesecake in the fridge with the pan still clamped on until it is cold.  If you do not, the cheesecake will shlump and crack more, especially if under baked.  You'll be left with a roundish custard thing on a plate instead of a cheesecake.

I tried to camouflage the cracked, cheesecake-ish blob with the reserved gooseberry mixture.  No amount of gooseberries would have been enough.  You'll have to imagine the result. 

Oh, and sadly, gooseberry flavor gets washed out in this dish too.  I recommend making a plain cheesecake and topping it with a gooseberry sauce instead, at least if you're as obsessed with gooseberries as I am.

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