Somewhere between zero and twenty pounds of cream cheese...
March 28, 2011 8:17 PM   Subscribe

[Cheesecake Filter] I'm hoping to take my first shot at making cheesecake from scratch for my future inlaws this weekend. I've been looking at recipes and things are getting confusing…

So, I've found a number of recipes, calling for 2, 4, 5, and 6 packages (8oz) of cream cheese. I also got a pre-made pie crust that calls for only one package of cream cheese. Some recipes call for sour cream, some don't. A little variability in quantities or ingredients is totally normal, but I find it difficult to believe that recipes that call for 0.5 pounds of cream cheese will produce a similar dish to those calling for 3 pounds.

Ideally, I'd like to just buy the pie crust and make the filling from scratch. How much cream cheese do I use? Is sour cream a good idea? What is your favorite recipe for NY style deliciousness? Any other disasters I'm likely to encounter?

Also, is it possible to make cheesecake if I didn't have a spring pan (particularly with a pre-made crust)? Are they easily available at big box stores for cheap otherwise?
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I think the difference in quantity of filling (# of packets) is basically a difference in how much of the cake you are making, outside of that it may influence the texture a little. I've made cheesecake that is a good 4-5 inches high and very dense, took a lot of cream cheese and eggs. Never have used sour cream, but I can see it working pretty well in the recipe, might give it a little tang. Honestly if you are making this, making the crust is actually pretty easy, crushed graham crackers and butter. I have also always used a spring-form pan, and would suggest the same, depending on the recipe you might end up with a LOT of batter and wimpy sized cake pans are wimpy sized. Looks like you can get them online for $8 or $9 bucks. I imagine yer big box will have them for comparable.
posted by edgeways at 8:29 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are two kinds of cheesecake: bake and no-bake. Most of the no-bake ones are made in pie crusts, and afaik, most of the kind you bake are made in a springform pan. You can probably find recipes to bake a cheesecake in a pre-bought pie crust, but it won't be the same.

Real cheesecake is quite a bit thicker than a store bought pie crust, which is why your pre-made pie crust is only calling for one package of cream cheese. The springform pan is so that you can remove the sides of the pan to serve the cake - otherwise there's no practical way to get it out, and the pans themselves are about three inches deep. They're also not that difficult to find, at least in my experience. I think I got mine at a department store a few years back.

Cheesecake is really not that difficult to bake, though, even making your own crust. I recommend starting out with the recipe on the back of the philadelphia cream cheese packages. It's a very plain cheesecake, with a graham cracker crust. The only ingredients to the cake itself are cream cheese, eggs, vanilla and sugar, IIRC. It is made in a springform pan and it's surprisingly easy and tasty, and can be topped with a variety of fruit pie fillings to add more flavor.
posted by girih knot at 8:31 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

This Food Network recipe is a good one to start with , and yes to the graham cracker crust. Sour cream increases the tangy flavor.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:35 PM on March 28, 2011

Making your own crust is easy--butter, a little sugar, and Graham cracker crumbs. It'll taste so much better than store-bought.

I like the recipe on the back of the honey maid Graham cracker crumbs box. Simple creamy vanilla cheesecake with a sour cream topping. The topping means that even if you don't get the timing or temp right and the cheesecake splits a little in the oven, it still looks great. I'd recommend something simple like that if you haven't made a cheesecake before. No matter what, it'll be delicious.

Oh, but buy a springform pan. It'll be worth it.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:41 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm going to encourage you to not be afraid of crust as well. It's NOTHING, really. And cheesecake? Also the easiest! Be not afraid. This here is also a great cheesecake recipe, by the way.

Spring-form pans are incredibly easy to find. K-Mart should have a nice cheap one. They're very useful. (PS Get an oven thermometer while you're there!)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:46 PM on March 28, 2011

I've made the Cook's Illustrated cheesecake several times. In the cookbook that I used (maybe the original "Best Recipe"?) there were three listed: lighter texture, regular texture, and heavier texture. That might explain the wildly different amounts of cream cheese that you're seeing. The recipes you're looking at are for different styles of cheesecake. I made the middle one and it was exactly what I wanted in a cheesecake. I had never made a cheesecake in my life, I followed the directions precisely, and I made the best cheesecake that I (or anyone else in the room) had ever tasted. First time out.

There is no reason to buy a crust for this. A graham cracker crust is ridiculously easy and probably tastier than anything you would buy.

Other details: what I did was a baked cheesecake done in a springform pan. With a no-bake recipe in a pre-made crust you wouldn't need the springform pan, but the results would definitely be inferior. And no sour cream as far as I remember, but it's been a while.
posted by madmethods at 8:48 PM on March 28, 2011

I've never gone wrong with anything from the Barefoot Contessa. Here's her recipe for a Raspberry Cheesecake (you wouldn't have to put raspberries on top unless you want to). Her stuff is seriously, seriously delicious.
posted by la petite marie at 9:37 PM on March 28, 2011

Say no to the graham cracker crust. Ugh.

Just mix about half a stick of softened butter with one cup flour, two teaspoons brown sugar, and one teaspoon lemon juice. Mush it flat in the bottom of a spring form pan. Pre-bake it for about 5-10 minutes while you're mixing the batter, so it stays together and stays at the bottom of the pan.

Graham cracker crust is just such a shame when you're making the rest the right way.
posted by yesster at 11:24 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's the deal. I tend to go for sensible recipes: I don't like additional yolks or whites sitting around, and the output has to be at least equal to the input--that is, if I'm buying a lot of special ingredients to make something it better be worth it. Typical New York cheesecakes are very tall and dense, meaning even a thin slice has enough richness to suffice for one (read: best made for a large party).

Homemade crust has a number of benefits. You can play with variations on the flavoring: graham cracker, Oreo, shortbread. Another perk is that, like a good New York cheesecake, making a crust in your own pan allows you to get those tall, straight sides, unlike most premade crusts that come in those angled, shallow pans. As others have said, a dollop of sour cream gives the cake a tangier flavor and smoother mouthfeel. The amount of cream cheese called for in a recipe can be arbitrary and might indicate the type of audience it's going for (it's not surprising that the recipe given on the premade crust calls for just one package of cream cheese).

Here is the recipe that I use from King Arthur Flour. It does not fuck around. 2 pounds of cream cheese, 5 eggs, and a little lemon zest on a simple shortbread crust (if you're going for a traditional cheesecake I'd leave out the lemon; if not, rub it in with the sugar before mixing). No water bath necessary. Use the instructions for jiggling if you don't have an instant-read thermometer. The most critical component of this recipe is that it avoids the unsightly crack by carefully regulating the temperature. Turn off the oven and let the cake cool slightly with the door propped open for an hour before removing it.

-Get an oven thermometer if you don't have one.
-Leave out the cream cheese overnight so it's completely at room temperature. Even a little firmness will be hard to beat out.
-You don't need a springform pan! Even the most expensive versions can leak, which you can avoid with lots and lots of foil, OR you can bake the cheesecake in a 10" cake pan >2" deep. The crust will have enough fat in it that after cooling overnight in the fridge, briefly heat the pan on the stove for 30 seconds to loosen, flip the cake onto a plate, then quickly flip right side up onto your serving platter.
-If you follow the instructions cheesecake can be easy. It's just time-consuming. Have fun!
posted by therewolf at 11:33 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you find the cheesecake has cracked, here's a recipe for ganache. Pour over the cracked cheesecake; hide the cracks. It'll look awesome.
posted by chengjih at 2:01 AM on March 29, 2011

3 x 8 oz blocks of cream cheese makes a nice, deep cake in an 8" spring form pan.

This is the easiest cheesecake recipe I know, and also the best. The crust is easy. The rest is just beat, pour and bake - no gelatine, no sour cream, and the white choc and raspberry makes it really special.

Don't worry too much about the metric measurements - just run with 30g ounces and round it (so 150g is 5 oz, 180g is 6 oz, 250g is about 8 oz etc). I just use vanilla extract instead of vanilla bean paste and it's fine. Caster sugar is superfine sugar, icing sugar is confectioner's sugar, biscuits are cookies, 20cm is about 8", and 160oC is 320oF. Give it a good minute in the mixer between each egg.

Get a spring pan. Getting deep cheesecake out of a pan is hell, otherwise.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:09 AM on March 29, 2011

All your recipes with the different amounts of cream cheese have one thing in common: they all have the same ratio of cream cheese to eggs, plus something extra (milk/cream, sour cream or egg yolks) thrown in, also sort of in proportion to the number of bricks. So, your 2-brick recipe has 2 eggs plus 3T cream (I am guessing that it makes a much smaller cake), and your 6-brick recipe has 6 eggs plus a pint of sour cream (which probably makes a really tall cake). And most of the recipes that people have linked are just about the same.

As long as the ratio is similar, the variations are for people's taste. Some people like a firmer texture, others like a tart bite. The best part about you making your very first cheesecake is that you have infinite chances on your next cheesecakes to make changes to your taste. So pick a recipe, maybe an easy small one to start, and see if you like it. If you like thicker texture or taller cake, try another one, keeping notes about each version and making a note for the next future cake (example: "I like the flavor, but next time try baking it 10 minutes longer"). Don't forget to try premium ingredients and see how they affect the flavor.

Bon Voyage on your cheesecake journey!

PS - if you do all this as a blog, you may end up with a fair amount of followers and it could actually become a money-making gig for you.
posted by CathyG at 8:40 AM on March 29, 2011

Bear in mind that cheesecake, like ice cream, is a custard. The more fat in the recipe (cream cheese, cream...) will mute flavorings to some point. You may want to keep that in mind when choosing a recipe.

Buy a springform pan. If your recipe calls for a water bath, get extra-wide, heavy duty aluminum foil. You'll need to wrap your pan in foil to prevent leakage, and nearly all pans do, to some extent. Regular-sized foil won't work. The foil has to come all the way up to the top of the pan to keep water out.

Cutting your cake; use dental floss, or better still, monofilament fishing line. You probably know someone who will give you a yard of the fishing line. Nice thing is, you can wash it, the store it in a Zip Loc for future use.

As for your crust, it's the easiest part of the recipe.
posted by JABof72 at 9:15 AM on March 29, 2011

The America's Test Kitchen recipe is the best I've tried, hands down. I'm reluctant to type the whole thing up, but that cookbook is easy to come by.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:20 AM on March 29, 2011

Go to Enter Chantal's Cheesecake in the search.


I'm not a precise baker and I've made this probably 50 times. NO problems ever with it.
posted by littleflowers at 1:12 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

By the way, it's crumbly and rich...just like NY cheesecake should be.
posted by littleflowers at 1:13 PM on March 29, 2011

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