Cheesecakes are a popular dessert because of their rich flavor and smooth and creamy texture. However, many people find cheesecakes to be one of the most intimidating desserts to bake at home. Cheesecakes, along with custards, puddings, and sponge cakes, among others, require a combination of a low heat source and moisture in order to cook properly. Without this combination, cheesecakes are prone to cracking, which can lead to a dry texture and also impacts the overall appearance of the cheesecake. Cooking a cheesecake in a water bath is one of the best ways to avoid cracking and drying. Although this cooking method is not familiar to many at home bakers, it is actually very simple to implement, and will vastly improve the overall quality of the cheesecake. Below is a step by step guide for how to cook cheesecake using a water bath.
• 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
• 1/4 cup white sugar
• 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
• 32 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (use full fat only)
• 1 cup white sugar
• 3 tbsp all purpose flour
• 5 large eggs at room temperature
• 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
• 1 tbsp lemon zest
• 1 tsp vanilla extract (use pure, not imitation)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush the bottom and sides of a 9 inch springform pan with melted butter. Wrap the springform pan with aluminum foil. This is to ensure that none of the water from the water bath gets into the pan and makes the cake soggy.
In a medium sized bowl, combine the graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter, and mix to combine to make the crust. When mixed, press the crust mixture evenly onto the bottom of the spring form pan and up the sides of the springform pan approximately 1 inch. Set aside.
In the bowl of either a stand mixer or just a large bowl, place the cream cheese, sugar, and flour. Beat on medium speed for approximately two minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary, until the batter is smooth and creamy. Beat the eggs into the batter one at a time until just mixed. Do not overmix because this will add extra air into the batter which creates a light and fluffy cheesecake instead of a smooth and creamy one. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, if necessary, and then incorporate the lemon zest, cream, and vanilla extract. Beat until just incorporated. Pour the batter into the aluminum foiled springform pan with the crust and place into a larger pan with high sides (an ovenproof deep sided sauté pan works well for this).
For the water bath, boil some water in a kettle and pour this into the larger pan that the springform pan is sitting in. Try to fill up the larger pan so that the water comes halfway up the springform pan. Place both pans in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. After the 15 minutes is up, reduce the heat of the oven to 250°F, and continue baking the cheesecake for another 60-90 minutes. Do not open the oven to check the cake until the 60 minutes of baking is up. The cheesecake is finished when the top is firm and only the very center is jiggly. When the cheesecake is finished, remove from oven, remove the springform pan from the water bath, and let the cake cool down to room temperature.
This recipe and these directions will create a smooth and creamy cheesecake without any cracks in it. The cheesecake can be topped with a fruit or chocolate sauce, or any other toppings that sound good. An instructional video for making cheesecake in a water bath can be found here: