Cheesecake expertise

I bake pies, tarts, cookies and breads much more than cake or cheesecake. So I've got a question for any cheesecake experts out there. Because of a typo in the recipe, I once baked a cheesecake at 250 F (in a water bath) instead of 350 F. I saw the problem and just kept it in the oven until it wasn't seriously jiggly in the center any longer. It turned out beautifully and everyone begged for the recipe. (Thank god for happy mistakes.) I'm wondering if it's an approach you could take with pretty much any cheesecake - long and slow, in a water bath? Thanks.

  • Posted by: Pegeen
  • October 25, 2013


Pegeen October 26, 2013
Chef Ono, I'd like to write "Going by time is a fool's errand" in magic marker on the front of my oven. It reminds me of the Eisenhower quote, "Plans are worthless but planning is everything."
Pegeen October 26, 2013
Well while we're at it, would anyone care to recommend a cheesecake recipe they really love? I was thinking of this one with chocolate-marbled pumpkin and a brownie crust, because there will be lots of kids and the chocolate would hopefully appeal to them. And how much fun would it be to make that beautiful swirly top, like marbled paper.

Any suggestions very welcome!
Pegeen October 26, 2013
Thanks, everyone. These are great tutorials on cheesecakes. I'll give it a dry run before Thanksgiving.
ChefOno October 25, 2013

You asked for cheesecake expertise and I'm not sure I can offer that. But I can explain a little of the science behind the technique:

Low and slow here is not the same as when braising or roasting, but it can help nonetheless. The slower you cook a cheesecake, the less chance there is to overshoot and overcook. Cheesecake is a custard, nothing to be gained from slow cooking per se. But overcooking, and thus over coagulation of the egg proteins will definitely cause trouble, cracking being one issue, dry texture another.

That said, the water bath is there to modulate the oven's heat, the idea being to slowly and thus evenly transfer heat to the cake's mass. My guess is there will be more of a difference in water temperature due to the size of the bain marie than the oven's temperature. The laws of physics state the water bath cannot exceed boiling (212F) no matter how high the oven is set. In fact, due to evaporative cooling, it won't even approach that temperature. (Oven temp will have some effect on browning but that's another issue.)

Regardless, the critical issue here is to not allow the egg proteins to get too hot. Your best weapon is cooking by temperature rather than by time. And by temperature, I mean the cheesecake's temperature. Stick a probe in it and kill the heat at 155-160F. Going by time is a fool's errand. The time it takes for any given mass to reach a given temperature is dependent upon many factors including, and specifically, the temperature of the ingredients at the start of baking. I'm sure there are bakers who can consistently pull their cheesecakes based upon a jiggle test like Cynthia can. I'm not one of them but I can nail the temperature every time.

boulangere October 25, 2013
You're so fortunate that you had time for your happy accident to finish baking! I bake cheesecakes at 325º until done - when it reaches that "jiggly" stage. It's a bit different with each cheesecake if it has anything added to the basic batter which changes its density. I set a timer for 45 minutes and begin checking it then, adding 5 or 7-minute increments as needed. Here is a more thorough explanation:
cookbookchick October 25, 2013
Google "Andrew Schloss cheesecake" for his 1996 article and recipes in the Washington Post and related articles in other publications. His recipes for "overnight cheesecake" has them baking at 200 degrees F.
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