Infinitely Variable Cheesecake Recipe
Making a cheesecake is a relatively simple process and you can vary this recipe infinitely. Regardless of whether you're making it for dessert, or as a main course or appetizer, there are some general guidelines that all cheesecake recipes have in common, and once you understand how they work, you'll be able to make them with ease. At its most basic, a cheesecake is a mixture of cream cheese, eggs, and flavorings. Because cream cheese and eggs don't generally have a lot of flavor, it's the flavorings and texture that are supremely important in a cheesecake. Just remember: you'll need to make this favourite a day in advance.
If you're looking for exact measurements and flavorings, this is not the recipe for you. But if you're the type of cook who enjoys expressing their creativity, then this recipe should help you deliver delicious results to your adoring foodie friends! The important things to remember are the proportions: 1 less egg than eight-ounce blocks of cheese; and the texture: thin vs. dense liquid, and the amount of air whipped into the cheesecake.
Before you begin, soften the cream cheese by leaving it out on the counter (still in the package) overnight.
Cook Time, Method One
Cook Time, Method Two
Prep time: 30 min Cook time: 45 min Ready in: 3 hours
Yields: 1 cheesecake
- Cream cheese or neufchatel cheese, softened
- (1 less than number of packages of cream cheese) eggs, beaten
- something to make a crust (see instructions)
- Flavorings, will vary with your taste
- liquid, to achieve desired texture
If I am making cheesecake for a crowd, this is my favorite springform pan to use!
With everyone having so many food allergies nowadays, I must admit that whenever I give a dinner party, I find it so much more convenient to make a base and then add flavorings individually. These mini-cheesecakes are a hit at every dinner party, and each gives 1-2 servings, depending on how many hungry teenage boys live with you.
My Sunbeam stand mixer is more than fifty years old, and still going strong, no matter what I throw at it!
- Measure how much cheese you'll need by putting packages of cheese in your springform pan. You want one less package than it will take to fill it (with the exception of individual springform pans, which will take one package each).
- Put cream cheese in mixing bowl. Add 1 fewer egg than packages of cheese. Beat together until well-mixed with a mixer. I use a stand mixer and go watch television for about 15 minutes.
- Add your flavourings (this could be cheddar and bacon for a savory cheesecake, or peanut butter and chocolate for a dessert cake). Mix with the cheese and eggs. Don't forget to sample the mixture in order to get just the right flavor.
- A little at a time, add liquid (juice, milk, alcohol, whatever will go with your flavourings). Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy and has a moist, creamy texture.
- Either line your springform pan with piecrust dough, or grease the sides and cover the bottom with crushed nuts, or with graham cracker crumbs mixed with melted butter.
- If you are using pie dough, cook it by covering it with parchment paper and securing the parchment with dried beans so that the crust will cook but not brown. Heat the oven to 250 and cook until dough is firm.
- Pour the cheese mixture into your springform pan. At this point you have your choice of two methods of cooking the cheesecake: either heat oven to 350F. Bake for 45 minutes, turn oven off and go to bed; or heat oven to 200F and bake overnight (the exact time doesn't matter).
- In the morning, turn oven off if it's still on. Take out cheesecake and let cool.
- Top your cheesecake, if you like. Use crumbled bacon or grated cheese for savoury cheesecakes; chocolate, fresh fruit, crushed oreos or ice cream syrup for sweet cheesecakes. For a peanut butter cheesecake, melt grape jelly in a pan, pour over the top and refrigerate until jelly congeals.
Tips and Ideas
- Don't be afraid to experiment with different flavours and mealtimes. Maple syrup and blueberry can be served for breakfast; pumpkin at holidays, etc.
- Whipping a lot of air into the cheesecake will make it lighter; whipping little air into the cheesecake and using a dense liquid will make it heavier. Experiment with textures until you find what is pleasing to you. I like light, super-fluffy textures, so I usually leave the cheese mixture to whip in the stand mixer for about half an hour to incorporate a lot of air, and use thin liquids like brandy to thin the mixture. If you want an even lighter, almost airy texture, separate the eggs, and at the last minute whip the egg whites separately and fold the flavored mixture into the egg whites.
- Experiment with the crusts, too. Any hard-baked good (cookies, zwieback, etc.) can be crushed to make a crust. For those who can't tolerate gluten, a nut crust is a definite boon. I have even made savory cheesecake with a crushed bacon crust!
- Ready for even more variation? Substitute up to half the cream cheese with feta, bleu cheese, queso fresco, or any other cheese with a creamy texture.