BATHE or not a CHEESECAKE melody

This sumptuous multi-ethnic inspired Fruit Melody CHEESECAKE...
got the Spa and Star treatment.

Do you think this decadently moist cheesecake needed...
a ‘water bath’ (Bain-Marie) to succeed?
Is the ' water bath ' baking method too daunting for you to prepare?
Is it a step you're willing to forego since the results don't matter as much...
as long as it produces a fairly tasty acceptable textured cake?
Or...are you a stickler when it comes to producing a
top notch flavourful textured CHEESECAKE?

There are so many schools of thought on this topic.
Since I've made my share of the good...the not so great...
and then, ultimately, an excellent luscious decadent cheesecake...
I thought I was qualified enough to weigh in on this controversy.
The matter of the 'water bath' issue is very personal to ones expectations.
I've been making it both ways...however...I do sway greatly
towards giving my cheesecake a spa bath.

For a few more minutes, I get rewarded with the smoothest looking...
and most sumptuous creamy bite that you should expect from a cheesecake.

This is what always helps me in my baking dilemma...
I'll ask myself the following:
. Am I craving cheesecake and time is of the essence? ...Yes... Well...the technique doesn't matter as long as I'm willing to forgo the evenness of the creamy outcome throughout the cake.  Although, I do have to be prepared to accept a somewhat 'cakier' and ’grittier’ textured result.
. Am I planning to expose the cake's surface? ...Yes... Then, definitely use the 'water bath' technique.
. Do I want to highlight the charm of the rustic look of the cheesecake? ...Yes... Then, as some will tell you...the surface crack is the most charming aspect of the dessert.

If covering the surface with a fruit or chocolate...either way is acceptable.
However, I would be sacrificing the moist, even texture throughout.

graham crust with roasted chopped almonds cheesecake

What does the 'water bath' really do for succeeding a better cheesecake?
. It will create a slow and gentle steamy simmer so that the pan's heat won't get higher than the temperature of the water steaming around it.  Hence, the center of the cake will bake at the same time as the edges.
. It will flawlessly ensure an even surface and prevent the cake from getting surface cracks.
. It will mostly turn out a creamy smooth consistant texture and moist throughout.

Therefore, I ask you...
is it worth the extra few minutes?

Here are my...No-Fail cheesecake tips:
. Contrary to what many would do...I never needed to wait for the eggs to reach room temperature for the cheesecake to succeed.
. Speaking of ingredients...cheesecake is one of those desserts where I avoid low-fat because I don’t appreciate gritty textures.   At the limit...I may go low-fat on sour cream.
. While beating on low speed...I do add the eggs one at the time.  I'll add them always towards the end of the mixing and I'm very careful not to over beat the eggs.
. I skip the step of lining the sides of the spring form pan with parchment paper...I don’t really see a huge benefit considering the extra time it takes.
. If I don't have the extra wide (very handy) aluminium paper...I will lay a star type criss cross pattern before raising it on the sides of the pad.  Cut eight pieces instead of four to ensure that water doesn't seep into the batter through the tiny space of the spring form pan.
. I also didn't see the difference in adding boiled water into the secondary holding pan...I just pour hot tap water and everything works fine.
. I usually bake the cake the required amount of time...however, at times, after having witnessed the slight cake puff effect...I'll shut it before the required time and leave it in for an extra hour with the oven door closed.  Once that time is up...I'll leave the door open ajar for the remaining time until it reaches room temperature.  This will ensure that any possible cracks or possibility of cake collapsing is nil.

With all this said...although anyone can bake a very tasty cheesecake...
some less than perfect results can dictate the outcome of the
desired moistness as well as the cake's aesthetic appeal.

This is why I mostly use the ‘Bain Marie’ baking technique.
It guarantees a crack-free, creamy cheesecake every time.
However, despite my best efforts, I know that if ever I do mess up...
I can always camouflage it with great toppings.
There is something important to be mentioned
about this particular cheesecake concoction.
A few weeks ago...
I was experimenting with a new creative brownie recipe with tofu.
To my surprise, my lab experiment succeeded in the flavour department...
however, I somehow ended up with overly baked results.
What was I to do with a dryer textured brownie???
I decided to freeze it for later contemplation.

The later part came along no longer than a week.
Instead of using graham cookies or cereals as the base to the cheesecake...
I decided why not crumble up the brownie?
Eureka...another clever move on my part.
These are the moments I cherish most ;o)
I also decided to use some feta cheese that was begging to be used.

Fruit Melody velvety-smooth CHEESECAKE
multi-ethnic inspired
serves 8-10 persons


(American / Metric measures)
...for the CRUST:
. 1-1/2 cups (135g) cake or cookie crumbs 
. 1/4 cup (50ml) unsalted butter (melted)
...for the FILLING:
. 1 (8oz.)pkg. (250g) Cream cheese (softened 2hr.)
. 1 cup (225g) Ricotta cheese * (drained of water)
. 1/2 cup (100g) Feta cheese**
. 1 cup (250ml) Sour cream***
. 1 cup (220g) granulated sugar
. 4 Large eggs
. 1 tbsp. (15ml) pure Vanilla extract
. 1 tbsp. (15ml) lemon juice
. 1 lemon zest (finely grated)...optional
. Heavy-duty WIDE aluminium foil for ‘water bath’ pan

Ricotta cheese:  A fresh Ricotta (packaged in both plastic and paper wrapping) at your specialty cheese store is a preferred choice.
** Feta cheese variety: The Bulgarian Feta (derived from sheeps'milk) has a much creamier texture than Greek Feta.  The one sold in the metal tin of superior quality...less salty also.  Egyptian Feta is also an excellent choice.
*** Sour cream: It is suggested to use this cream in order for the cake to be more resilient to freezing possibilities.

...for the topping:
Glaze and Fruit garnish

. a few strawberries, blueberries, peaches and cherries
. 1 cup (250ml) fruit jam (apricot or peach)

9 inch (23cm/2.5litre) spring form pan
Pre-heat oven to the initial 350F/180C/Gas 4 oven rack in the center.
Note: oven will be lowered later!
. With a little vegetable oil...grease the whole cake pan.
Optional: place a round piece of parchment in order to protect the bottom of the pan when cutting and serving.

. Optional...Preparing the 'WATER BATH' (Bain Marie) to leak-proof your pan:
** Foil wrap the spring form pan. Cut out an 18 inch (46cm) square piece.  Raise it on the sides and then crush the foil at the top as it surpasses the edges a bit.  Note: If foil is not heavy duty...double wrap just to ensure a tight leak proof bake.   Another way: Cut eight even pieces of regular aluminium sheets flatly over-lapped like a star shape that will be long enough to be raise and slightly surpass the side edges of the pan.

...Making the CRUST:
. In a bowl, stir the chosen crumbs with the melted butter until a moistness is realized. Press evenly at the bottom of the pan.  Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until firm to the touch. Cool completely at room temperature. Set aside.  LOWER the oven temperature to 325 F/160C/Gas 3
...Making the FILLING:
. In a large bowl...beat the sugar with all the cheeses on medium speed.   Combine until smooth.  Gradually add the eggs one at the time while beating on very low. Always remember to keep scraping the batter from the sides.
. Add the vanilla extract, lemon juice and sour cream. Slowly beat until smoothly combined.  Don’t over beat.  At the very end with the spatula...fold in the finely grated lemon zest.  Pour the cheese filling over the prepared cake or cookie crumb crust.
. BAKING note: ** If using a ' Water Bath' method...add the foiled cake pan and fill the roasting pan of hot tap water by bringing it halfway up the sides of the pan.  However, if not using a 'water bath'...make sure to at least place the cake pan onto a baking sheet.

. BAKE for 90 minutes. As the end may witness a slight puffiness...and the shine of the batter disappears. The edges will seem set and a little off the side edges...while the center will appear slightly jiggly. All this is perfect. REFRAIN from opening up the oven!
. Turn off oven and leave everything alone for one more hour.  Afterwards, open the oven door slightly ajar to let the rest of the heat and steam escape.  Continue to have the slow easing off temperature process take its course.
. Later, when oven is no longer warm...transfer cake pan to a wire rack. Once it’s completely cooled, cover and place it into the refrigerator so that it firms up and chills least 4 hours or longer.

. Assembly: Place the cake pan on a serving dish.  Run a wet thin metal spatula or knife around the sides of the pan and then loosen the clip to release the cake.
. This cheesecake should be eaten in the next few days or properly plastic and foil wrapped for freezing up to one months time.
...Making the TOPPING...Decorating and Glazing the Fruit Medley:
. In a small pot...gently melt the jam on low heat. Through a thin sieve...pour the jam into a cup so that only the liquid remains.

Decorate the cake's surface and pour the liquid
throughout making sure all fruit is covered.
This glazed covered fruit topping will remain fresh looking for 2 days.
I was so pleased with my initial attempt at decorating a
All this fruity freshness was begging to be showed off.

So, tell me...would you give your cheesecake
the SPA and STAR treatment?

Have yourselves a fantabulous day and flavourful wishes,

Comments or suggestions ... write me :o)
Claudia at: foodessa [at] gmail [dot] com

Go HERE for more SWEET creations.

Please take note on how I bake and cook...
Here’s a 101 of sorts to make sure that there are no disappointments when trying my creations.  
Also...just so you know...feel free to increase the salt and sweet factor since I'm not high on either of them ;o)
. Use DRY cup measurements guessed it...all DRY ingredients.
Anything DRY gets measured by spooning the overfilled ingredient (never shake the cup) and then level off with a flat edged tool.  Exception...Brown sugar should be packed in and leveled.
. Use LIQUID cup measurements for...all LIQUIDS that cannot be leveled like for example butter, yogurt...etc.  Measure the liquids at eye level to avoid overdoing what the recipe truly needs.
OVENS are unfortunately not created equal.  Mine is so old that it has reached many degrees off it's norm.  It's really worth investing a few dollars to test yours with an appropriate oven thermometer.  You'd be surprised how many ovens I've heard about not being where they should have been.  Before you lose any more ingredients and much time preparing a new to the'll thank me later. 

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