…but you CAN get very, very fat after eating the turtle cheesecake I made last week:
It started as the germ of an idea. After some mostly-fruitless googling, I had to get all Dr. Frankenstein up in that thing, and set to work creating a monster:
THE PERFECT CHEESECAKE.
You know you want it.
So here’s what you do:
1)Make a chocolate cheesecake crust and press into your trusty (greased) 9″ springform pan. (graham crackers or chocolate graham crackers + butter + a bit of sugar + cocoa powder).
2)Make caramel sauce (I use 1c butter, 2c sugar, 2t vanilla and 1c heavy cream, but you could half that since I have a LOT left over. Which I’m using in cinnamon rolls, so you really shouldn’t pity me.). Be sure not to make it too dark, but not too light either. (This was actually a bit lighter than I’d have liked, ultimately).
3)Pour some caramel sauce over the crust; sprinkle on about 1/2c chopped pecans, stick the whole thing in the fridge.
4)Make Nigella’s chocolate cheesecake filling, per the recipe. Bake it utilizing all of my SUPER SEEKRIT CRACK PREVENTION TRICKS.*
5)Make a chocolate ganache (whatever floats your boat. I like to use bittersweet and sometimes a bit of semisweet, cream, and more vanilla). Let that cool, and drizzle it on top of your cooled cheesecake all willy-nilly. Finish off with more caramel sauce, too. And then pecans, because you must.
6)Take the whole shebang to work, in honor of a grad student’s birthday. Be adored forever ‘n’ ever.
Kids, never settle for mediocrity. Always strive to do better. And you know, it’s no coincidence that “better” is just one letter off from “butter”.
Now. Go forth and consume cheesecake.
*OK, since you asked…
Cheesecakes crack for three reasons: over-mixed filling, abrupt temperature changes, and tension (but then, who DOESN’T crack under tension?). So, there are three ways to prevent your cheesecake from cracking:
1)Don’t over-mix the filling. If your ingredients are cold, it will take more time and energy to combine them, thus incorporating more air (air which will then want to escape from your baking cheesecake in the medium of, yes, cracks). So be sure that your butter, cream cheese, eggs, cream, etc. are all nice and tepid. Room temperature.
2)Avoid abrupt temperature changes. This is why making cheesecake is the awesomest thing ever, and also the bane of my existence: to do it right, a cheesecake will occupy your oven and your life for at least 6 hours. See, you can’t just bake a cheesecake and yank it out of the oven and throw it on the counter and call it good. You have to cool it *very* gradually. So here’s what I do: Bake for 1 hour at 350*, in a water bath to add humidity (see below) and to slow the speed at which your cheesecake heats up – if it can’t heat at a uniform rate/distribution, it’ll crack. When your cheesecake is done, turn the oven off; leave cheesecake set in there for another hour. At the third hour, open the oven door partway. At the fourth hour, open the oven door all the way. At the fifth hour, set the cheesecake on the counter. At the seventh (or preferably eighth or even later) hour, stick it in the fridge to keep. All this means that your oven is tied up and your mission in life for these many hours is to tend a freakin’ baking pan. Congratulations. (For what it’s worth, I have been known – in times of great hurry and duress – to speed the cooling increments (second hour onward) by half. But it makes me twitchy and nervous to do that. I don’t recommend it, unless you enjoy living life on the edge.
3)Tension. I don’t mean the mental kind (that which leads to cheesecake consumption, not cheesecake creation). If your cake isn’t free to expand and retract as it needs to, it’ll start sticking to the sides of the pan, and will crack. So grease the pan. (That’s a no-brainer). But the water bath is also handy for this: it will create plenty of wonderful humidity in the oven, as well as helping with the dryness/baking speed thing I talked about above.
PS>Next time I’m gonna toast the pecans.