I’ve attempted to make marshmallow fondant, rich chocolate layered cakes, mini pastries, cookies, crumbles, pies etc. but I’ve never made a cheesecake. Nothing is more disappointing than ordering a mediocre cheesecake with the expectation that it will taste like the authentic New York Cheesecake. I never wanted to be held responsible for that disappointment so, I’ve never made one. Until now.
DESSERTS WITH CHEESE IN ITALY
In Italy, using cheese in pastries and desserts is fairly common: In the south of Italy, specifically Sicily, fresh ricotta cheese is used for the filling in Cannoli; In the north, mascarpone cheese, originating from the Lombardy region, is used in the well-known Tiramisù.
Italian cheesecake recipes mix different cheeses with regular cream cheese. Since I wanted the authentic taste of the NY cheesecake, I had to go with an authentic recipe – 100% Philadelphia cream cheese.
It took me a while to find a recipe that I thought would have potential to mimic my idea of an authentic New York Cheesecake yet at the same time please an Italian palate. (I wasn’t going to eat the whole cheesecake by myself.) The problem with a thick and rich New York version is that Italians find it too rich and filling.
LIGHT AND FLUFFY CHEESECAKE
Finally, I found a recipe that was simple, with few ingredients and that advertised the final result as “light and fluffy.” Perfect. You can find that recipe on the blog Plain Chicken.
How do you get the cake to be light and fluffy? By whipping the egg whites separately from the yolks.
However, the disadvantage to obtaining fluffiness is causing the cake to rise and crack. The cake will probably crack in the oven if it isn’t dense enough, or it may crack when it deflates after you take it out of the oven.
I tried this recipe twice because the first time I followed it, I got a dense, cracked and shallow cake that did not have the philly cheese taste I was going after. Where did I go wrong? I overcooked it. By overcooking the cheesecake, I believe it slightly changed the taste from cheesy to eggy. I didn’t pay attention to the diameter of the pan that Plain Chicken was using. On top of that, I wasn’t even using a springform pan.
For what it’s worth, my husband loved it and ate half the cheesecake anyway.
The second time I tried this recipe, I used a smaller pan to obtain a higher cake and I googled “how to know when you’re cheesecake is done.” Unfortunately, you can’t follow recipes’ baking instructions perfectly unless you have the exact same tools, equipment and oven. To see if the cheesecake is cooked, shake the pan lightly to see if only the centre bit jiggles. If the sides are pretty much set and the centre is still jiggly, turn off the heat, leave it for a few minutes and then take it out. The heat from the cake will cook whatever wasn’t cooked in the centre. You don’t want to get the cake too brown either.
I still didn’t get the impeccable white cheesecake look without any cracks that the picture in Plain Chicken advertises, but I got the taste I was looking for and the fluffiness that my Italian friends loved. (They had seconds). To hide the cracks in the cake, I covered them with a thick berry coulis. Nom nom nom.