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Cheesecake - to Bake or Not to Bake

Asked by angeladepangela. Answered on 19th March 2011

Full question

Hi team, For a while now I've been looking for the perfect cheesecake recipe. The thing is, they're all so different. The major thing I'm unsure about is whether to bake it or not. Can you explain the difference and which is the best way? Many thanks! Angela

Our answer

Most cheesecakes have the same base (usually biscuit or cookie crumbs bound with melted butter) but the difference is mainly in the topping. The simplest unbaked cheesecakes tend to be almost wholly sweetened cream cheese and whilst they are easy to make they are also very rich, dense and can be a bit cloying. If you lighten the texture of the cheesecake with other ingredients (such as sour cream) then it needs to be set either using gelatine (unbaked) or eggs (baked).

A gelatine-set cheesecake is pretty fiddly and can have a slightly "moussey" texture which is quite different to the velvety smoothness that you get from a baked cheesecake - Nigella's cheesecake recipes are all the baked type. Making a baked cheesecake is not overly complicated, you just need to remember that as they are in effect a baked custard then they need a gentle oven (either a low heat or baked in a water bath) and for the very best texture make sure all of the ingredients (eggs, cream cheese and sour cream) are at room temperature before mixing. Also you need to make a baked cheesecake the day before serving as it needs to cool and chill overnight before it is removed from its tin or pan.

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