Rich, smooth and sweet with a little tang, cheesecake epitomizes the luxurious dessert. What's more, cream cheese and sugar are not the only way to go. Savory cheesecakes, made with crabmeat, chives and sour cream or Gorgonzola cheesecakes with bacon and green onions, are equally as decadent as the sweet varieties.
Any kind of cheesecake provides lots protein from the eggs and cheese and calcium from the dairy products. As long as the serving portion is moderate, a cheesecake now and then can easily be part of a healthy diet.
Use Caution When Beating Ingredients
If you overbeat the cream cheese or eggs for your cheesecake, you run the risk of introducing air pockets into the mixture, turning it from smooth and creamy into fluffy and airy. While the cheesecake cooks, those air pockets may collapse and create cracks on the surface of the cheesecake. Reduce the possibility of cracking by letting the cream cheese warm to room temperature for about 30 minutes before creaming i,t so you won't need to beat it as hard or as long.
Add or Subtract Ingredients
A bit of extra sugar slows down cooking in a cheesecake and helps to prevent overcooking, a major cause of cracking and falling. But if you want to avoid the extra calories while still avoiding falls and cracks, consider other options, such as reducing the number of eggs. Look for a recipe that takes fewer eggs, or use smaller eggs rather than jumbo or super large ones. With fewer eggs, you also keep the cholesterol count on the dessert somewhat lower.
Let Your Oven Do its Job
Steady heat is essential for a cheesecake to rise evenly, and it's an easy fix to prevent a fallen or cracked cheesecake. To that end, let your oven preheat completely before putting the cheesecake in, and avoid opening the oven door too often. Keep the oven door closed for at least the first 30 to 40 minutes before looking to see if the cheesecake is done.
Like a custard, a cheesecake is dense, causing it to retain heat and continue cooking even after you take it out of the oven. Overbaking is one of the most common causes of cracking. To cook the cheesecake as gently as possible, use a water bath just as you would for custard. Cracking also is likely in low-calorie cheesecakes with reduced-fat cream cheese. Try swapping out only half of the regular cream cheese with low-fat instead of the entire amount. That way, you'll cut both calories and avoid cracking.
Look for Signs of Doneness
In order to avoid overbaking, you can't rely just on the time indicated in the recipe – your oven may cook hotter or cooler than normal. Take the cheesecake out of the oven when the cheesecake is still wiggly in a 3-inch circle around the middle, not when just a very small, 1/4-inch area in the middle jiggles. The top of the cheesecake will remain pale even when it's done cooking, and the edges will be just barely puffed up.
Embrace the Imperfect Cheesecake
Cracks and depressions in your cheesecake are just opportunities by another name. Spread a thin layer of healthy and colorful strawberries or blueberries over the top of the less-than-perfect cheesecake to disguise its flaws while also adding vitamins and minerals.
Susan Lundman began writing about her love of cooking, ingredient choices, menu planning and healthy eating after working for 20 years on children's issues at a nonprofit organization. She has written about food online professionally for ten years on numerous websites, and has provided family and friends with homemade recipes and stories about culinary adventures. Lundman received her M.A. from Stanford University.