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Sunday
Apr272008

Little Cheesequakes: A Cheesecake FAQ and a Daring Bakers Challenge

Little Cheesequakes
It's that time of month again--that magical moment before rent is due, and when it's time for a Daring Bakers Challenge, a monthly online baking event. The Cakespy crew always awaits this moment with bated breath: it's always such a fun opportunity to misbehave. This month, the challenge was Cheesecake Pops, a recipe chosen by Elle and Deborah, from the aptly titled Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O'Connor. What could be cuter (or more decadent) than bite sized cheesecakes, dipped in chocolate and served on a stick? How 'bout mini cheesecakes shaped like slices of "big" cheesecake? See above for our offering. While we offer our apologies for the lack of chocolate dipping, we believe we've more than made up for this omission through cuteness--it has a mini graham cracker crust! And a dollop of faux-whipped cream (made of a daub of cake frosting)! And even a mini marzipan strawberry with glaze!


But while going through the various steps of baking a cheesecake, letting bite-sized pieces freeze, and shaping our little cheese bites and then impaling them, we began to ponder the subject of cheesecake, that humble confection which has been tantalizing palates since ancient Greek times and which has been cited as the downfall of many a diet. What's going on with this cake--or is it a pie? And so, in an effort to better inform you on this treat, we took some time to address some important questions about cheesecake:
CHEESECAKE FAQ
Question: Is cheesecake a pie, or a cake?
Answer: Ah, the age-old question. On the one hand, its name speaks for itself--cheesecake. However, there is strong evidence on the pie side: while cakes rise, the cheesecake does not; also, cheesecakes often have a decidedly pie-reminiscent crust. Recently in a heated argument over the subject, a Cakespy acquaintance phoned the Cheesecake Factory Headquarters to inquire on the subject; they say cake. But the evidence to the contrary still bugs us; perhaps this is just a mystery never meant to be solved, or perhaps the true answer will come to us as a vision while on a soulful pilgrimage through the desert.

Marbled Cheesecakes from Junior'sQ: Can I use any type of cheese in cheesecake?
A: Cream cheese, Neuchâtel and Ricotta are probably the most common types of cheese used, for their soft texture and high level of malleability. Cream Cheese is particularly popular because its low water and high fat content tends to yield a dense, smooth and creamy result. Quark and Mascarpone versions also exist, as well as soft farmer's cheeses in Pennsylvania Dutch country. While we wouldn't say it's impossible to use other types of cheese, our stomachs tend to curdle (just a little dairy humor) when considering a Swiss or Cheddar cheesecake.

A: What is New York Cheesecake?
A: New York-style cheesecake, made famous by establishments such as Junior's in Brooklyn, is a dairy-loaded confection: its filling consists of heavy cream, cream cheese, eggs, and sometimes sour cream too: the result is just about the densest, creamiest, dreamiest cheesecake you'll ever find. The New York Cheesecake is most frequently, but not always, made using a springform pan; most versions have a graham cracker crust, but of course Junior's famous cheesecake has a sponge cake layer.

 

Organic Honey Cheesecake from Eat LocalQ: I have a problem really like wine. Any suggestions for pairing wine with cheesecake?

A: According to classicwines.com, you should seek out two traits: Moderate sweetness and some sort of acidity or fizziness that can cut through the heaviness of the flavor and prepare your palate for the next bite. To that end, Moscato d'Asti is perfect: Sweet, rich with the aromas of stone fruits, (like peaches and nectarines) and just the slightest bit fizzy, which cuts through the richness of the cake perfectly. You can also go with a nice German Riesling, which will have both enough sweetness and acidity to make for a great match. For more adventurous palates, Vouvray works beautifully, as does Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise. And don't forget about Prosecco, which is almost always an excellent partner for desserts of this sort.

Pumpkin CheesecakeQ: My cheesecake cracked on top! Do I have to throw it away?
A: On the contrary. Cracked cheesecakes are fairly common--it is often attributed to over-beaten eggs. However, don't despair! Just take a hot knife to the surface and make like a sculptor to redistribute the cake to smooth the cracks. If so moved, this is a great chance to get artistic with your cake, perhaps creating lovely whirls or design elements to the surface. If still lacking a little flair, perhaps you could consider adding a sweet topping in the likeness of a celebrity visage to cover a multitude of cheesecake sins.

Mini Cheesecakes, Sweet Farm, BrooklynQ: Will cheesecake make me fat?
A: No doubt about it, cheesecake is delicious--but in all its rich, creamy and decadent glory, it is not what one might call a low-cal food. However--may we preach for a moment?-- this ought not be a reason to deprive yourself. Fact is, anything can make you gain weight--from carrots to rice cakes to pizza and chips, depending on how much you eat and how active (or inactive) the lifestyle you lead. It's our belief that while it's smart to enjoy rich foods in moderation, it's not at all smart to avoid them entirely if you love them--you'll just keep on eating other foods to compensate, and will end up miserable! So just enjoy your cheesecake!*

 

*In moderation. As an example of how not to eat cheesecake, consider the example of professional eater Sonya Thomas, who holds the World Record for cheesecake eating, having put away 11 pounds of cheesecake in a mere 9 minutes.

More Heart CheesecakesQ: I'm lactose intolerant / vegan / or otherwise can't or won't eat dairy. Whaddya have to say about that?
A: Go soy! Soft tofu varieties and Tofu cream chees, combined with soy milk or creamer, yield a silky-smooth and absolutely decadent result; even nonvegans may find they don't miss the dairy! This one looks pretty awesome to us.

Q: I like cheesecake so much better the day after it's made! Is there something wrong with me?
A: On the contrary. Cheesecake flavors do tend to develop after baking, making the smooth, creamy cheese blossom on the taste buds once the flavors have had some time to set (though truly, we suspect fairies or elves might play a part too). Our serving suggestion? Make your cheesecake, keep it in the fridge overnight, then leave it at room temperature for an hour or two before serving. Sublime.

Q: I just did a Google search on Cheesecake and came up with pictures of scantily clad girls. What gives?
A: We see you've stumbled upon a classic pinup genre of photography. Here's the story: The "Cheesecake Pose" is said to have gotten its name in 1915 when a newspaper photographer named George Miller noticed a visiting Russian diva, Elvira Amazar, just as she was debarking her ship in New York. Miller asked the opera singer to hike up her skirt a little for the sake of the picture. Later, the photographer's editor, something of a gourmet, is supposed to have exclaimed, "Why, this is better than cheesecake!". So there you go.

 

 

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Reader Comments (84)

to toss a cheesecake just because of a cracked top would be sacrilege!

i'm sure lots of time and effort went into your tiny cheesecakes, and i for one appreciate it--they're adorable!

one last thing--although i cringe to watch her in action, i can't help but respect sonya thomas and her go-go-gadget stomach.

April 27 | Unregistered CommenterGrace

Here is another fact about cheesecake: It is my FAVORITE dessert! Also my favorite breakfast the next morning.

April 27 | Unregistered CommenterKathi D

Your tiny cheesecakes are *adorable*. And I love the FAQ.

April 27 | Unregistered CommenterDolores

I love your mini cheesecake slices - the marzipan strawberry is just too cute for words. Thanks for all the interesting cheesecake facts!

April 27 | Unregistered CommenterCakelaw

Love the cheesecake pose... zexy!!!

April 27 | Unregistered CommenterAran

Oh that little strawberry is so cute! Although some might say that the cheesecake girl is more their thing ;P

April 27 | Unregistered CommenterY

Haha - I guess I've never googled cheesecake before, because I had never heard of the cheesecake pose! Great post, as usual!!

April 27 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah

Thanks for the comment on my blog, you are right it is Chronicle books. This challenge was fun and your mini cheesecakes look delicious. I could eat one and then another and another!

April 27 | Unregistered CommenterChristine

I love the minature slice idea! I don't think I have the patience to do it myself though!

April 27 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

You guys always make me smile. Love your mini wedge on a stick.

April 27 | Unregistered Commenterglamah16

LOVE your contribution to this month's Daring Baker's Challenge!! Yum!! And the FAQs are quite helpful/interesting.

Okay, that HAS to be one of the funniest Google search results ever :0D

April 27 | Unregistered CommenterVeggieGirl

Those tiny cheesecakes you made are perfect! I also love the picture of the mini ones you took...those look so good.

April 27 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

I can't imagine the work that went into those cheesecake pops--gorgeous! That's one lollipop I'd try any day. And the cheesecake info is great--thanks!

April 27 | Unregistered CommenterRicki

I think I know everything about cheesecake now! Thanks for the facts! Love the little strawberry. Awesome detail.

April 27 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

Oh, my goodness! Your little miniature cheesecake wedges are *spectacular*! What a great idea. Thanks for all the cheesecake info!

April 27 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

awesome~
that mini cheesecake slice is so cute.
mine didn't really work out.
and i couldn't bring myself to taste them.

that cheesecake pose looks more like a tinkle squat.

April 27 | Unregistered Commenterbonnie

Another great, informative post, Cakespy.

I've made a lot of cheesecakes in my life, both for personal reasons and professionally.

Another reason for cracking is that the cake sinks a bit as it cools. Just take a knife and run it around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the side, that way the cake isn't being "pulled" from the side of the pan as it sinks. You can also, as your post mentions, decorate to make the top look attractive, or make a simple glaze for your cake out of a variety of things.

As for is it a cake or a pie? Well, neither. Cheesecake is actually a type of custard, if you ask me. I believe Alton Brown also made this claim in one of his books.

I just made a blackberry truffle cheesecake at work and it was great (except one of the night staff HACKED it to death one night while attempting to portion it...long story) but most of the cheesecakes made at this place are the gelatin, unbaked kind - and lemme tell you, they are AMAZING. I never knew so many varieties of the gelatin cheesecake could be made. I almost prefer it to the baked (mine are all baked there, though). I might have to steal the recipe...

i am so in love with you! not only is your cheesecake slice on a stick the most amazing thing in the world but you included my favorite picture of betty page! *dying*

(also, many thanks for the cinnamonk love! thanks!!)

April 27 | Unregistered Commenterr4kk4

Tsk. Tsk. Incorrigible. And completely HILARIOUS. And I was thinking about that crust thingy, too. There are so many possibilities. Yours are way cute and your information priceless -- especially the wine. I love Vouvray and was thinking Muscat.

April 27 | Unregistered Commenterkellypea

Kudos on the little mini cheesecake pops. I just want to know where the cuppie cheesecake picture is. Thanks for putting a smile on my face this morning.

April 27 | Unregistered CommenterKrysta

How did you manage to pack so much into one post, including the secret of New York Cheesecake, AND, the secret of "the other" cheesecake? And, now, I have another reason to pair wine with dessert, not that I have a problem ...

how completely delightful!

April 27 | Unregistered Commenterelizabeth

I love the mini cheesecake slice! Adorable! and thanks for the FAQ on cheesecake!

April 27 | Unregistered CommenterKatrina

LOL! I loved your last cheesecake FAQ. Your mini cheesecake slices are so seriously adorable!!

April 27 | Unregistered CommenterPheMom

Loved the post! Great job!

April 27 | Unregistered CommenterJerry
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