Smile and Say Cheesecake!

Here are a few tips to make your cheesecake as beautiful as those made by pros:

To ensure that the cream cheese will be easy to mix, allow it to come to room temperature before using. We suggest brick-style cream cheese; whipped cream cheese has too much air in it. It may take an hour or two for the cheese to soften, so plan your baking schedule accordingly.

Don’t over-mix. Too much air incorporated into your cheesecake batter may result in cracks. Always mix batter in short bursts, especially after adding each egg.

Bake your cheesecake in a springform pan, not a disposable pie plate.

To easily remove cheesecake from a springform pan, line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper larger than the base. Allow it to overhang. Replace ring with paper sticking out. Then wrap in foil as directed below.

Use a water bath to prevent cracks in your cheesecake. The moist heat in the oven will keep the top layer from setting too quickly. Wrap the springform pan in heavy-duty foil so the foil reaches above the top of the pan. Place the wrapped pan in a large roaster pan. Pour 1–2 inches of water in the larger pan and bake as directed in the recipe.

Cheesecake is done when the outer edges are firm and the center is still wobbly. Don’t worry — it will continue to bake from the heat trapped inside. Remove it from the oven and the water bath or turn off the oven and let it cool inside.

Cheesecake will last well in the refrigerator for as long as three weeks. It will not benefit from freezing. Wrap it well to prevent odor absorption from other foods in the refrigerator. Be warned, though: If it is accessible to your family, there may be nothing left for Yom Tov.

Here are two of our favorite flavorful cheesecakes:

Cinn-A-Bun Cheesecake

For the crust:

1 ½ cups cinnamon graham crackers, finely crushed

1 stick butter, melted

2 tablespoons brown sugar

For the filling:

1 ½ pounds cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

½ cup sour cream

4 eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup coarsely chopped cinnamon graham crackers

½ cup cinnamon chips

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon mixed with ¼ cup sugar

Preheat oven to 325° F. Prepare a large roaster pan for a water bath. Wrap the exterior of a 9” springform pan in heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Combine the cracker crumbs, butter and brown sugar and press into the bottom of prepared springform pan. Place pan in freezer while preparing filling.

In a mixer bowl, blend cream cheese, sugar and sour cream until smooth. Scrape down sides of the bowl to incorporate all the sugar. Add eggs, vanilla and flour; blend well.

Remove springform pan from freezer. Spoon half of batter into the pan. Sprinkle 1/4 cup cinnamon chips and 1/4 cup crushed cookies over batter. Dust with half of the cinnamon sugar. Top with remaining batter. Sprinkle remaining cinnamon chips and crushed cookies over batter. Dust on the rest of the cinnamon sugar on top.

Position the roaster pan in the center of your oven. Place springform pan in the center of the roaster. Carefully, fill roaster with hot water until halfway up the side of the springform pan. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes. Remove from water bath and let cool to room temperature. Chill cheesecake at least 6 hours or overnight before serving.

Praline Truffle Cheesecake

For the crust:

1 pound toasted hazelnuts, finely ground

1 stick butter, room temperature

1/8 tsp. cinnamon

For the filling:

1 pound cream cheese, room temperature

1 ¼ cups sugar

3 eggs

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

24 ounces sour cream

8 ounces praline paste

Preheat oven to 350° F. Wrap the outside of a 9’’ springform pan with heavy-duty silver foil, making sure the foil extends beyond the top of the pan. Place a large roaster pan filled with 2” of water on a rack set in the middle of your oven for the water bath.

Combine crust ingredients and pat into the bottom of springform.

Whip cream cheese and sugar, then the eggs one at a time, mixing after each. Add the vanilla and the sour cream.

Reserve one cup of the batter. Pour the remaining batter into the springform pan.

Stir the praline paste into the reserved batter until well combined. Drop praline batter by the spoonful over the batter in the pan. Swirl with a knife to marbleize.

Place the springform in the roaster pan in the oven and bake for 55 to 60 minutes until the outer edges of the cake are set. The center will still feel soft. The retained heat will continue to bake the center.

Remove from oven and immediately run a knife around the edge to loosen and prevent cracking. Chill thoroughly before serving.