Just when you think a holiday party or family gathering couldn't get any better, the host or hostess presents the final surprise of the night - cheesecake!
Of course, this rich and sinful pleasure may be served up anytime. Whether whipped up into a birthday cake, or merely as a reward after a hard day's work, cheesecake is a fun way to make any day (or night) naughtily luxurious.
All about cheesecake
First mentioned by the early ancient Greeks and used in sacred religious services (!) cheesecake remains worshipped for its creamy and rich taste and texture (see National Cheesecake Day).
In the US, cream cheese has been the prime ingredient since the 19th century, when inventor William Lawrence first marketed his "Philadelphia" brand that mimicked then-popular soft and mild French cheeses.
However, by far the most popular cheesecakes anywhere usually include a little something "extra" to the basic recipe like pumpkin or chocolate, or topped with nuts, strawberries or whipped cream.
Since the invention of the spring-form pan in the early 20th century, cheesecakes have become much easier to make although the softer ingredients - cream cheese and sour cream - may still test the beginner, who may be more accustomed to working with flour, eggs and milk.
Cheesecake baking & troubleshooting
Most often, strictly following the recipe is the secret to cheesecake
success. A too thin batter will result in a cheesecake that quickly falls apart. Another common difficulty with baking
cheesecakes is the tendency of the top to crack as it cools.
Both problems can be easily solved by adding a bit of corn starch or gelatin to the mixture to solidify it.
Expert cooks also suggest steeping the spring-form pan (covered with
aluminum to prevent leaking) into a pan of water while baking to prevent the top from cracking. If all else fails, cover
the top to hide the evidence... and voila! - strawberry or chocolate-covered cheesecake.
Of course, there's no better or more delicious way to get better at cheesecake making than by trying out different recipes and practicing your cheesecake technique.
Around the Web, check out top sites offering complete cheesecake
recipes and instructions with accompanying photos ranging from plain vanilla to chocolate or fruit covered, holiday
creations, no-bake, and unusual gourmet treats for the confirmed cheesecake addict ...
to Make Cheesecake - Easy, step-by-step instructions with photos on how to make a basic cheesecake, with complete