Don’t Let Cheesecake Push You Around

There is a lot of mystique surrounding the making of cheesecakes, but they're really not difficult, say hounds. In fact, unlike regular cakes, cheesecakes take well to playing with the amount of cream cheese, sugar, and eggs, and you can vary their flavors endlessly by including chocolate, fruit, or other flavoring.

Here are some tips that will make cheesecakes successful:

• Have all ingredients at room temperature so they blend well.

• Bake the cheesecake until it is mostly set but still jiggly in the middle, turn off the oven, and leave the cheesecake in the oven with the door propped open for an hour.

• Run a knife around the edge of the pan once the cheesecake is done; this allows it to pull away from the edge as it cools and prevents cracking.

Some hounds like to bake their cheesecakes in a water bath, and some don't bother. If you use a water bath, wrap the springform pan in foil to prevent sogginess, and add boiling water to the pan you place it in.

Pia offers this method for a crack-proof cheesecake: Bake at 500°F for the first 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 225°F and bake for an hour to two hours, until the internal temperature is 150 to 160°F, checking with an instant-read thermometer.

If your cheesecake cracks, say hounds, disguise the fissures with a thin layer of sour cream or a fruit topping, such as CHOW's New York–style cheesecake with honey-kiwi compote.

Discuss: Baking Cheesecake— Is it as "temper~mental" as I've heard it is?

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