Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Basic cheesecake

For a long time and after a lot of rummaging on the internet I had almost resigned to the fact that  Cheesecake in India was not practical. The core ingredient "cream cheese" is not easily available. There are only few brands and terribly overpriced. Splurging that kind of money on one ingredient for a home dessert is not my thing.
For me a recipe is somehow not interesting if there it calls for an excess (of money or quantity) of just one very rich fattening ingredient; like EIGHT eggs or more for a 9inch cake or Croissants.. (..stretch and wrap the yeast dough around a slab of butter... Ugh!!).
Most of the recipes for cheese cake on Indian websites were either dubiously simple (the "I-doubt-they-actually-tried-that"- variety ) or just some method of solidifying milk or worse, maintained that condensed milk and yogurt mixed together produced cheesecake!
This recipe for cheesecake has been tried and tested (not perfected). I was told that it is a little lighter than the version made with cream cheese. The recipe proceeds in three stages. Here is the ingredients list.

For a 7" round cheesecake you will need:
400ml tubs of plain Yogurt (set curd if you will) - 2
1/2 cup Sugar
1/3 cup Fresh Cream
2 Eggs
1 Tbsp Cake flour (maida)
1 Vanilla pod/ 1/2 tsp Vanilla essence
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
8-10 plain Biscuits (neutral tasting and less sweet like Marie) or Plain crackers
2 tbsp melted Butter
For cheesecakes you also need a springform pan.

Start the previous night. Hang the yogurt. Hanging yogurt gets rid of the whey and gives you only the cheese. Take a bowl, spread a cheesecloth or a clean handkerchief over it empty the two tubs of yogurt into it. Gather and tie the ends of the hanky and hang it overnight. This is what I do.

A note on the yogurt used. You want the least sour yogurt you can get. Usually the carton has a production date and the life thereafter is two weeks. While this is okay for most uses, buy a carton that is not more than 4-5 days old.

Stage one:
The next day start with the biscuit base. Put the biscuits or crackers into a plastic bag and use a rolling pin to crush the biscuits to crumbs. There should be no chunky pieces left. Be careful with the plastic bag. Crush more by rolling and less by pounding. If the plastic bag tears, it's a mess! Pour out the powdered biscuits into a bowl. Add the powdered nutmeg, melted butter and half an egg white into the biscuit powder. For the egg white, crack an egg around its middle and using your fingers slightly cleave open the egg shell letting some of the egg white to flow into the biscuits. Keep the remaining egg aside, it will be added to the filling.
Now stir the biscuit powder well to get it all wet with butter and egg white and empty the bowl into an ungreased springform pan (Yay... no greasing and flouring required for cheesecake). Spread evenly on the bottom of the pan and then press down with the back of a spoon to form a firm base. It should look like this.

Now stick the springform pan in the freezer. Cover it with a plate to avoid any drops of water from falling in. Freezing will cause the butter to get firmer and this will hold the base better. The egg white is actually a safety measure. When the cheesecake is popped in the oven, The butter in the base will melt again and the egg white will get firm by cooking. This will ensure that your base is not too crumbly making it easier to cut and serve.

Stage Two:
We make the filling now. Open the cheesecloth and plop its contents into the bowl (you can use the one which had the biscuit powder). Use a spoon to get any significant remains in the cheesecloth. Scrap out the vanilla pod onto the cheese.

Add in the sugar, cream and eggs one at a time and flour and mix with a large spoon after every addition until the mixture is homogeneous. While mixing do not take out the spoon with every stroke. The aim is to mix everything without getting too much air into the mixture. 
This is the main difference between cheesecake and a regular flour and butter cake. In the latter you want more air incorporated for a nice rise in the oven. Here you want absolutely no rise else the cheesecake will have cracks (which is what happened to me). Keeping air out is also the intention of not using an electric balloon whisk. I, however, do use it as it gets the filling nice and creamy quickly without lumps. The cake eventually cracks but the taste is better. 
Ideally do all the mixing with a spoon and just at the end use the electric whisk on lowest speed for just 5-10 seconds to smoothen out the filling. Take out the base from freezer and pour the filling into the pan. Use a rubber spatula to get all of the filling.

Stage three:
When you have poured the filling out it doesn't settle in smoothly. You need to use the rubber spatula to smoothen it out before baking it. Let the pan stand for about 5-10 mins before baking. This gives some time and us some hope that the air bubbles from mixing will pop. Bake on the bottom rack of an oven pre-heated to 180 Degrees Celsius for 40-45 mins.

The test is to verrrrry slighly tap the middle with a spoon and see if it jiggles. The filling should not come onto the spoon. Take out the cheesecake and let it cool. Once cooled run a knife around the cake and the base to make sure nothing it stuck and refrigerate for 4-6 hours. As I am all about shortcuts, I place it in the freezer for about and hour and a half and shifted it into the fridge thereafter.Remove the rim of the springform, arrange any manner of fruits on top (I chose bananas) and serve. Tada!


  1. I have tried the no-bake cheesecakes might would love to try the baked version.

    Saw the photograph and illustrations on Priya's blog recently.

    1. I tried the no bake cheese cake with gelatine. It was a disaster. I swore to stick to this safe version :) Maybe my gelatin was no good. Do you have a recipe?