She’s known as the Cheesecake Queen for good reason! Everyday Delicious Kitchen Food Design Manager, Trish McKenzie, took a few minutes to share her top tips for creating the perfect cheesecake this holiday season.
Q: Why does everyone love cheesecake?
Trish: Well, we all grew up with cheesecake – everyone has an aunty or a grandma who made a great cheesecake. I grew up eating lemon cheesecake made with condensed milk and baked in a pie plate! The great thing about cheesecake is versatility. Your core ingredient, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, creates a great tang and gives a beautiful creamy mouth feel. With that as your base, you can add different types of fruit, chocolate, liqueurs – whatever. It can be simple, beautiful and fresh, or it can be something special for entertaining.
Cheesecakes are perfect for entertaining because they are easily made a day or two before – just decorate and serve them on the day. Also, you can make mini cheesecakes, or cheesecakes in a glass jar which is popular now. There are just so many options and they all taste fantastic.
Q: What’s better – baked or no bake cheesecake?
Trish: Australians are half and half on this one! Some love the baked cheesecake, which is a more American or New York City style – dense, heavy and rich, whereas others like the light, airy fluffy and almost mousse-like consistency of a no bake cheesecake. Both are winners in my book!
Q: What are your tips for making great cheesecakes?
Trish: If you’re attempting a baked cheesecake, make sure not to overbeat the filling. Adding too much air will cause that air to rise in the oven which leads to cracks. If you do have a crack, you can always hide it with a sprinkle of coconut, fresh cream, fruit or chocolate shavings.
Q: My mum topped hers with a grated Flake; that was always very exciting.
Trish: The challenge is to not to eat the Flake before it goes on the cake!
My next tip is not to be afraid of gelatine. I often hear home cooks saying they’re not sure what to do with it. Our recipes usually suggest two or three teaspoons of powdered gelatine from the supermarket. Dissolve it in boiled water, and wait till it goes clear – easy! Sheet gelatine is fine, but for home cooks I suggest powdered gelatine for a great result.
I’ve got one more tip and that’s to make sure your wonderful family recipes live on. My grandmother made a beautiful coconut raspberry slice, and my other grandma made an amazing baked custard with jam. My husband’s Aunty Corrie makes a beautiful traditional lemon and condensed milk cheesecake. Family traditions are important so it’s important that these recipes are shared around, I think, so the younger generation can step up!
Q: What’s really popular at the moment? What are the trends?
Trish: Moving into the summer berries are always popular. Seasonality always comes up trumps. When foods are truly in season the flavour is so much better. You can’t beat sun ripened strawberries and raspberries in the summer … or a luscious mango maybe!
There’s a lot of coconut around too, you can use condensed coconut milk through a cheesecake with chocolate ……absolutely delicious.
Q: Our readers are always looking for easy tricks that look impressive – what would you recommend?
Trish: Char-grilled stone fruit, like peaches, nectarines or plums, work beautifully atop a cheesecake. Just make perfectly plain beautiful basic lemon cheesecake – or white chocolate cheesecake if you prefer. Top it with beautiful char-grilled fruit – yum!
Q: Yum! Now, what can go wrong that home cooks should be aware of?
Trish: Layering crumb up the sides is fiddly and something I don’t usually do. It’s fiddly and time consuming, and some people don’t like the base. Personally, I love the base, but there are a lot of non-base eaters out there.
People tend to use the base of the springform pan incorrectly. There is a little lip on the round bottom – you need to turn that over. If you put that in with the lip facing up, then all of the filling gets stuck and you can’t get it out when you are ready to slice it for serving. Invert the base, so it looks the opposite of the way it should, and it will be much easier to get the base out. Also put a little bit of baking paper under the base. It’s good to be able to easily move your base onto a pretty cake stand which looks impressive.
When cooking a baked cheesecake, line the base and the sides of your springform pan. The paper should come 5cm above the top of the tin to protect the cake from your fan forced oven. We don’t want too much hot air blowing on top of the cheesecake. The paper creates a physical barrier, helping to prevent the surface of the cheesecake from cracking.
Put a little bowl of water in the bottom of the oven when cooking a baked cheesecake and that will help give a humid moist environment whilst it is cooking and help prevent cracking too.
The biggest failing that people have with any type of cheesecake is not softening down the Philadelphia Cream Cheese before they start. Don’t use it straight from the fridge. If you’re organised, take it out earlier in the day and let it warm up to room temperature. If not, cut the blocks of Philly up, and microwave 30 seconds on high for every 250 gram block. That prepares it so when you start beating, it takes in the sugar, and softens down beautifully. Otherwise you end up with lumps. Lumps don’t matter too much, but if you’ve stirred chocolate through you might find a stray white lump of Philly in the cake, which is not ideal.
Q: What sort of tools do home cooks need? Obviously a springform cake pan which you’ve mentioned – anything else?
Trish: You need baking paper for lining your cheesecake tin, and you need to be able to crush biscuits with a food processor. If you don’t have a food processer, you can put the biscuits in a sealable bag and hit them with a rolling pin or a wine bottle. You also need some kind of mixer, either electric, hand held or old fashioned to beat your Philly.
Q: Thanks Trish for these fantastic tips! You’ll no doubt inspire many of our readers to bake a cheesecake this Christmas.
Trish: My pleasure. Happy Christmas and Happy Cooking!
If you’re inspired to try some of Trish’s most popular cheesecake recipes from the Everyday Delicious Kitchen take a look at this ultimate cheesecake recipe collection. You can also save your favourite recipes into your very own cookbook. Learn how to make your own cookbook with myfoodbook.