The most common cheeses to use for most cheesecakes are cream cheese or ricotta cheese. Cream cheese will give you a denser cake as compared to ricotta. Other fresh creamy cheeses, such as mascarpone, cottage cheese and goat cheese can also be used. For the most luscious mouth-feel, use a full-fat cheese. And if you must reduce the calories, substitute only half of the full-fat cheese with a low-fat variety.
Before you begin making the cheesecake filling, make sure all of the ingredients are at room temperature. This is especially important for cream cheese — it should be soft so it blends easily and you don't end up with lumps in the filling.
Over-mixing the filling can lead to cracks in the finished cheesecake. Always start by beating the cheese by itself in the bowl before adding any other ingredients. Make sure the cheese is extra creamy and lump-free. Once you add the remaining ingredients, only mix until just blended.
If you are adding blueberries to your filling, fresh blueberries are your best choice. Fresh blueberries are preferred over frozen because frozen blueberries will have more liquid in them, which can water down the filling. If you do use frozen blueberries, make sure they are thawed, drained and dried very well.
Perfect cheesecakes are crack-free. You can achieve this by using a spring form pan, baking cheesecake in a water bath, and baking it slow. A spring form pan allows you to easily remove the sides of the pan, no unmolding necessary. A water bath helps ensure even baking and less chance of cracks. Baking a cheesecake slowly and at a consistent temperature will make a much creamier and uniform cheesecake.
Cheesecakes will continue to bake after they are removed from the oven, and baking too long will lead to cracks. Remove cheesecake from the oven when the middle is still just a bit jiggly. It will continue to set up as it cools.
Proper cooling is an essential part of baking a perfect cheesecake. When you take cheesecake out of the oven, remove it from the water bath and run a knife around the edge of the cake to release the filling from the sides. As the cheesecake cools, it will shrink and if it isn't released from the pan, it will crack. Also, once cool enough, place cheesecake in the refrigerator to chill for a few hours to completely set up. If possible, make your cheesecake the day before you plan to serve it.
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