“How-To” Baking – Water Bath

A water bath is simply a pan of boiling water that is placed in the oven during baking. The dessert can be submerged directly into the water bath or it can be placed on the baking rack above the water bath. There are two reasons why a water bath is used in baking, to add moisture to the oven and to provide a more even, slower heat source. Desserts such as cheesecake benefit from a water bath as the moist heat will help to avoid the cheesecake from cracking during baking and cooling. It also helps desserts such as custards from becoming rubbery.

To make a water bath, simply place a pan of boiling water in the oven. If submerging a dessert directly into the water bath, wrap the pan in tin foil to avoid water from seeping in. This is especially important when using a springform pan which is more likely to leak.

Creamy Dreamy Cheesecake

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What is better than a slice of dense, creamy cheesecake? Literally almost nothing! This is my most favorite cheesecake recipe ever, it’s one that my mother-in-law has been baking since my husband was itty-bitty. She has no recollection of where she first came across this recipe but let me tell you, it is TO DIE FOR. It’s rich, dense and has amazing flavor! The best part? It’s also super easy to make!

This go around I baked my cheesecake with a scrumptious, sugary Graham Cracker Crust but in the past I’ve also used an Oreo™ cookie crust which is equally delicious. When I use the Oreo crust I always cover the whole cheesecake with Chocolate Ganache and than top it with crushed Oreo™ cookies. For this version however, I kept it simple and did just a light coating of ganache on just the top.

Cheesecake is a great dessert because you can make it so many ways from a large cake to small, individual servings. Top it will fudge, fresh fruit, ganache, crushed cookies or anything else you can think of! Some people like to serve cheesecake at room temp but I love it ice cold out of the fridge, I feel that it’s more dense that way and I’m just not a fan of mushy, warm cheesecake. However you choose to serve it jut follow a few simple tips and your cheesecake is sure to be a hit!

  • Pre-bake your crust
  • Always start with room temperature ingredients, this prevents a lumpy batter.
  • Don’t scrimp, always use full fat cream cheese.
  • Add a little starch to help avoid cracking and to make slicing easier.
  • Mix on low and don’t overbeat the batter, incorporating too much air into the batter will ruin the texture of the cheesecake.
  • Use a water bath to create a steamy environment which develops a smooth, creamy cheesecake. To create a water bath, wrap the bottom of a springform pan in tin foil and place the cheesecake directly in a pan of water before putting in the oven. Alternatively, place a pan of water in the oven on the rack below the cheesecake. Both will generate steam while baking.
  • No peeking! Don’t open the oven door while baking.
  • Don’t overbake the cheesecake, take it out when the edges look done and the center is still slightly jiggly.
  • Before leaving the cheesecake to cool in the oven, take it out and run a thin offset spatula or knife around the edge to loosen it from the sides of the pan. This will help to prevent cracking as the cheesecake cools and pulls away from the pan.
  • Cool the cheesecake gradually letting in sit in the turned off oven with the door cracked open, then let it cool completely on the stovetop.
  • ALWAYS chill your cheesecake for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
  • If the top cracks, don’t panic! A simple sour cream frosting, chocolate ganache, or even fruit will hide all sins.

Ingredients

  • Graham Cracker Crust
  • 5 (8 oz) packs of cream cheese
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tbs all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp vanilla paste or vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 5 large eggs + 2 yolks
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

Instructions

Pre-bake your crust in a 10″ springform pan for 7-8 minutes at 350ºF. Set aside to cool slightly.

Add the softened, room temperature cream cheese to the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low until smooth, about a minute. Add the sugar and flour, mix. Once the dry ingredients have been combined, add in the vanilla, almond, and heavy cream. Mix until smooth then add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing on low after each addition. Continue to mix on low speed until the batter is shiny and smooth. Grease the sides of the springform pan that holds the crust, pour the batter in and smooth the top.

Place the cheesecake in a water bath and bake at 500ºF for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 250ºF and bake for about an hour or until the edges are baked and the center is slightly jiggly.

Once the cheesecake is done baking turn off the oven and remove the cheesecake, run an offset spatula or knife around the edge to loosen the sides from the pan. Place the cheesecake back in the warm oven (not in the water bath) with the door slightly open and cool for about an hour. Remove from oven and cool completely on the stovetop. Chill in the fridge for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. Enjoy!

Oreo Cheesecake Brownie Bars

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Oh. My. God. These were absolutely one of the most divine treats that I’ve ever had! I made them for the first time a few months ago and they’ve since become a favorite in my house. It’s hard to decide which part of this decadent treat is best, the chewy ooey gooey brownie layer, the creamy cheesecake layer, or the crushed up Oreos on the top. Individually they are all delicious but when combined together in one bite, it’s out of this world!

I just happened to put on the “Today Show” one morning, which I usually don’t get to do anymore thanks to my TV hogging children, and I discovered this insanely awesome recipe. Elise Strachan of “My Cupcake Addiction” fame was on doing a cooking segment for summer treats and she made these Oreo Cheesecake Brownie Bars that the Today Show crew went nuts over. Not even kidding, I made these the next day and they were every bit as awesome as she promised they would be! I did not deviate from the original recipe at all, I followed her instructions to the letter and they turned out absolutely perfect. Bring a batch of these to your next get together and you will be a rock star!

Ingredients

For the brownie batter

  • 13 tablespoons (185 g or 6½ ounces) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 7 ounces (200 g) good quality dark chocolate, chopped
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups (270 g or 9½ ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup (90 g or 3.2 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (40 g or 1½ ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Nonstick cooking spray

For the cheesecake batter 

  • 16 ounces (2 bricks) cream cheese, softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the topping 

  • 48 Oreo cookies, broken into chunks
  • 1 package mini Oreo cookies

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 320°F.

Make the brownie batterIn a saucepan over medium heat, add the butter and bring to a gentle boil. Turn the heat OFF and then add the dark chocolate, stirring intermittently until the chocolate has melted. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, add the eggs and sugar and beat with an electric mixer until they have almost doubled in size and are super light and fluffy, at least 7 minutes.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and gently fold the two together using big round figure-8 movements. Stop mixing as soon as you no longer see white streaks through the chocolate batter.

In another bowl, sift the flour and cocoa powder together. Sift the cocoa flour mix directly over the top of the chocolate mixture so it falls evenly. Fold together, again using big round figure-8 movements.

Spray a 9-inch x 13-inch pan with the cooking spray and line the base with parchment paper. Pour half of the brownie mixture into the prepared pan and par-bake* for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the cheesecake batterIn a large mixing bowl, add the cream cheese, sugar and cornstarch and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating in between each addition.

Stir in the cream, vanilla and 1½ cups of the crushed Oreo cookies.

Remove the partially cooked brownie from the oven. Pour the cheesecake mixture over the par-cooked brownie and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove the tray from the oven and gently spread the remaining brownie batter over the cheesecake layer. Cover the brownie with chunks of crushed Oreo, adding some whole and halved mini Oreos throughout before returning to the oven for a further 20 minutes. The top should start to look a little flaky and the middle should spring back lightly when touched.

Cool completely in the pan (or preferably, chill overnight) before cutting into bars. Store the cut bars in the fridge, sealed tightly.

*Par-bake means to partially bake