Cheesecake crusts

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Joined Dec 10, 2018
I'm a "semi pro" baker, looking to go pro. My partner (a chef from NYC) and I work all kinds of events, sling street food, do catering etc, in Prague. I provide all the desserts.

I'm here because I'm having a huge problem, and I can't seem to figure it out on my own. I bake a rather fantastic cheesecake. I always have. My great-grandmother taught me how to bake when I was a kid, and I've been running with it ever since, and my cheesecakes are my pride and joy.

Unfortunately, living in Europe is hurting my crusts, and I'm not exactly sure why. For some reason, my crusts (regardless of materials used) always turn out too soft and oily. In the States, my crusts always had that perfect density and light snap (not you, Thanos!) when you cut into it, and they were beautiful and tasty. In Europe, they're always a bit soggy and way too soft, and it's difficult to tell the difference between the body and the crust, when you bite into it.

I've tried various types of butter, I've bought the normal Nabisco graham crackers (expensive AF here), I've baked my own... I just can't figure it out.

I guess I'm hoping that someone with a better education and/or experience baking on both sides of the pond can tell me what's wrong and offer me some tips.

Thanks
 

phatch

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Staff member
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Joined Mar 29, 2002
Humidity difference is my first idea. Maybe dry out your cracker base in the oven at 150 for less for a while first.
 
25
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Joined Sep 25, 2018
I'm a "semi pro" baker, looking to go pro. My partner (a chef from NYC) and I work all kinds of events, sling street food, do catering etc, in Prague. I provide all the desserts.

I'm here because I'm having a huge problem, and I can't seem to figure it out on my own. I bake a rather fantastic cheesecake. I always have. My great-grandmother taught me how to bake when I was a kid, and I've been running with it ever since, and my cheesecakes are my pride and joy.

Unfortunately, living in Europe is hurting my crusts, and I'm not exactly sure why. For some reason, my crusts (regardless of materials used) always turn out too soft and oily. In the States, my crusts always had that perfect density and light snap (not you, Thanos!) when you cut into it, and they were beautiful and tasty. In Europe, they're always a bit soggy and way too soft, and it's difficult to tell the difference between the body and the crust, when you bite into it.

I've tried various types of butter, I've bought the normal Nabisco graham crackers (expensive AF here), I've baked my own... I just can't figure it out.

I guess I'm hoping that someone with a better education and/or experience baking on both sides of the pond can tell me what's wrong and offer me some tips.

Thanks
I have a solution IF you do use a water bath:

Wrap tightly and thoroughly your baking tray with aluminum foil for you to avoid the water to come through the baking tray and thus humidifying your crust.

Perhaps this is the problem, let me know if otherwise.

Salute.
 
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Joined Oct 7, 2013
I'm a "semi pro" baker, looking to go pro. My partner (a chef from NYC) and I work all kinds of events, sling street food, do catering etc, in Prague. I provide all the desserts.

I'm here because I'm having a huge problem, and I can't seem to figure it out on my own. I bake a rather fantastic cheesecake. I always have. My great-grandmother taught me how to bake when I was a kid, and I've been running with it ever since, and my cheesecakes are my pride and joy.

Unfortunately, living in Europe is hurting my crusts, and I'm not exactly sure why. For some reason, my crusts (regardless of materials used) always turn out too soft and oily. In the States, my crusts always had that perfect density and light snap (not you, Thanos!) when you cut into it, and they were beautiful and tasty. In Europe, they're always a bit soggy and way too soft, and it's difficult to tell the difference between the body and the crust, when you bite into it.

I've tried various types of butter, I've bought the normal Nabisco graham crackers (expensive AF here), I've baked my own... I just can't figure it out.

I guess I'm hoping that someone with a better education and/or experience baking on both sides of the pond can tell me what's wrong and offer me some tips.

Thanks
I am guessing primarily moisture content in the fats used, additives in the butter, that sort of thing. 2nd guess would be crust absorbing some liquid component in the filling (again, suspecting a fat used). American butters vary widely from 15 to as much as 19% water, with vegetable shortenings containing none unless they are a modified "baking blend".
 
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Joined Nov 9, 2020
I use "European" style unsalted butter for my crusts lately. Supposedly creamier. I have not noticed any moisturizing effect with it in the crust, but since you toast the crust while it is still a shell before filling it, shouldn't that dry it out satisfactorily anyway no matter how much water is in the butter?

What kind of leak proofing do you do for your springform pan? It sounds like you do little or none and that, perhaps, back in the states you had a better "leakproof" pan (of which there is no such thing really, so just a matter of time anyway). And then where you are now the pan you use is far less leakproof.

Without more info it just sounds to me like your water bath is getting into the cake. The symptoms are of a cake that has been invaded by the water bath. If you don't use a water bath, then to me your symptoms make no sense at all.

I have always made big cheesecakes (12"). The bigger the diameter the bigger the problem leak proofing. Now I just use a Reynolds Turkey Size Oven Bag. It fits over the 12" diameter no problem (standard design; not pedestal). The only problem is holding it in position. That's where I use the foil now. Not for the leak proofing itself. It doesn't matter if the foil gets torn open at a crease or punctured, it just gets wrapped around the oven bag to hold it up. You can use that bag multiple times if need be. Plus, it goes up beyond the height of the pan so you can make your water bath as deep as you want (ideally no more the 2/3 the cake height. But if you had a 3" pan and wanted the bath to be 3" you could do it with an oven bag. The water might creep over the rim, but the cake would still remain dry.

Hope this helps 2 years after the post, perhaps, for someone else with cheesecake issues.
 
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Joined Nov 9, 2020
Evidently, the old, lost 12" pan my new 12" pan replaced was either not a full 12" or the Reynolds Turkey Size Oven Bags have gotten smaller. It would appear that my old pan was undersized.

With my old pan I could slip the oven bag over it without any difficulty. With this new pan, which is definitely 12", it is a very, very, very tight fit. It still works, but I used to line the pan with the crust and blind bake it first. After it cooled I could easily slip the oven bag over it and then wrap it with foil to hold the bag in position. Now it is better to wrestle the bag on first, then put the crust in, then blind bake it. No need for foil now either. It is a very, very, very tight fit.

Before I could use the bag as handles to drop the cake down into the bath and to extract it. Now it is way too tight for that and I have to use less water, 16 cups instead of 26 so I can have more pan exposed to grab when I'm taking it out. That is affecting my bake a bit since I always went for a deep water bath, up to the cake batter level (2¼"). For now I am a little over half way. If I can find another brand of oven bag that is bigger, I think that will solve the problem. I seem to recall seeing some on Amazon. I'll hunt around and see.

Further evidence that my old pan was not really 12" is that I usually make extra crust and extra filling to play around with. This time I could barely get by with 4 sleeves of graham crackers plus 1½ cups of pulverized pecans. My crust always covers the bottom and sides to the top. I used to have a little crust mixture left over. This time, after finishing the sides I could barely cover the bottom. It took a little finessing with nothing left over. So the old pan was undersized. My current one is actually 12" x 3".

The Reynolds Turkey Size Oven Bag is still my preferred option for leak proofing, but it is a very, very, very tight fit.
 
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Joined Feb 23, 2020
You can use a simple pate sablee instead or if it is a crumbled crust check the consistency. If when you take a handful of the mixture, squeeze it and it crumbles, simply add more butter until it stays nice and firm.
 
1
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Joined Mar 6, 2021
I use "European" style unsalted butter for my crusts lately. Supposedly creamier. I have not noticed any moisturizing effect with it in the crust, but since you toast the crust while it is still a shell before filling it, shouldn't that dry it out satisfactorily anyway no matter how much water is in the butter?

What kind of leak proofing do you do for your springform pan? It sounds like you do little or none and that, perhaps, back in the states you had a better "leakproof" pan (of which there is no such thing really, so just a matter of time anyway). And then where you are now the pan you use is far less leakproof.

Without more info it just sounds to me like your water bath is getting into the cake. The symptoms are of a cake that has been invaded by the water bath. If you don't use a water bath, then to me your symptoms make no sense at all.

I have always made big cheesecakes (12"). The bigger the diameter the bigger the problem leak proofing. Now I just use a Reynolds Turkey Size Oven Bag. It fits over the 12" diameter no problem (standard design; not pedestal). The only problem is holding it in position. That's where I use the foil now. Not for the leak proofing itself. It doesn't matter if the foil gets torn open at a crease or punctured, it just gets wrapped around the oven bag to hold it up. You can use that bag multiple times if need be. Plus, it goes up beyond the height of the pan so you can make your water bath as deep as you want (ideally no more the 2/3 the cake height. But if you had a 3" pan and wanted the bath to be 3" you could do it with an oven bag. The water might creep over the rim, but the cake would still remain dry.

Hope this helps 2 years after the post, perhaps, for someone else with cheesecake issues.
Thanks Gnoman. 2 years after the post is indeed helpful to me. I seem to be having the same issue as the OP. I am also in Europe; Germany.

In my case, I am absolutely positive that it isn't the water bath. I place my springform inside a silicon cake pan (fits perfectly). So there is no water going into the cheesecake. I have also used smaller springforms (9in) with aluminum foil.

However, after baking, I always have some butter / oil inside the silicon cake pan. Which means it is leaking from the cheesecake.

I have tried blind baking the curst for 8,10,12 mins on 350F and 325F. Neither seem to prevent the butter from leaking out. I have tried reducing the amount of butter. I have tried egg whites. Nothing seems to be working. I have even tried various different crust material Graham, Oreos, digestive, Lotus Biscoff, etc. paying attention to the added oils in the cookies / biscuit.

And suggestions are very welcome.
 
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Joined Dec 29, 2019
You need to add a small amount of flour, if you only use crumble and butter you end up with just fat saturated crumble. Something typically used , like graham cracker, is already baked, the starch is bloomed and it cannot bind with the fat. I prefer to parbake a bit before filling with batter.
If no flour is added then parbaking is not going to do much except warm it up.

If you want to go pro ditch the springforms.
 
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Joined Apr 12, 2021
You need to add a small amount of flour, if you only use crumble and butter you end up with just fat saturated crumble. Something typically used , like graham cracker, is already baked, the starch is bloomed and it cannot bind with the fat. I prefer to parbake a bit before filling with batter.
If no flour is added then parbaking is not going to do much except warm it up.

If you want to go pro ditch the springforms.
What would you suggest to use, instead of a springform?
 

phatch

Moderator
Staff member
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Joined Mar 29, 2002
I usually use a 9" silicone pan. Line the bottom with parchment, run a butter knife around the sides and it releases pretty well. No leaking around the base as with a two part pan.
 
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Joined Nov 9, 2020
I need a 12" x 3" pan. The cake is the full 3" thick. The topping layer is 3/8" thick usually fresh strawberries sliced and reduced with turbinado sugar. Beneath that is another 3/8" sour cream, vanilla bean, and sugar layer. So the cake itself is 2.25" thick. Anyway I need a pan that is actually 3", not just close. These cakes are heavy and unwieldly, so transferring to a cake round in the 12" cake carrier I use is not a pleasant task.

If there is a better cake pan for this than the springform that I have been using I would like to know about it. Silicone sounds interesting except 1) do they make them in 12" x 3" and 2) it seems like getting my giant cake out of it would be a nightmare. When I read retiredbaker's comment I immediately thought non-springform removable bottom pan, which I have considered, but the springform pan I have seems so much more accessible, especially for a big heavy cake.

Before I bought my 12" springform last year I considered a non-springform pan from Fat Daddio's. But I haven't figured out an easy way to extract the cake from it whereas a springform is easy access. Also, I had to return a Fat Daddio's springform pan because it was 1/4" short on both the diameter and the height.

What is the non-pro issue with springforms? I can certainly see issues with the pedestal type. I have one that I don't use because it lifts the cake out of the water bath by 1/2". I don't like that but it is doable if necessary. The second and worse issue was that my Reynolds Oven Bag cannot even attempt to navigate the pedestal. I have bigger bags now which will accommodate my 12" pan as well as my 11" pedestal pan. But I'll avoid using the 11" unless there is an emergency.

The Reynolds Oven Bags are 19" x 23.5" and can only fit around my 12" pan with about 20 minutes of tedious effort, especially, at the springform clasp. But my new bags I will be trying for the first time soon are 20" x 30", easily accommodating my 12" pan and my 11" pedestal pan if necessary. The size is perfect. If the durability of the material is there (and it seems like it will be) then I'll have a winner. Pacz saver Oven Bags.

If there is a 12" x 3" silicone pan that I can easily remove from around the cake, then that might be the best solution since it is its own water bath barrier and would not require any foil or oven bag at all.

I will be experimenting with clarified butter on my next cake. I just clarified 5 pounds of butter leaving me 4 pounds which I keep in wide mouth 16 oz mason jars. I've been getting into clarified butter lately; using it instead of regular butter for everything and instead of olive oil for frying various things.

Amazing stuff. I guess mine might be more of a ghee since I don't extract the clarified butter but pour it through a cheesecloth filter. Still it does not have the additional flavors you typically get with ghee. Gurgle it for about 45 minutes then cut the heat when it reaches 260° F (127° C); then pour through a substantial cheesecloth filter into a heat-proof bowl (not allowing the milk sold sediment to follow it into the cheesecloth). The end result is essentially the same as butter drawn out from between the bottom sediment and the top foam remnants. I've never had better clarified butter anywhere else.

This Super Butter is great and better for most things than regular butter, but maybe not cheesecake crust. We'll see. The milk solids that the clarification process removes probably helps the crust hold together. Without them the butter is just butter flavored oil once heated. The seeping/leaking of oil out of the crust problem reported here might be nothing compared to the possible effects of using clarified butter.

Still, I think flavor-wise it will be better. I am counting on its pure butterfat oil to soak into the crushed graham cracker more readily and form a better crust. I have also increased the turbinado sugar content of the crust recipe so that when it caramelizes it will further bolster the structure. Even so, I will be lucky if it turns out as a crust at all and not a crumb-laden film. If that happens a springform pan will be essential.

In deciding to try clarified butter I was thinking about the problem that KitchenChaos and now njemjy have had with their crust. I was wondering if the milk solids and water content of the butter was somehow causing the crust to fail. It did not seem like there was a reasonable explanation for their results other than maybe a bath leak.

If removing the milk solids, lactose, and water, using clarified butter, the possible issues they cause would be also removed. But even if it does remove those issues, the fact that it is instead a purified butter oil might be worse. I hope not. I have my heart set on a great clarified butter crust.
 
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Joined Dec 29, 2019
What would you suggest to use, instead of a springform?
A regular 12x3 alum cake pan.
Chill or freeze after baking, heat bottom of pan and invert onto a board to extract from mold.
Springforms are better suited for cold molded mousse cakes.
 
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