Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 4:
 
My first three prototypes, in my quest for a plain-flavored cheesecake, were done back in the 1980's—and did not contain any crusts. The latest prototype presented here not only improves on the third batter back then, but adds a crust (with some cinnamon flavor, which I felt would complement the batter nicely).
 
Crust:
1.5 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. lowfat cottage cheese, whipped, no salt added
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2.2 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups (20 oz.) lowfat cottage cheese, whipped, no salt added
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Bake at 300 degrees for about 100 minutes (i.e., with a 9" pan—but if using a 9 1/2" pan, make that about 90 minutes), or until cake tester comes clean (use a tub).

Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 4 (in-tub arrangement) Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 4

The taste was great, crust and all, for this plain one, which I brought to my cousin Rachel's house on one of my weekend getaways. One of her daughters, Mya, was especially delighted with it (likely having much more of it than anybody else in her family).
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 5:
 
This is the very first cheesecake that I have made with a relatively new ingredient—yogurt cheese! I felt that I would directly replace the cottage cheese with this one. It was easy to make. Place some yogurt, such as lowfat or nonfat, into a coffee-filter-lined strainer, positioned over a bowl that's not too shallow. Put all this into the refrigerator for about 24 hours. A yellowish liquid, whey, drains out of the strainer and into the bowl during this time. Afterward, discard this whey or use it for some other purpose. What is left in the strainer at this point is a nicely thick, cream-cheese-like food. This is yogurt cheese, and its size is close to half of that of the yogurt used at the beginning. Pretty neat, huh? Just make sure that you avoid using a yogurt containing the likes of gelatin or guar gum, which can hinder the whey drainage process (for those of you in Eastern Massachusetts or Southern New Hampshire, try a plain, all-natural yogurt like Market Basket's).

With this new arrangement, another ingredient has made its debut in my recipe scrapbook with this particular cheesecake—arrowroot, a thickener which I felt that I should use together with the yogurt cheese. Because of the yogurt's tangy, tart taste, I decided to eliminate the lemon juice as well. Here, then, is a repetition of Prototype 4, but with the aforementioned changes (Prototype 5 is also the first
plain-flavored cheesecake that I baked in my relatively new, "9 1/2 inch" Frieling springform pan).
 
Crust:
1.5 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. lowfat yogurt cheese
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2.2 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup skim milk
1 1/4 tablespoons arrowroot
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
20 oz. lowfat yogurt cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Remember, no lemon juice is needed. The tartness is provided here by the yogurt cheese.

Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 5, with Market Basket plain all natural lowfat yogurt, 1 1/2% milkfat

Bake at 300 degrees for about 85 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan), in a tub.
 
The lowfat yogurt that I used here (for making the yogurt cheese) came from Market Basket, with the milkfat being 1 1/2% (as opposed to only 1%).

Unfortunately, I was personally dissatisfied with the taste of the new batter. I could hardly find any cheese-like flavor in it. I was wondering if my cooking this "cheesecake" too long may have caused this. Perhaps this may have been too destructive to the yogurt cultures (maybe these were a good possible source of the cheese effect as long as they were alive?).

The taste was not bad. It just wasn't exciting. This prototype did go fast, however, at Living Hope (but probably due to too little food competition and a very big crowd on the day that this dessert was served).
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 6:
 
Okay, I wanted to know at this point if my lower-fat cheesecakes tasted too inferior (if at all) compared to their more traditional, "full-fat" counterparts. So Prototype 6 was a "bite the bullet" test (yikes!). I could not recall ever using regular cream cheese, with its full amount of fat, in any of my experimental recipes beforehand. But I proceeded with this unusual prototype and reasoned that if the "fattening" taste was still similar enough to my lower-fat attempts, maybe the changes that I needed to do for a more exciting taste were dependent upon other ingredients used, or even upon preparation methods (e.g., baking).
 
Repeat Prototype 5, but replace the yogurt cheese with regular ("full fat") cream cheese (both crust and batter). Bake the same way as well (i.e., 300 degrees, about 85 minutes, with a 9 1/2" pan and a tub).
 
I used the Cabot brand (instead of Philadelphia) for the cream cheese, because it was on sale at a decent price. I also felt that this Vermont-based brand had an excellent reputation.

After 85 minutes of baking time, I took this cheesecake out, and its appearance gave me the impression that maybe I cooked it too long (it was not burnt—it just looked somewhat too dry). When I prepared the crust earlier, the mixture took on a thick, cement-like texture immediately after I blended in the Bran Buds. That was because the cream cheese mixture, before the Bran Buds addition, was already thick—compared to its cottage cheese counterpart (from what I best recall, it was even thicker than the yogurt cheese version). So, reasoning that cream cheese itself was much thicker than cottage cheese (and thicker than yogurt cheese as well), I ended up suspecting that the cream cheese prototype could have been baked for a lesser amount of time.

I smelled an aroma that easily had a noticeable cheese presence (especially as I took the cheesecake out of the oven). However, when I finally tasted this "full-fat" cream cheese prototype after hours of refrigeration, the batter's flavor—to my surprise—hardly seemed to be any more exciting than its Prototype 5 counterpart. In fact, the taste of this cream cheese cake (at least its batter) greatly reminded me of that yogurt cheese version. While my nose may have exclaimed "Cheese!" earlier, my tongue responded "Uh, not quite...not all that much so" (were my taste buds perhaps getting too old?).

So on a positive note, I reasoned that my earlier, healthier versions had a taste that, very hopefully, were hardly inferior to their fatter counterpart after all. On the other hand, if I still wasn't all that enthusiastic about the taste, even despite the higher fat, what else could I do to liven up the flavor more? I ended up considering that perhaps some more sweetness needed to be added. I also thought about sticking with the cottage cheese. Another option was giving the yogurt another try, but with less baking time. Other ideas: reduce eggs and/or arrowroot.

Although I reasoned that there was no significant difference in the taste, I felt that the texture was firmer for this cream cheese version, compared to its healthier counterparts.

I made Prototype 6 for a car wash event at Living Hope Church (whatever was left over was served after church services the next day), which was a fundraising event to help send kids to a camp associated with this church.
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 7:
 
I decided to go with a considerably sweeter batter. I also felt that the crust should be a little sweeter. Instead of regarding arrowroot as unfavorably affecting the taste, not only did I refrain from cutting it down, but I furthermore increased it just a little bit, for the sake of simplicity.

I switched back over to yogurt cheese. For this prototype I also changed the yogurt composition. In Prototype 5, the yogurt utilized was strictly the lowfat, 1 1/2% variety. For Prototype 7, I used a 50-50 mix of this lowfat yogurt and
nonfat yogurt.

Out of concern about giving the yogurt cultures a better chance to survive, I greatly cut down on the baking time, hoping that this cheesecake would not end up being undercooked.
 
Repeat Prototype 6, but make these changes:
For the crust, boost the granulated sugar by 1 tablespoon, to 1/4 cup.
For the batter, boost the granulated sugar by 1/4 cup, to 3/4 cup, and increase the arrowroot by 1/4 teaspoon (1/12 tablespoon) to 4 teaspoons (1 1/3 tablespoons).
Also, for both the crust and the batter, switch back to yogurt cheese, directly replacing all of the cream cheese. Furthermore, use a half-half combination of lowfat and nonfat yogurt. This means using 4 ounces of lowfat and 4 ounces of nonfat yogurt cheese for the crust, and 10 ounces of lowfat and 10 ounces of nonfat yogurt cheese for the batter.
Bake all this only for about 60 minutes.
 
Well, the cheesecake ended up being sufficiently firm under the 1-hour baking attempt, and the taste was hopefully more lively. It seemed like the sugar boost made a difference. However, I felt that there was still some kind of inferiority with the taste. I was moved to pick up a slice of a more established traditional cheesecake for comparison. I did something similar to this back around the late 1980's when I compared my chocolate prototypes of that time to Alden Merrell's chocolate cheesecake. This would be repeated in a plain-flavored way, but would the store-bought cheesecake still be Alden Merrell for the more recent test? The slice that I picked up was at a Market Basket, and the individually-sized packaging contained a label, supposedly store-printed, with the wording "Fine Dessert".

What happened was that Market Basket sold Alden Merrell products for many years. In later times the Alden Merrell brand presented itself as "Alden Merrell Fine Desserts" (sometime earlier it was "Alden Merrell Cheesecake Company"). More recently, the Alden Merrell name seemed to disappear from the packaging sold at Market Basket. Yet the desserts still looked identical. And although the labeling would now say "Market Basket Fine Desserts", it looked like the fancy font style used for the wording "Fine Desserts" remained unchanged as well—as long as the package contained an entire (multiple-servings) cake (plainer-looking print labels would remain in use on the individually-packaged items, just like in the past). Furthermore, I could not detect a change in the taste. All this led me to suspect that Market Basket was still selling Alden Merrell products—but now bearing the "Market Basket" name (perhaps under a recent agreement between this grocer and Alden Merrell).

So I compared this supposed "Alden Merrell" cheesecake, under the "Market Basket" name, to my prototype cheesecake. And what did I discover?

I felt that my cheesecake tasted sort of bitter, tart and less sweet (as well as perhaps having a paper and/or chalky tinge), compared to the store-bought counterpart.

A few weeks later, I decided to make the cottage-cheese-based Prototype 4 for my annual family reunion party, now that I had a more recent perspective on my cheesecakes. I wanted to know at this point if using cottage cheese would make a favorable difference, but I did
not keep my hopes up.

Indeed, as things turned out, I felt that this version hardly tasted better compared to its yogurt cheese or cream cheese counterparts. It still had that somewhat bitter, too tart, under-sweetened taste. This same old "ho-hum" did not surprise me. Furthermore, this cheesecake fared unsatisfactorily (at least in my opinion) at this party. In fact, a ricotta cheese pie (close to the size of my cheesecake) was fully gone within about one or two hours after it was served. I myself tried it. This pie had a sweet, somewhat lemon taste to it. But this ricotta treat certainly was no "lemon" in regard to its success—and this dessert seemed to be (at least to me) a fairly modest-looking supermarket bakery item, not some kind of high-end gourmet creation. Yet my treat looked like a sad loser compared to it.

So where to now? I have recently become more keenly aware that many cheesecake recipes did not call for milk (especially) or flour. Why was I using milk in particular? Perhaps this was simply rooted in the American Heart Association recipe that I started with. Anyway, I felt that drastic changes were warranted at this point.
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 8:
 
Okay, the time had finally come to really shake things up. The flour—which was white whole wheat at this point—as well as the skim milk and arrowroot, would be outright omitted. Because this was largely a trial-and-error effort for the batter here, I held off the usual inclusion of the crust.
 
Repeat Prototype 7's batter only (omit the crust), but make these changes:
Fully exclude the flour, milk and arrowroot. Use only nonfat yogurt cheese at this point, and (out of simplification here) cut it by 4 ounces, to 16. More specifically, start with 32 ounces of nonfat yogurt, and strain it for at least 24 hours. If less than 16 ounces remains, add back enough of the whey strained out to make up the difference.

The resulting new ingredient list for the batter follows:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 oz. nonfat yogurt cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Bake in a tub at 300 degrees for 90 minutes, cool in oven (and still in tub as well, of course) with heat shut off and door slightly ajar for another 60 minutes, then cool outside of oven (and tub) for 60 more minutes before refrigerating.
 
I initially was going to bake this one for a much shorter time, starting at (from what I could best remember) about 50 minutes. However, I noticed that the top of the cheesecake looked too runny, so I kept adding time in perhaps 10-minute increments. Finally, with the top still appearing unstable after 90 minutes, I shut the oven off but left the cheesecake in the oven for another hour.

After another hour of cooldown at room temperature, I proceeded to remove this prototype from its bottom. Although the cheesecake was now hopefully firm enough to hold its shape, it still had a tendency to easily fall apart. Its height was also very low. While this now thin cheesecake was extremely fragile, its taste was a different story—a much different story!

If using a tub revolutionized my cheesecake making, the elimination of flour—which I had been using in nearly all my cheesecakes up to this point—has turned my cheesecake prototyping upside-down. That annoying "ho-hum" tinge was gone!!

At last this cheesecake tasted like a terrific, fattening, commercial gourmet one. I was blown away, and so was Lesa's friend Steve, who raved about this cheesecake as (if I could remember correctly) the best (or one of the best) desserts that I brought to him. He gladly made mention of a lemon presence, even though I added no lemon juice or flavoring. I cited the tartness of the yogurt as the likely cause.

While I also left out the milk and arrowroot in this recipe, I strongly felt that it was mainly the flour's omission that made this awesome difference (and Karen at the Beverly ICC, one of the people present at Steve's 60th birthday party—see
Baked Cookies+Creme Cheesecake—Prototype 5, for more info—strongly suggested cutting it down).

So now I had a truly terrific-tasting batter for a cheesecake. But it was too soft. How could I make it more firm? That was the next challenge.
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 9:
 
In light of some recent concerns about my yogurt cheesecakes being perhaps a little too tart (especially with Prototype 14 of my chocolate cheesecakes), I felt that I would try a compromise. This would bring back the cottage cheese in part. I also brought back the flour. But this time, I used all-purpose, instead of white whole wheat.
 
50/50 Cheese Blend:

Start with 32 ounces of nonfat yogurt, and strain it for at least 24 hours, thus producing yogurt cheese. The goal here is to attain 16 ounces of this cheese. If less than 16 ounces of it remains, add back enough of the whey strained out to make up the difference. If, however, more than 16 ounces remains, exclude the extra remaining cheese. Combine the 16-ounce yogurt cheese result with 16 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Only 28 ounces of this blend is required for what follows, so save the extra 4 ounces for another purpose (alternatively, you could combine 14 ounces of yogurt cheese with 14 ounces of cottage cheese, depending on what you have available).

Crust:
1.5 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. 50/50 cheese blend
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2.2 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
20 oz. 50/50 cheese blend
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Bake in tub at 300 degrees for 60 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan), cool (outside of oven and tub) for an hour, remove from pan and refrigerate.
 
The Market Basket yogurt strained out well enough for me to add back some whey in order to get to the 16-ounce weight.

This cheesecake got served at Living Hope Church. There were so many other desserts as well at a Sunday lunch (during Labor Day weekend of 2012) that also included Christian Renewal Church, a congregation using the same facility as Living Hope. My cheesecake ended up being about 2/3 used up, and I took the rest back home.

There was a hopefully reduced "ho-hum" tinge in this prototype, probably due to the change in flour. But I also felt the taste was now too sweet and sort of lacking in tartness. But it looked like I had still come a long way in my plain prototypes. I still needed to perform some additional tweaking.
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 10:
 
Modify the cheese blend. Cut the flour further, and bring back the arrowroot. Cut the amount of crust in half, making some minor adjustments along the way.

These were some highlights of the changes for this plain prototype, following a smashing success from the 4th prototype of my pumpkin cheesecakes.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 16 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from one 32-ounce container of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 16 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces (1 cup) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
1 oz. melted, white chocolate
4 oz. (1/2 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1.1 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
5/8 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/3 tablespoons arrowroot
1/4 teaspoon salt
20 oz. (2 1/2 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Pour on top of crust. Then bake in tub at 300 degrees for 60 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan), cool (outside of oven and tub) for an hour, remove from pan and refrigerate.
 
The taste was terrific! This was, in a way, a flashback to Prototype 8, but without the excessive fragility. Prototype 10 had the firmness that I was more accustomed to, plus the tartness and sweetness seemed just about right on target. And the height wasn't too short either. This one already seemed very promising before I baked it. It looked like I utilized what was hopefully just the right amount of all-purpose flour and arrowroot. I hardly found any "ho-hum" tinge in this prototype.

Some of my relatives had the opportunity to enjoy this cheesecake, and the reception was quite enthusiastic. A few weeks earlier, some of them also experienced the fourth prototype of my chocolate peanut butter cheesecake. But at least one of my cousins (Fran) told me about liking even better this latest plain-flavored prototype presented here. I also brought this cheesecake to darts. While Lesa wasn't "in the mood" that night, perhaps for any desserts, Steve raved about it. He even felt that the tartness was just right (even though he particularly loved lemon-flavored cheesecake).

I hardly felt any reason at this point to improve upon the baked, plain-flavored cheesecake—give Prototype 10...a TEN! The basic formulation here would set the trajectory for many other flavored cheesecakes to come.
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 11:
 
I did not know if my taste preferences have shifted, but I was somehow seeking more tartness at this point (even despite my being very happy with Prototype 10). Maybe the "cheese base", i.e., the cottage cheese and/or yogurt cheese "foundation", needed to be varied, depending on the flavor of the cheesecake that I was making. For some flavors, such as chocolate, not much tartness was needed, hence a 2-to-1 yogurt cheese/cottage cheese mixture would suffice. But for some other flavors such as plain and citrus (e.g., orange, lemon), I felt that more tartness was worth a try. Furthermore a woman commented about one of my 2-to-1-cheese-blend prototypes (see Baked Cookies+Creme Cheesecake—Prototype 7 for more details) lacking a sufficient cheesecake taste. Perhaps that was due to a sandwich cookie dominance. But I more recently felt that insufficient tartness may have been a considerable reason. So for my latest plain-flavored prototype, I opted to go all the way with yogurt cheese (in fact, the batter ingredients for this plain one are the same as those for Prototype 7 of the Cookies+Creme, except that the plain cheesecake's "cheese base" is all yogurt and no cottage—and, of course, no cookies are used).
 
Yogurt Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 3 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from three 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 48 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) yogurt cheese (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2.2 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into bottom of pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches), spreading the crust evenly (no pre-baking is needed with this one).

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
1/2 teaspoon salt
40 oz. (5 cups) yogurt cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a tub at 300 degrees for 100 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 100 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 11, with Market Basket plain all natural nonfat yogurt

Both the crust mixture and batter were substantially thicker with the all-yogurt base, compared to their 2-to-1 yogurt-cottage counterparts. But I also used an electric mixer for this prototype, rather than a blender, an appliance that I have used extensively in the past in order to fully liquefy the cottage cheese's curds. However, for large cheesecakes, I needed a mixer with a big enough bowl as well. Due to my not using any cottage cheese in this prototype, along with the blender pitcher's slightly insufficient capacity, I put the mixer and its adequately-sized bowl to work. Would extensive use of a blender made a thinner difference for the yogurt cheese? I did not know. But using just the mixer would mean not having to wash the blender's components after use. That was one less appliance that I had to deal with.

After all those earlier prototypes, Prototype 11 is the first plain-flavored one that I have made in a large ("double") size.

And this cheesecake was a success at Living Hope Church—including not being too tart (and I received tartness comments from about two other people, and they agreed with me)! That was a concern that I had in going all-yogurt-cheese, but both the tartness and sweetness worked out well. I myself was very pleased with the taste, especially the batter's.

I also brought a couple of leftover slices to Lesa and Steve, who were shooting darts at the Beverly ICC. Steve, who had an immediate opportunity to eat, used the word "perfect" in commenting on this cheesecake and somehow signified that no further changes to the recipe were needed.
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 12:
 
It had been a long while since my previous plain-flavored prototype. Although it was terrific back then, I wanted to update it with a few rather minor tweaks, based upon what I had recently done with other cheesecake flavors (in particular, omitting the salt from the batter).
 
Yogurt Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 3 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from three 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 48 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) yogurt cheese (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place this crust mixture into the bottom of a greased springform pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches), spreading the crust evenly (no pre-baking is needed with this one).

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
40 oz. (5 cups) yogurt cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
4 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the batter (to minimize the foil's disturbance and therefore its leakage risk, do not put it on any earlier).

Next, pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 100 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 100 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 12

I have been making the overwhelming majority of cheesecakes for my church, Living Hope. But this latest cheesecake presented here was one which I prepared especially for a bake sale at The Home Depot, where I have been working lately. This is not, however, the first time I brought any of my cheesecakes to this store. Not long beforehand, I had brought in leftovers from a Living Hope event in which it turned out that the food was primarily meant to be "host provided"—as opposed to the usual "potluck" (i.e., when attendees are encouraged to bring their own items to share) arrangement (see Baked Cherry Cheesecake—Prototype 6 for more information). But this more recent cheesecake marked the first time that I baked anything specifically for a Home Depot event.

This one was provided alongside a modest selection of baked goods. Hot dogs and potato chips were also provided for this fundraiser. There remained one slice of the cheesecake after nearly nine hours (yes, this cheesecake still tasted great after all that time at room temperature, as I ate the next-to-last slice).
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 13:
 
For late June 2015, I decided to make a major change in my basic batter composition, starting with this latest prototype. More information can be found here.
 
Yogurt Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 3 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from three 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 48 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) yogurt cheese (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (but see comments below)
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
40 oz. (5 cups) yogurt cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (5 tablespoons altogether) arrowroot
4 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the batter (to minimize the foil's disturbance and therefore its leakage risk, do not put it on any earlier).

Next, pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 110 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 110 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 13

I had planned at the start to use only 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla in the crust, but my mind slipped up, so I ended up accidentally using a whole teaspoon. However, that did not bother me too much, as I was much more concerned about the batter's outcome.

This one was probably my most successful cheesecake to date at Living Hope Church. Prototype 13 was gone in what was probably less than 10 minutes. Someone placed fresh strawberries on top of my cheesecake before it was served among a not-so small selection of other snacks, particularly sweet ones. It looked like a number of people (including myself) removed the strawberries from their slices, while others kept them. I myself was fortunate enough to get a slice so that I could evaluate this new batter. The taste was at least very good and not highly tart (I was content with the crust as well).

In light of this particular prototype being an unusually phenomenal hit, I decided to repeat it about a week later—and
this time successfully remembered to use only 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla in the crust!

However, whereas the first plain-flavored Prototype 13 that I served at Living Hope was an overwhelming success, the second one was largely the opposite. Just over half of it remained (no strawberries on top this time). The selection of other refreshments seemed to be about as big as the previous one a week earlier. I took the rest of the cheesecake home, had a slice later and froze the rest.

About a couple of weeks later, I thawed the remaining cheesecake and served it at a family reunion hosted by a cousin of my friend Darren's. It wasn't very long before the last slice was taken.
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 14:
 
The great cheesecake overhaul of 2015 continues! This one features an additional egg. So the typical basic formulation is now 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of arrowroot for every 8 ounces of the batter's cheese base (at this point consisting of cottage cheese and/or yogurt cheese, depending on the flavor)—simple!
 
Yogurt Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 3 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from three 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 48 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) yogurt cheese (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
40 oz. (5 cups) yogurt cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (5 tablespoons altogether) arrowroot
5 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the batter (to minimize the foil's disturbance and therefore its leakage risk, do not put it on any earlier).

Next, pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 110 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 110 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.
 
This one was about 3/4 gone in perhaps close to an hour at Living Hope Church. The taste seemed to have somewhat of an "okay", tart "feel" to it. I also felt that this reformulated cheesecake could use some more firmness.
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 15:
 
Continuing with my major cheesecake overhaul for 2015, I have made a particularly bold move here by mixing a type of "cream cheese" into the "cheese base". But this newcomer is actually Neufchatel cheese, which many call "light cream cheese" (Kraft Foods, as of 2015, utilizes the "1/3 less fat" reference for its version).

Also, for some reason, I felt that the plain cheesecake may have been somewhat too tart. So I included the old prototype standby, cottage cheese, as well.

Due to the probability of future, additional combinations of 3-cheese blends, I have added an abbreviated identifier for the cheese blend presented below. 1CT = 1 part cottage cheese, 1NC = 1 part Neufchatel cheese and 4YG = 4 parts yogurt cheese.
 
3-Cheese Blend (1CT-1NC-4YG):
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
40 oz. (5 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (5 tablespoons altogether) arrowroot
5 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the batter (to minimize the foil's disturbance and therefore its leakage risk, do not put it on any earlier).

Next, pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 120 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 120 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 15

I felt that the batter taste was very likely right on target. More specifically, I did not sense any need to increase or decrease the tartness. However, I felt that the crust's cinnamon was somehow too strong.

I used Kraft/Philadelphia "1/3 less fat" Neufchatel cheese, and the stabilizers (xanthan, carob bean and guar gums) in this "light cream cheese" product seemed to make a good, noticeable difference in the firmness. Not only was this prototype sufficiently firm, but I felt that the texture was nearly bordering on "rubbery". Perhaps I shouldn't have baked this cheesecake for so long.

This one was served in early September of 2015 at Living Hope Church, which had a combined service with Christian Renewal Church earlier that morning. During the joint barbecue lunch that followed, a large assortment of desserts were available along with my cheesecake, which itself ended up being almost 3/4 gone. I took the rest home, had a slice later and brought what was left of it the next day to my workplace—and a Labor Day cookout there—where some of my fellow Home Depot associates quickly finished the dessert off. For me personally, this was a double barbecue weekend.
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 16:
 
This one closely repeats Prototype 15. However, I bought a box of graham crackers for the crust in Prototype 4 of my s'mores cheesecake and had plenty of leftover grahams as a result. So I felt that I would put them to good use here. Thus the plain cheesecake presented here features the same crust as the s'mores one, but without the marshmallows.
 
3-Cheese Blend (1CT-1NC-4YG):
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") springform pan, but do not wrap foil around it yet (see below).

Graham Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Completely blend the above ingredients first, then continue with the last one below.
4 oz. cinnamon graham crackers, ground up

Place resulting crust mixture into bottom of the springform pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 15 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
40 oz. (5 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (5 tablespoons altogether) arrowroot
5 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the batter (to minimize the foil's disturbance and therefore its leakage risk, do not put it on any earlier).

Next, pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 115 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 115 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 16

This time, the brand of "1/3 less fat" Neufchatel cheese that I used was Cabot (a well-known cheese "cooperative" from Vermont).

This cheesecake was only slightly more than half consumed at Living Hope (I took the rest home), among a good selection of baked goods. Maybe this was also because a lunch was to follow soon after the church's regular, post-service "coffee hour".
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 17:
 
At times I revisit the taste of "mainstream" (predominantly cream-cheese-oriented) cheesecake. When this happens, I may be moved to try a reformulation for my own, lower-fat alternatives. Less than a few weeks ago, I tried a nice New-York-style cheesecake from Trader Joe's (which I brought to the home of a couple of friends for a Shavuot/Shabbat dinner). Some kind of mellow or sweet taste of the batter, as well as a sweet, not-too-spicy crust flavor, prompted me to give my own basic cheesecake a mid-2017 update: less tartness on the batter (switch some of the yogurt cheese over to cottage), less cinnamon and—hopefully for tastier results—more sweetness on the crust. Here we go!
 
3-Cheese Blend (3CT-1NC-2YG [3 parts cottage cheese, 1 part Neufchatel cheese, 2 parts yogurt cheese]):
Prepare ahead of time 16 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from one 32-ounce container of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 16 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 24 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") springform pan, but do not wrap foil around it yet (see below).

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
40 oz. (5 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (5 tablespoons altogether) arrowroot
5 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the batter (to minimize the foil's disturbance and therefore its leakage risk, do not put it on any earlier).

Next, pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 120 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 120 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 17

This one, which was served on Father's Day 2017 at Living Hope Church (among a modest selection of other refreshments, including a good cake variety), was gone within about ten minutes—perhaps except for one slice, which itself was gone easily within the next five.

So how was this new formulation? The batter seemed to have a hopeful, mellow flavor, except that I sort of picked up a slight, possibly acidic (due to some tartness?) aftertaste. Was I loosing my desire for tartness? As for the crust, it seemed to have an encouraging, mellow taste as well, with the amount of cinnamon being about right (certainly without being overwhelming). I had contemplated increasing the crust's vanilla with this prototype, but I wanted to reduce the cinnamon and boost the sugar (brown, in this case) and try that first—before making any further changes (maybe next time).
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 18:
 
Okay, so I had some concern about the aftertaste in the previous prototype. And my quest to get much closer to that "Trader Joe's" taste would not easily go away. But instead of further reducing the yogurt, I ended up revisiting a particular move that I made with Prototype 8. I remember that its taste was un-disappointingly delicious, but there was a catch—the cheesecake was much too soft!

Since that way-back prototype, I had become more knowledgeable about stabilizers—but Prototype 8 had none! No flour. Not even any arrowroot.

But that prototype did not have any cottage or Neufchatel cheese either—the only cheese used was yogurt.

At least the cottage cheese that I generally had been using in my more recent prototypes, Hood lowfat/no-salt-added—as well as the Neufchatel cheese, primarily Market Basket—contained some stabilizers, which would ultimately compliment the arrowroot I added for the batter.

With that in mind, I decided to take a dare at leaving the arrowroot completely out, leaving the firmness work strictly to the "gum" stabilizers already included in the cottage and Neufchatel cheeses (carob/locust bean, guar and xanthan gums). Due to this being a high-risk test for instability, I have chosen to omit the crust and utilize a pan with a larger area, more specifically the same kind that I used in Prototype 22 of my eggnog cheesecakes.
 
3-Cheese Blend (3CT-1NC-2YG):
Prepare ahead of time 16 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from one 32-ounce container of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 16 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 24 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Batter:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
40 oz. (5 cups)* 3-cheese blend (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 eggs

Pour the batter into a greased 13" x 9" glass ("Pyrex") pan and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 100 minutes. Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove pan containing cheesecake from tub and oven and let cool down at room temperature for another 100 minutes, then (with cheesecake still in pan) refrigerate.

* Find some other use for the roughly 8 ounces of leftover cheese blend—or otherwise discard (but also see comments below).

Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 18

This Prototype was meant to only be a one-time experiment with a high instability risk. Because of this, the crust was omitted for this one, and a rectangular pan with a much larger surface area than the normal round one (itself at 9 to 9 1/2 inches in diameter) was utilized—in order to reduce the batter's height, thus facilitating the baking. The long-term plan was to reinstate the crust, thus putting the surplus eight ounces of cheese blend back to work. I could have proportionally boosted the three other ingredients for the batter, but this would have increased its height which, in turn, would lead to risking more hindrance in the baking. I wanted to start off this non-arrowroot experimentation with a relatively low thickness.

Fortunately, those eight excess ounces of cheese blend did not go to waste. A great idea entered my mind: Conduct a xanthan gum experiment! I used this stabilizer on a number of recipes in the past, but nearly always with unsatisfactory results (such as for a pecan pie-related concoction). My problem was that I generally underestimated (greatly!) the thickening power of xanthan gum. I would learn that this was one very potent stabilizer—it had overwhelmingly more firming power than wheat-type flours and arrowroot!

So I was cautiously wondering just how low I should go with this thickener. After a little checking around on the Internet, I decided to start off with just 1/4 of a teaspoon of this powerful stabilizer added to my nearly eight ounces of cheese blend, using a blender in the process. I watched for results. The resulting mixture did not yet seem all that thick. Next, I pushed further with a second 1/4 teaspoon. Maybe some signs of thickness were then starting to show (but I could not exactly remember). Finally, I added 1/2 teaspoon more, supposedly with the intent at that point of calling it quits for any further xanthan gum—now at one whole teaspoon altogether. Now I was noticing substantially thick results—in fact, a little too thick, but not disastrously so. I ultimately also added in proportional amounts of granulated sugar (1/4 cup) and vanilla (as reasonably close to 2/5 of a teaspoon as I could get). Due to my plans to taste-test this experimental creation without baking it, I did not add any eggs here (proportionally, one egg would have been called for). I had some regret along the way for not allowing larger intervals of time between my xanthan gum additions (in case of delayed reactions).

But the taste seemed to work out okay, and the thickness, while being (at least what I felt) excessive for baking purposes, was not a disaster in the end. The results would pass for a decent refrigerated dessert, hopefully akin to pudding.

In conclusion for this experiment, I reasoned that I should only use about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum for every 8 ounces of the 3-cheese blend that I was currently working with. That translates to 1 1/4 to 2 1/2 teaspoons of this stabilizer in conjunction with 40 ounces of this cheese blend. That would set up the plans for my next plain prototype (19), with the normal approach—inclusion of the crust and usage of the regular round pan—reinstated.

But how did the
baked Prototype 18 itself fare? I felt that the taste was within a reasonable window between tart and mellow (probably closer to mellow). And I did not pick up any unwanted aftertaste either! This cheesecake was indeed soft, but not as badly as Prototype 8—the already-included stabilizers in the cottage and Neufchatel cheeses did make a difference. Lifting slices out of the rectangular pan was a little sloppy, but hardly runny. However, when I served this one at Living Hope in early July of 2017, this particular cheesecake ended up being one of my relatively "underperforming" ones. A couple of reasons seemed likely. The crowds that gathered there did not seem to be in much of a non-chocolate cake mood (a small, roughly 7- or 8-inch, chocolate-candy-laden one got finished off completely)—there were a couple of decorative (if I remember correctly) white/yellow/vanilla ones that fared even worse than my nearly two-fifths-left cheesecake. The other probable reason was that I already brought another plain cheesecake (i.e., Prototype 17) to this church just two weeks earlier (yawn?).
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 19:
 
Okay, this is it. After my having conducted some thickness experiments with the leftover 3-cheese blend in Prototype 18, the time had come to move on to a new stabilizer for Prototype 19. Looking back at my stabilizer usage history for my cheesecakes, I've come a long way.

I began my cheesecake prototypes with "regular" flour—often known as "white" or "all-purpose" (or perhaps even "white wheat"—but NOT whole wheat). And this flour was probably bleached as well, at least in the earlier days, but hopefully not in later ones. Then I gave "white whole wheat" a try (perhaps "red" was the better known whole wheat, but I could not recall using any red whole wheat flour in any of my cheesecakes). Then I started using arrowroot, while still holding on to whatever "wheat" flour I was using. At some point I reverted to "all-purpose", and by around then, the flour was indeed more on the natural side—no bleaching! I still used the arrowroot alongside the all-purpose flour. Then I retired the wheat-type flour altogether and focused exclusively on arrowroot.

But now would begin a new era in my stabilizer usage for cheesecakes. Arrowroot would be replaced with xanthan gum, the same kind of stabilizer used in many grocery products, including cream cheese. This gum-type powder seemed to be at least six times (perhaps up to twelve times) more powerful than arrowroot. So I had to be careful, lest this latest prototype end up being too rubbery.
 
3-Cheese Blend (3CT-1NC-2YG):
Prepare ahead of time 16 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from one 32-ounce container of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 16 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 24 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") springform pan, but do not wrap foil around it yet (see below).

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
40 oz. (5 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 teaspoons xanthan gum
5 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the batter (to minimize the foil's disturbance and therefore its leakage risk, do not put it on any earlier).

Next, pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 120 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 120 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 19

So what was the outcome with this new stabilizer? Upon removing the cheesecake from the oven, I noticed a particular jiggle that I could not recall with the other stabilizers used in my earlier cheesecakes. And upon further handling of this prototype and noticing a bit more softness than I wished for, I reasoned that I should aim higher on the xanthan gum for next time (as for Prototype 19, I aimed for a relatively minimal amount).

But the taste was superb (or certainly at least in my own opinion)! It seemed to have that "commercial", "fattening" tinge to it, not the subtle inferior tinge(s) that I could best recall having typically picked up in my earlier flour/arrowroot-containing plain prototypes. (Hey, what can you expect with a stabilizer that has been a staple in commercial cream/Neufchatel cheeses?) This cheesecake, served in early August of 2017 among a modest selection of desserts and other snacks at Living Hope Church, was gone in what seemed to be less than ten minutes.
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 20:
 
So I reasoned that I needed more stabilizer—xanthan gum in this case. I considered increasing this substantially—to a good two teaspoons, until my experience with Prototype 23 of my eggnog cheesecakes moved me to back down a little.

I also noticed that the top surface of my last plain-flavored prototype seemed to have a slightly overdone appearance on it. Okay, that was my take with some scattered brownish spots. But that prompted me to reduce the baking time, and I felt that this would be okay since I was planning to raise the xanthan gum by 40% in the latest prototype presented here.

I also decided that it would be a reasonably safe idea to stick with a room temperature cooldown time of two hours as a frequent standard, even if the cheesecake was to be baked for a shorter time than that (beforehand, I often matched the room cooldown time to the oven-turned-on baking time).
 
Repeat Prototype 19, but for the batter, boost the xanthan gum by 1/2 teaspoon, to 1 3/4 teaspoons.
Also, bake this cheesecake in tub for only about 110 minutes, rather than 120 (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool it down in the oven (shut off at this point), door slightly ajar, for an hour—just like the previous prototype. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature. But do this for 120 minutes (instead of only 110), then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 20

Upon removal from the oven, this cheesecake seemed to have hopefully less jiggle than its previous plain prototype, although brown spots still showed up. Maybe that came with my usage of xanthan gum. Or perhaps I could get away with even less baking time when using this relatively new stabilizer. I wasn't sure at this point.

But the taste was great, and so was the texture, which itself was not too soft. It seemed to be firm enough, yet hardly "rubbery". I brought this treat to the 2017 Labor Day cookout ("babbecue" as I sometimes like to call it) at The Home Depot, where a number of my fellow associates (including the store manager, Christina, and at least one assistant store manager, Jim, and probably another, Travis) had some of it. Upon my checking about three hours after bringing this cheesecake into the staff area, it was about 2/3 gone. I headed home while leaving the rest for others to enjoy later on.
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 21:
 
The careful fine-tuning with the xanthan gum continues! I wanted to do what would hopefully be the final plain cheesecake of my 2017 basic overhaul that I began back in the spring with Prototype 17. Perhaps 1 1/4 teaspoons of this stabilizer came up a little too short, but 1 3/4 teaspoons turned out to be sufficient—but in this case I had to really crank up the blender that I was using in order to fully incorporate the xanthan gum. I had fears about burning out the motor by maxing out the blender too much.

So how about a compromise at 1 1/2 teaspoons?

But I also wanted to get rid of those somewhat unappealing brown spots on top of the cheesecake. Could I get away with greatly reducing the baking time?

Let's give this a try!
 
Repeat Prototype 20, but for the batter, reduce the xanthan gum by 1/4 teaspoon, to 1 1/2 teaspoons.
Also, bake this cheesecake in tub for only about 90 minutes, rather than 110 (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool it down in the oven (shut off at this point), door slightly ajar, for an hour—just like the previous prototype. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature, doing so for 120 minutes (not 90), then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 21

The brown spots were greatly diminished on this one, hopefully even to my satisfaction.

As expected, Prototype 21 had a nice taste to it. And I felt that the batter was still firm enough as well. This cheesecake ended up being nearly 5/6 gone perhaps close to an hour after it was served at Living Hope Church (among a small selection of snacks, mainly Munchkins from Dunkin' Donuts). But I ended up heading out of the church while leaving the remaining cheesecake for others to enjoy later on.

With this mid-September cheesecake turning out as best as I could hopefully make it, this would wrap up my basic cheesecake overhaul of 2017. Next: Apply the results to other cheesecake flavors—starting with chocolate (coincidentally, Prototype 21 on that flavor).
 

Back to my bushy homepage