Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 23:
About a couple of months ago (around June of 2017), I started working on a major cheesecake overhaul, beginning with the plain flavor. Along the way, I started bringing on board a stabilizer which has been very popular for many years in the food industry—but not nearly as popular, at least in my knowledge, in home usage. This stabilizer—an alternative to arrowroot—is xanthan gum, and it has been used extensively in the production of cream cheese. Perhaps one reason why xanthan gum has not had much at-home exposure is because of the difficulty in trying to use correct amounts. I would estimate this natural ingredient to have nearly a dozen times more stabilizing power than arrowroot (and furthermore even much higher when compared to all-purpose flour).

As my working on the plain-flavored prototypes continued, I felt that I would use this latest eggnog prototype as a "stepping stone" to help me determine what would be a suitable amount of xanthan gum to use for my cheesecakes in general.

Looking back at Prototype 19 of my plain cheesecakes, I directly replaced 5 tablespoons of arrowroot with...5 quarters of a teaspoon (i.e., 1 1/4 teaspoons) of xanthan gum. Yes, I like to express my fives here, so that I can more easily say, "1/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum for every tablespoon of arrowroot!" Alright. That's a ratio of 12:1. One tablespoon = three teaspoons. So a tablespoon contains 12 quarters of a teaspoon. That means 5 tablespoons = 60 quarters of a teaspoon. So that is 60/4 teaspoons of arrowroot corresponding to 5/4 teaspoons of xanthan gum. That ratio is 60:5...simplified to 12:1.

With that plain cheesecake coming out somehow too soft, I wanted to boost the xanthan gum for next time. But I had already determined to
no more than double this ingredient (which would be to 2 1/2 teaspoons). In fact, I considered raising it more gradually, only to 2 teaspoons. That would be a 60% increase.

My previous eggnog prototype included 1/2 cup of arrowroot. That's 8 tablespoons (yes, that's more than 5, because of a number of differences compared to my plain cheesecakes, including all that liquid eggnog), i.e, 24 teaspoons. Translating that to xanthan gum would be 2 teaspoons. So this 12:1 ratio would be my starting point for my eggnog cheesecake before applying the 60% increase here. But for the sake of simplification and less risk of over-thickening the batter, I decided to settle for only 3 teaspoons (1 tablespoon)—an increase of only 50% for the eggnog version.

I also (again, for the sake of simplicity, particularly in the midst of a general cheesecake overhaul) went with just the yogurt and cottage cheeses.
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese (1CT-2YG [1 part cottage 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 8 ounces (1 cup) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

24 oz. (about 3 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rum extract
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 1/3 cups light eggnog
1 tablespoon xanthan gum
3 eggs

Place into greased 13" x 9" glass ("Pyrex") pan, and bake in tub at 300 degrees for 80-90 minutes. Shut off oven afterwards, leaving door slightly ajar, for 60 minutes. Next, remove pan containing cheesecake from tub and oven, and let cool at room temperature for 90-120 minutes, then (with cheesecake still in pan) refrigerate.

Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 23

Well, it looked like I had erred on the high side with the xanthan gum, despite the relatively cautious 50% boost. There was somewhat too much of a struggle for the blender that I was using to fully incorporate this stabilizer. This was just before I added the eggs, which I wanted to mix in as the last ingredient for the batter. The struggle continued after I added the first egg. This struggle barely started giving some way probably after the second egg. With the third egg, the blender ended up successfully mixing again, to my satisfaction. That was a close one. I was risking the possibility of a wasted cheesecake (or at least an insufficiently-blended batter). Note to my next plain prototype: Do not use any more than 1 3/4 teaspoons of xanthan gum (consider perhaps 1 1/2 teaspoons)!

But this cheesecake had a delicious eggnog taste to it, and I made this one in late August of 2017—baked at 90 minutes, oven-cooled at 60 and room-cooled at 90—for Lesa's birthday. I brought it to her at the Italian Community Center in Beverly, and a number of others there enjoyed it as well.

Despite my having moved on to the next eggnog prototype, I decided to repeat this 23rd prototype in September of 2018, one full tablespoon of xanthan gum and all. I felt that I would try a better, persistent approach in dealing with this powerful stabilizer. After adding it to the mixture (pre-eggs-addition) with the blender maxed out, I allowed additional sitting time plus some blender pulsing in order to get the xanthan gum incorporated, and all this was somewhat helpful. I also baked the cheesecake for 80 minutes, but I cooled it at room temperature for a good two hours (after the one-hour cooling in the oven). The cheesecake's surface ended up having a nice appearance to it.

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