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").

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?).

Back to my bushy homepage