Friday, December 28, 2012

Dutch Oven Cheesecake With a Twist

I wasn’t sure what dessert I wanted to make for our Christmas dinner, until my wife suggested that I do a Cheesecake.  I’ve only done one cheesecake before, and it turned out passable, but not amazing.  It was a chocolate chip pumpkin cheesecake.

I figured that since I’ve been learning so much about how to do cakes and baking that I’d really like to simplify, and just do a good basic cheesecake, without a lot of frills.  Then, I could make a couple of different toppings and it would still taste fancy.

As I was doing some research, I found that some of the cheesecakes were done in a water bath in the oven.  This was something I’d never heard of before.  The basic idea was to put a springform pan, wrapped in aluminum foil to prevent leaking, into a pan full of water, and to put that into the oven.  Right away, I was intrigued, but also skeptical.  Does it make that much difference?  What’s it’s purpose?

A few more Googles turned up some answers.  The best reason for doing it is even heat distribution around the (relatively delicate) batter.  Some said that the steam around the cake also helps prevent cracking on the top.

Well, a Dutch oven often suffers from uneven heat, so I thought I’d give it a try.  But how?  The solution was to do the cake in my 10” shallow dutch oven, and lower it into a heated water bath in my 14” deep oven.

The results were much, much better than last time.  There were a lot of other things I did differently as well, so I’m not certain that was entirely because of the water bath.  But, in the end, it was one of the lightest, fluffiest, creamiest cheesecakes I’ve ever eaten.

Basic Dutch Oven Cheesecake in a Water Bath

10” shallow Dutch oven
14” deep Dutch oven

25-28 coals below
16-18 coals above

8” Dutch oven

10 coals below

1 1/2 cup Graham cracker crumbs
1/4 lb (1 stick) Melted butter
1/4 cup Sugar
Liberal shakes of Ground dried mint (optional, but it really helped the flavor!)

4x 8 oz packages Cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups Sugar
4 Eggs
1 Tbsp Cornstarch
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1 Tbsp Lemon juice
1 cup Heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 Cups frozen fruit (Strawberries)
1/2 Cup Sugar
Shakes of cinnamon, nutmeg
Water as needed

It started out with me taking the ingredients out of the fridge so that they could come more up to room temperature.  Then, as usual, I started getting a lot of coals ready.  It took a lot on the ovens, and it was a fairly long cooking time, so I had to have a side fire handy as well, to keep replenishing the coals.

Before making any of the ingredients, I set the 10” inside the 14”, and filled it with water until it came a bit up the side of the 10”.  That was a lot of water.  It will take quite a while to get all that water heated up.  I took the 10” out, and put the 14” on and under the coals, with the lid on.  I wanted the water oven to be as preheated as possible, maybe even simmering.

Then, I made the crust.  I actually didn’t have any graham crackers, so I ended up using honey-flavored oat breakfast cereal O’s.  It still tasted fine.  I mixed in the melted butter, the sugar, and the mint and pressed it into place at the bottom of the Dutch oven.  There had been some debate as to whether you were supposed to mold it up the sides or not.  Since I was going to be serving it straight from the Dutch, I didn’t fuss with it, and just made it level.

Then, I got a big mixing bowl, and started creaming the cream cheese and the sugar together.  I have this potato masher with kinda small holes, and it worked just perfectly for smooshing them together. I did it a lot, trying to make it so that I incorporated a lot of air into the mix.  It’s not as easy to do cream cheese as it is to do butter, so it was a tough job.

Then, I added the eggs, one at a time, smooshing and creaming each one into the mix as I went.  After that, I added the other ingredients and mixed and smooshed more and more.  I’ve got a pretty stiff whisk, too, which I used to finish it up.

By this time, the water was bubbly hot, so I poured the batter into the 10” Dutch oven, shook it a bit to settle it in, and put it into the 14”.  I kept the lid of the 10” off, but, obviously, closed up the lid of the 14”.  I replenished the coals, and went on cooking other things for the dinner.

I kept a close eye on it.  I didn’t lift the lid much, probably only about every half hour or so.  Part of the problem was my inexperience.  I wasn’t really sure what a “done cheesecake” was supposed to look like.  I ended up cooking it just under an hour and a half.  I don’t know if it needed to be cooked less or not.  It had puffed pretty high up in the 10” at that point.  It was still kinda jiggly, though.  It even cracked a little on the top because it had swelled up so much.  I guess the steam doesn’t help it that much...

I pulled it out and set it aside to cool.  Another thing that my research told me was to let it cool slowly.  It settled back down in the Dutch oven as it did.  Finally, when it was cool, I put it outside with the lid on to chill.

In my 8” Dutch oven, with about 10 coals underneath, I mixed the topping ingredients.  I just let that come up to temperature and simmer to reduce into a syrup.  I let that cool.  My dear wife also made a chocolate drizzle.

It was delicious and rich.  I recommend cutting the slices kind of thin!

Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

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