The bath sits at the apex of civilization. It offers relaxation, restoration, contemplation — plus bubbles.
Other species concur. The bird likes a bath. The dog likes a bath. The cake likes a bath too.
Not the layer cake, mindful of its tender crumb and fancy frosting. The cheesecake — lush and luscious — knows the pleasure of the bath.
Ordinarily the bather strips down and climbs in. Not cake. First it crisps up a crust. Next, it settles into a springform pan. Then it slips on a protective jacket. Finally the cake sinks into its bain marie (in French) or water bath (in redundant English).
The water works as insulation, ensuring the soft cheese and sweet cream stay soft and creamy. No one craves cake, like steak, that’s sizzle outside and rare inside. During the slow bake, some of the bathwater turns to steam, which helps the pretty pale cake retain its dewy complexion and avoid unsightly cracks. The bath-and-sauna treatment leaves the cheesecake silky, sumptuous and serene. Civilized, through and through.
Preparation time: 40 minutes
Baking time: 1 hour plus time to cool
- Melted butter
- 7 ounces speculoos cookies (such as Biscoff) or graham crackers
- 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 11 ounces soft plain goat cheese
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- 8 ounces creme fraiche
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Brush an 8-inch spring-form pan with melted butter. Line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. Sugar the buttered sides of the pan, tapping out excess.
Pile crust ingredients into the food processor; pulse to dampen crumbs. Dump crumbs into the prepared pan, and press firmly into the bottom. Bake at 350 degrees F until crisp and fragrant, 20 to 22 minutes.
Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees. To prevent leaks later, set the spring-form into a 9-inch cake pan or wrap the outside of the spring-form in 3 layers of foil. Meanwhile, heat a kettle of water.
Wipe out food processor. Measure in filling ingredients and swirl completely smooth. Pour filling over baked crust. Rap the pan to release bubbles.
Set cake pan (holding the spring-form pan) or wrapped spring-form pan into a roasting pan and slide the roasting pan into the oven.
Carefully pour hot water into the roasting pan until water comes half way up the sides of the cake or spring-form pan. This hot-water bath will ensure a creamy cheesecake. Bake until barely wiggly in the center, about 1 hour.
Turn off oven, prop open the oven door and let cake cool, still in its bath, 1 hour. Pull out cake, discard foil, chill. Release sides of the pan. Slice and savor.
Makes 12 servings.
Home on the Range is a Tribune News Service column by Leah Eskin, which offers “delicious essays and insightful recipes.”