International Cutlery

Cleanly Cutting Cheesecake

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  I've been making several large cheesecakes for 30+ years for an annual gathering at our home, and I've become fairly skilled at making them. However, one problem that I have not been able to solve, nor have I found a professional cook who was able to give me a solution, is how do I cut them so that the cuts are neat and clean? I have excellent knives that we keep well-sharpened, and they generally make a mess no matter which knife I try. I had read that clean dental floss worked well — not true for me. Last year I got two glasses of hot water and a "tomato" knife, and dipped the knife in the glass of hot water before each cut, and that worked as well as anything has. (I kept one glass of water re-heating in the microwave). I called a local culinary center owned by professional cooks, and they didn't know of anything better. I know there is a way to do it, as I've seen commercially-prepared cheesecakes with very clean cuts. Can you help me? The annual gathering is days away! 

  Clearly, you know all the tricks and techniques — all but one, perhaps, but you're not going to like it. Dipping a thin, sharp knife in hot water before each cut is a proven technique for many cakes, not just cheesecakes. A really thin slicer will help.

Many people think using a long piece of dental floss, fishing line, or button thread to cut the cheesecake is the ideal solution. You don't pull the line back up through the cut, of course, you let one end go and pull it out the side of the cake. And depending on how substantial your crust is, you may have to use a thin knife to finish cutting through the crust. Most commercial cheesecakes are cut with a taut wire, like a piano wire.

But the issue here, we believe, is that not all cheesecakes are created equal. The dental floss and hot, wet knife work on fairly sturdy or stiff cheesecakes, so we're guessing that yours are creamy, and, relatively speaking, fairly gushy. Many professionals, and this may sound like heresy, add a little unflavored gelatin to their recipe to give the cake more body, specifically to make it cut more cleanly. You see this most often in cheesecake recipes that are light on eggs, because eggs and the length of time you cook the cake are largely responsible for how well the cake sets up.

To add gelatin to a cheesecake recipe, put a tablespoon of water in a small saucepan and sprinkle a half teaspoon or a teaspoon of gelatin over the surface. Let it soften for 5 minutes. Over low heat, stir the gelatin until dissolved. Let is cool a bit, then add it to your cheesecake batter toward the end of the mixing process.

It's probably too late in the game for you experiment with gelatin-enriched cheesecakes for your gathering. But you might like to try the technique sometime later in the year and see how it affects the body, texture, and overall appeal of your cakes.

And while we well understand the desire to put your best foot forward, you can take comfort in the fact that some people have been looking forward to your cheesecakes for 30+ years and are happy to let the crumbs fall where they may.

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