Pros: Cheesecake! Wide variety of flavors and styles, with delicious results; simple directions
Cons: Needed a better editor; no photos; odd organizational scheme
Rating: 4 out of 5
First published 1/4/2005
We’ve gone on a cheesecake kick lately. It’s kind of my fault; I decided I wanted to make the “White Christmas Cheesecake” from Larry and Honey Zisman’s “50 Best Cheesecakes in the World” for my birthday. We’d already made several other cheesecakes from that cookbook, and it was easy to convince ourselves that we should make a few more. Just so I could review the cookbook, of course. No other reason. Riiiight…
That aforementioned cheesecake was a divine experience, involving white chocolate, white chocolate liqueur (it can be hard to find, but it’s worth it), and a white chocolate topping. It was a bit insanely rich, but oh wow did it taste good. What was shocking, however, was the fact that the “very, very Irish cream” cheesecake we made next was even better! I was dubious; it looked like it didn’t have enough sugar in it, and I wasn’t convinced the sour cream topping would work out so well. Yet it’s the best cheesecake I’ve ever had.
The cooking times and temperatures seem to be right on the ball; the cheesecakes we’ve made out of here have come out beautifully. The instructions are simple and easy-to-follow, presented in numbered steps. I do wish they’d recommend wrapping foil around the base of the springform pan, however; cheesecakes involving butter in the crust often leak a little butter no matter what brand or quality of pan you have, and a little foil can mean the difference between a kitchen full of smoke and a trouble-free baking time.
That said, the book does have some good starting suggestions for working with cheesecakes. It then divides up “the winning recipes from the nationwide ‘Love that Cheesecake’ contest” into 8″ cheesecakes; 9″ and 9.5″ cheesecakes; 10″ and 10.5″ cheesecakes; no-bake, slightly baked and cupcake cheesecakes; and cheesecakes from special places (the mocha frost no-bake cheesecake, by the way, is almost as good as the others). The “cheesecakes from special places” are generally from famous hotels and chefs and such. You’ll find everything in here from an orange poppy seed cheesecake to a banana split cheesecake.
This organizational scheme is great if you only have one size pan, or want to use every pan in the house, but kind of pointless otherwise. I think I would rather they’d organized it differently and then given an index-by-size (which is kind of funny, really, because the index does list them by size). This isn’t a real minus, though.
The only cheesecake we made from here that wasn’t spectacular was a chocolate raspberry cheesecake. You’d think it would be hard for that combination of flavors to not work, particularly since it’s my husband’s favorite, but somehow excellent chocolate raspberry cheesecake recipes seem hard to come by.
The one problem with this little cookbook is that it really needed a better editor. Take that very, very Irish cream cheesecake recipe, for instance. It can be a problem when you see ingredients like, “1/2 butter, melted,” or “3/4 Irish cream liqueur.” We figured out that the missing bit in both cases was “cup,” but very inexperienced cooks might run into problems here (1/2 stick of butter, for example, would have resulted in a very different recipe, as would have 3/4 teaspoon Irish cream liqueur).
This is a tiny, inexpensive cookbook with absolutely delightful recipes. Its only flaws are some bad editing in a couple of cases (that an experienced cook can make up for, so far as we’ve seen), a lack of any kind of photos, and a somewhat odd organizational scheme.