Before starting her first catering business, 31-year-old pastry chef Kelli Lockerman decided to start simply. Her specialty — cheesecake — is not so simple, though.
“Well, I wanted a simple menu that would let me focus on and specialize in one area,” she said.
Cheesecakes, she admits, aren’t the easiest desserts to make unless you know what you’re doing.
“Cheesecakes are extremely temperamental,” she said. This nature “opens the door to a huge variety of things that can go wrong,” she added.
Mrs. Lockerman majored in marketing at Berry College in Rome, Ga. She has always loved to cook, though, and the thought of a career in the food industry never left her. After working as a server and manager at several restaurants while her husband attended college, she knew she didn’t want to stay on the serving end of the business forever.
She was accepted into the culinary arts program at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, N.C. To get more experience in the pastry arts, she worked at Hansel & Gretel’s Bakery in Charlotte. A year ago, she moved with her husband to Chattanooga and started Scenic City Cheesecakes, where she makes more than a dozen varieties of the sweet confections.
Tips from a pro
Here are several slices of advice Mrs. Lockerman offers from her day-to-day cheesecake experiences:
* Always have cream cheese, eggs and other ingredients at room temperature. “Especially the cream cheese. If it’s too cold, the ingredients won’t mix correctly.”
* Don’t overmix. “Bringing too much air into the mixture will make it cook incorrectly. The cheesecake won’t come out even. The key is to beat the cream cheese a lot but not much once the eggs are added. Overmixing can cause cracking and other problems.”
* Run a knife around the edge of the springform pan 10-15 minutes after removing it from the oven. Let the cake cool completely before removing it from the pan. Then refrigerate. Do not cover with plastic wrap until cooled completely, or condensation will form over the top of the cheesecake.
* Know your oven. “If the oven’s too hot, the cheesecake will overcook. If it bakes too long and cools too quickly, you’ll also have problems.” These circumstances can cause cracking, an inherent issue with cheesecakes.
Never fear, she said. There’s always a topping to crown the cake and cover mistakes.
“Sometimes cheesecakes will crack even if you do everything right,” Mrs. Lockerman said. “They are temperamental. I’d say for every four cheesecakes I make, the fifth will crack — just because it wants to.”
Enter the toppings
The best toppings depend on the flavor of the cheesecake, Mrs. Lockerman said.
Fruit toppings — either fresh fruits or pie fillings — are the easiest and work well for a standard New York-style cheesecake. For flavored cakes, creativity is in order, such as a little pumpkin pie spice added to whipped topping for pumpkin cheesecakes or a creamy chocolate ganache for chocolate cheesecake.
Sour cream is a quick, simple, all-purpose topping for all cheesecakes. Mix it with powdered sugar, to taste, and bake it on the cheesecake for a few extra minutes to set.
Add toppings only when the cheesecake has cooled completely. Then enjoy.
“They’re heavenly,” Mrs. Lockerman said. “Cheesecakes are one of those foods that when you put that bite in your mouth, you go ‘mmmm.’ ”
New York-Style Cheesecake
Fresh fruit or sweetened sour cream may be used to top this classic cheesecake from Kelli Lockerman.
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
5 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup sour cream
1 (21-ounce) can cherry pie filling (or fruit of your choice)
Mix crumbs, 3 tablespoons sugar and melted butter; press firmly into bottom of 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 325 F for 10 minutes. (If using dark, nonstick pan, bake at 300 F for 10 minutes.)
Mix cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, flour and vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add sour cream; mix well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each addition just until blended. Pour over crust.
Bake at 325 F for 1 hour, 10 minutes or until center is almost set if using silver springform pan. (Bake at 300 F for 1 hour, 10 minutes if using dark pan.) Run knife or metal spatula around rim of pan to loosen cake; cool completely before removing rim of pan. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Top with pie filling before serving.
Note: Make a chocolate cheesecake using the same recipes, substituting chocolate graham crackers in the crust and add 5 ounces semisweet chocolate chips to the batter. For a simple topping, drizzle with chocolate sauce.
11/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
1 stick margarine or butter; melted
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese
1/3-1/2 cup amaretto
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
8 ounces sour cream
1 tablespoon amaretto
For crust: Mix graham cracker crumbs, cinnamon, 2 tablespoons sugar and butter. Press mixture in bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.
For filling: Beat cream cheese and 1/3-1/2 cup Amaretto until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in 1 cup sugar, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Pour mixture into crust and bake in a preheated 375 F oven for 45-50 minutes.
For topping: Mix the 1 tablespoon/1 teaspoon sugar, sour cream and 1 tablespoon amaretto. Spoon the mixture over the cheesecake when done and return to oven for 5 minutes at 500 F. Remove from oven, cool to room temperature, then let set for 48 hours in the refrigerator.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
1 (5-ounce) can evaporated milk
14 ounces individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup sugar
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Melt the butter and combine with the vanilla wafer crumbs. Press into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.
Pour the evaporated milk into a 11/2-quart heavy saucepan and melt the caramels in it over low heat. Heat and stir frequently until smooth. Pour mixture onto crust and top with pecans.
In a large bowl, combine sugar, cream cheese and vanilla; beat well until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after adding each egg.
Melt the chocolate, and combine with the cream cheese mixture. Pour over the caramel pecan mixture in springform pan. Bake at 350 F for 40 minutes. Loosen cake from the edges of pan, but do not remove rim until cooled. Chill completely.
11/2 cups finely ground almonds
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
11/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 (8-ounce) container sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
11/2 cups fresh or thawed frozen blueberries
1 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons sour cream
Blueberries and lemon rind strips for garnish
For crust: Combine crust ingredients in small bowl. Press mixture into bottom of lightly greased, 9-inch springform pan, extending about 11/2 inches up sides. Set aside.
For filling: Beat cream cheese at medium speed with electric mixer until smooth. Combine sugar, flour and salt. Add to cheese mixture and beat until blended.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add sour cream, vanilla and lemon rind, beating just until blended. Gently fold in blueberries, carefully as not to break. Pour mixture into prepared pan.
Bake at 300 F for 1 hour, 10 minutes, or until center is firm; then turn off oven and open door. Cool for 30 minutes with oven door open. Transfer to rack and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for several hours or until completely chilled, add topping and serve.
For topping: Whip cream to soft peaks; then beat in sugar and sour cream just until blended. Spread over top of chilled cheesecake just before serving. Garnish with blueberries and lemon rind strips.
* In 1872, cream cheese, the base for any cheesecake, was invented by American dairyman William Lawrence of Chester, N.Y., who accidentally developed a method of producing cream cheese while trying to reproduce a French cheese called Neufchatel.
* Cheesecake is believed to have originated in ancient Greece around 200 BC.
— Source: http://inventors.about.com