October 19, 2015 |

Sweet Treat: Cheesecake

By Jeremy White

Cheesecake is a crowd favorite

cheesecake_1Like pizza, cheesecake is a highly customizable dish. Though it can be savory in other parts of the world, in America cheesecake is most often equated with words like “sweet”, “rich” and “creamy.” The only rule? There really are no rules. Creativity and some sort of creamed cheese are the hallmarks. From there, it’s up to you.

Personally, I prefer a sweet, dense cheesecake on a graham cracker crust. As for toppings, I don’t find them necessary; but, if I do opt for a topping, I like to keep it simple — strawberries or blueberries. But, ultimately, there’s no need to limit yourself. Whether you prefer to work with ricotta, cream cheese, cottage cheese, Swiss or cheddar, it doesn’t really matter. Want something light or something heavy? Again, your choice. It’s all about what will sell to your client base. And that tends to differ regionally.

Having said that, cream cheese or ricotta seem to be the most favored bases for use in a pizzeria setting. Though I enjoy ricotta-based desserts, I’m a much bigger fan of mascarpone when it comes to after-dinner delights. And, therefore, I’d suggest that it’s probably in your best interest to work with cream cheese instead of ricotta if you opt to make your own cheesecake.

Get a traditional New York-style Cheesecake recipe here.

Which brings us to another question. Should you make your own or buy pre-made? This is a tough one. Though many operators pride themselves on a from-scratch mentality, we all know desserts are a different animal. It’s one thing to make your own pizza dough. It’s another thing entirely to successfully plan and execute a dessert menu without outside help.

Some chef friends of mine often confide to me “off the record” that they live by a golden rule of sorts when it comes to desserts: if you can make it better yourself, then make it. If a supplier can offer you a dessert that is better than what comes out of your kitchen, then buy it.

dessert, new york style, cheesecakeI see a lot of sense in that logic. While I admire those who offer only house-made dishes, I certainly would not storm out of a pizzeria never to return again if I were to discover that the cheesecake wasn’t made from scratch.

As you plan your next menu change, ask yourself if cheesecake deserves a spot in the rotation. If it does, do you have the manpower it takes to pull it off? Can you make a great one? Or would you be better off sourcing it from a supplier?

Only you can answer those questions.

If you do decide to try your hand at it, experiment with different crust bases, textures, flavors and toppings. There are too many options out there to be rote.

Of course, you can never go wrong with a classic. So here’s a base recipe to help you get started. Master this and then move on to more complex offerings, such as peanut butter cup cheesecake, white chocolate and raspberry swirl or pumpkin spice for October. The variations are endless.

JEREMY WHITE is editor-in-chief of Pizza Today.