Martha Stewart Swears By The Slow Cooker For Creamier Cheesecakes

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Cheesecakes have a bad reputation among homebakers. They require a springform pan — a notoriously leaky kitchen tool — as well as a slow bake in a water bath. And cooks can have a tough time gauging their doneness, which can result in an undercooked lava cake or an overcooked, cracked top.

However, we're here to argue that the risk is worth the reward. Especially when you try using Martha Stewart's slow cooker approach. She swears by the versatile kitchen tool, which ensures the fussy dessert cooks gently in the machine's steamy heat and emerges fracture-free.

Her straightforward approach, detailed in her "Martha Stewart's Slow Cooker" cookbook, calls for baking for approximately two hours on the high heat setting before allowing the dessert to cool for another hour. The key to success is to avoid opening the top of the slow cooker. Just like cracking the oven door, fiddling with the lid lets out needed steam and causes disruptive fluctuations in temperature.

Why a slow cooker?

Patented in 1940, the slow cooker has offered generations of home cooks a hands-off tool to create and warm meals. The machine cooks at lower temperatures, which allows meats to braise and custard-like cheesecakes to fluff. And when foods are cooked through, the heat dissipates slowly, which makes it the perfect environment for a finished cake to sit before refrigerating.

Cheesecakes require a gentle touch in addition to low heat. Traditionally, this came in the form of a bain-marie, or water bath. Like flan and custard, these creamy cakes are placed in a roasting pan and surrounded by hot water before baking. The water provides moisture and steady warmth as the desserts cook.

Martha Stewart taps into the same technique when using a slow cooker, advising bakers to rig a similar environment by propping up the cheesecake pan before surrounding it with water. However, she cautions that desserts aren't quite as low maintenance as savory dishes. "Keep in mind that unlike soups or stews, 'baking' in a slow cooker needs to be watched closely," the culinary personality writes in "Martha Stewart's Slow Cooker."

Cheesecake ideas

In addition to her kitchen secret weapon, Martha Stewart also sets her creamy slow cooker cheesecake up for success by getting ahead of another common issue. She suggests wrapping the bottom of springform pans with aluminum foil or a plastic slow cooker liner to avoid leaks and soggy crusts. Other experts recommend taking things a step further and placing the pan inside a cake pan for waterproof protection.

To enhance the crust's flavor, try swapping the traditional graham crackers for another cookie, a salty snack like pretzels, or even your favorite cereal. To mimic the professionals, after you pour the batter into the pan, add dollops of melted chocolate or add colorful jam in a spiral on top. Use a knife or toothpick to gently swirl the flavoring and create a marbled look.

You can also take inspiration from this ube cheesecake brownie recipe to create a vibrant purple dessert or start creating your own flavor combinations. For a different presentation, experiment with using ramekins to bake individual portions. Before you know it, you'll share Stewart's aversion to serving grocery store desserts, too.