Imperfect Baking 101 (& Blueberry Cheesecake Topping Recipe)

blueberries for cheesecake topping

How do I prevent a cracked cheesecake? If you ever baked a cheesecake, you likely have consulted with Google or a friend on this one.

Just the sight of butter in the fridge generally makes me start whipping up a dessert, which is to say I know my way around a kitchen, but I certainly have not mastered the perfectly formed cheesecake top. Custardy smooth middle. Perfect crust. Check and check. Sometimes with a beautiful crack in the middle.

Here’s the thing. I really don’t care when I present my dessert to family or guests whether the top of my cheesecake is cookbook perfect. There definitely are guests who do care, and most of us don’t enjoy having them over too often.

There is a difference between imperfection and laziness. I know the major cheesecake rules just as much as the next home baker – no overbeating, no overbaking. Of course there are the subtler techniques to master as well – how to let your cheesecake cool gradually so that you don’t subject it to drastic temperature changes. But sometimes despite what feels like a perfect execution of each technique, your cheesecake will crack anyway. Place it front and center on the table and know that imperfect baking gives your dessert a rustic, homemade, not-from-the-bakery stamp. You can make the first cut along the major crack or use some topping to cover it up partially. If you have chocolate on hand, some beautifully shaved swirls also work well.

One of my favorite cheesecakes has a pecan shortbread style crust and a cranberry topping that strikes the perfect balance between tart and sweet. I dress the top with it and put the rest in a beautiful serving bowl. For the summer, I make a blueberry version with a sauce that makes any rich dessert more refreshing. The next time you make your favorite basic cheesecake, have some of this on hand. Even if your cheesecake comes out perfectly, I promise you will still want to serve this on the side. Try it on pound cake as well.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Add sugar to a small saucepan. Stir in orange juice, water, and lemon juice followed by blueberries. Over medium-high heat, cook until berries break down, making sure to stir occasionally. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer and stir until mixture thickens, about 12 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and allow it to cool. Use a food processor or blender to make the sauce smooth. Serve room temperature or chilled.

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