Making Microwave Cheesecake Can Be A Tasty Lesson In Physics

Posted: October 23, 1988

A microwave oven makes dandy cheesecake and teaches some valuable principles, too. For example, when you melt butter in a microwave, you should cover it with wax paper to keep it from spattering.

And you should microwave crumb crusts on medium-high power, watching them carefully because sugar mixtures can brown and burn with stunning speed. Sugar mixtures (especially buttery ones) attract microwaves.

Cream cheese can be softened very quickly in a microwave, but the power level should be even lower - at medium - to keep the cream cheese from toughening or separating. Don't be fooled because the cheese keeps its brick shape instead of liquefying. Just prod it; if it's soft, remove it from the oven at once.

Cheesecakes should also be cooked on medium to keep them from curdling. And they should not be covered because coverings merely trap steam and water down in the filling.

Finally, to make sure that cheesecakes microwave evenly, use a turntable. Without one, you must rotate the cheesecake every three minutes.

CHERRY CHEESECAKE

4 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup plus 6 tablespoons sugar

1 cup graham-cracker crumbs

16 ounces cream cheese

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 can (1 pound) pitted sour red cherries, drained and liquid reserved

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 or 3 drops red food coloring (optional)

In a nine-inch pie plate, melt the butter, covered with wax paper, by microwaving on high power (100 percent) for 45 to 55 seconds. Add one-quarter cup of the sugar and the cracker crumbs, mixing well with fingers and pressing firmly over bottom and up the sides of the pie plate. Microwave, uncovered, on medium-high power (70 percent) for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes, rotating the pie plate 180 degrees every minute, until crust is hot. Watch carefully because the crust burns easily. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, place cream cheese in a one-quart casserole, cover with wax paper, and microwave on medium power (50 percent) for two minutes until soft.

In a bowl, beat the eggs until they are foamy, then gradually beat in the six tablespoons of sugar. Continue to beat until it is pale and thick. Blend into the cream cheese until smooth. Stir in the vanilla.

Pour the mixture into the crust, set pie plate on a turntable and microwave, uncovered, on medium power for 9 to 10 1/2 minutes until the filling just sets. (The tiny moist area in the center of the cake will set on standing.) If you have no turntable, rotate the cheesecake 90 degrees every three minutes. Cool the cheesecake to lukewarm. It will sink slightly, but this is normal.

In a one-quart microwave-safe measure, combine the remaining half cup of sugar, the cornstarch and the cherry liquid (add enough water to make two- thirds cup).

Microwave, uncovered, on high power for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes, whisking every minute, until the sauce boils and thickens. Stir in cherries, lemon juice and food coloring. Cool for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then spread evenly on the lukewarm cheesecake. Chill 8 to 10 hours before serving. Makes eight servings.

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