Secrets to the Best Cherry Cheesecake
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Cheesecake. It's the dessert you make when you want guests to think you're a chef extraordinaire. It's a showstopper dessert –and a conversation stopper. After tasting it, guests will want to know your secrets.

The first secret is to always use full-fat cream cheese. Remember, fat is back in, and you can tell yourself it's better, dare we say healthier, to use the full-fat. The cheesecake will be more full-bodied this way. Also, plan ahead when you want to make cheesecake. Set the cream cheese out at least an hour or two before, so it can come to room temperature. This way, it will be easier to mix and will work better with the other ingredients. Don't tell, but you can also bake the entire cheesecake ahead of when you need it, which can relieve stress when planning for big meals.

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Think about the flavors you want to include in your cheesecake. Make sure to consider what flavors will best complement the texture and slight tang of the dessert. When in doubt, stay simple! Many home cooks think that a flavor explosion is more impressive, but the secret is that something done well is far superior. A classic plain cheesecake can be delicious when you pair it with the right fruit, like cherries.

Some cherry cheesecake recipes are chocolate cheesecakes with cherry fillings, like this one. If you want a purer cherry flavor, puree fresh cherries and mix them into the cheesecake batter before baking. Consider making a plain cheesecake, like Southern Living's Ultimate Cheesecake, and then making a cherry topping to pour overtop. Or, if cherries are difficult to obtain, use cherry jam!

Covering the top of the cheesecake with jam and berries will also cover any cracks that might have formed in the surface. But because you know all the secrets to making the best cherry cheesecake, you'll know that a water bath, coupled with the right baking time (you'll want the edges set but the middle a tad jiggly) and slow cooling can help avoid cracks in the cheesecake.

Another secret? Cheesecakes don't have to be baked. A no-bake cherry cheesecake would mean avoiding the cracks that might form in the surface of a baked cheesecake. Because it is unbaked, it will not have eggs in it, but might instead have a few types of cheese, such as cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, goat cheese, and whipped cream. With an unbaked cheesecake mix, you can make parfaits like this, but with cherries and cherry jam! As with a traditional cheesecake, cherry puree can be swirled into this mixture, creating beautiful red designs. The unbaked mix can also be spread in a casserole dish with a cherry topping to make cherry cheesecake dip. Have people scoop it out with graham crackers or even shortbread cookies.

If you happen to sneak a bite of the cheesecake before serving it, then … I suppose that can be your secret to the best cheesecake.