Using Instant Pot to make the creamiest of cheesecakes and other desserts

Jessie Sheehan

THE WASHINGTON POST – I am an Instant Pot enthusiast and am not afraid to say so. I use it to feed my family on the regular because, as many of my fellow IP-lovers know, it “cooks” a variety of items (steel cut oats, large cuts of meat, beans, rice) much more quickly and with less mess (and often equally as well, if not better) than my oven or stovetop.

No, my kitchen does not fill with the aroma of warming beef stew or black beans, when I employ my Instant Pot for meal-making, but it also does not heat up uncomfortably as I race around trying to get dinner on the table post-work. Moreover, because it does triple duty as a pressure cooker, slow cooker and rice cooker, it saves valuable kitchen space and money.

For all these reasons, I adore it.

But for the past year and change, I have begun using my Instant Pot not only to assemble savoury dishes, but to make dessert, as well, and it is fair to say that my love for the-most-versatile-countertop-appliance-in-the-land has grown exponentially – and that is saying something.

Not every sweet lends itself to “baking up” in the steamy environment that is the IP. But if you choose your treats wisely, like those with a texture that benefit from said cooking atmosphere – cheesecake and bread pudding, I’m looking at you – the rewards are many (including time saved, stress avoided – more on that below – and the creamiest and dreamiest of sweets savoured). Moreover, Instant Pot desserts tend to be on the petite-side, making them especially fitting for this particular holiday season when we are gathering with, and feeding, fewer folks than is the norm.

Instant Pot Vanilla Cheesecake. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

Here are the best desserts to make, the tools you’ll need and all the tips and tricks you’ll want in your (apron) pocket when “baking” in your Instant Pot.

The Instant Pot excels at “baking up” luscious, custards and puddings, cakes with a dense, moist crumb; think sticky toffee pudding or dense “snacking cakes” (since the IP only “bakes” a single layer of cake at a time anyway, it is perfect for snack cake-making), creme brûlée, rice pudding, flan, clafoutis, chocolate pots de creme, lemon pudding cake, and the aforementioned cheesecake and bread pudding.

INSTANT POT VANILLA CHEESECAKE

Active time: 30 minutes | Total time: 1 hour (plus 5 1/2 to 6 hours’ chilling time)

8 servings (makes one 7-inch cheesecake)

If you want to see the Instant Pot really strut its stuff, try using it to “bake” a cheesecake. The dreamy, creamy cake that emerges from your IP will be crack-free (pressurised cheesecakes never crack), with an exceptionally lush texture. Its petite size makes it perfect for entertaining small groups.

The top of your cake may need a little love when it emerges from the pot. Hide any imperfections with a topping of lightly whipped sour cream. The tartness of the sour cream plays nicely with the cream cheese. Or you may simply dust it with cocoa powder or cover it with fresh or macerated berries. This recipe works in a three-quart Instant Pot or larger. Make Ahead: The cake can be made and refrigerated up to 48 hours before serving.

Storage Notes: Leftover cake can be loosely covered and refrigerated for up to two days.

INGREDIENTS (FOR THE CRUST)

1/4 cup (55 grams) unsalted butter, melted, plus more softened butter for greasing the pan

1 1/4 cups (145 grams) very fine graham cracker crumbs (from one sleeve/9 graham crackers finely ground in a food processor, or crushed in a zip-top plastic bag with a rolling pin; see NOTES)

1/4 cup (50 grammes) granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

FOR THE FILLING

2/3 cup (130 grammes) granulated sugar

4 teaspoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 pound (455 grammes) cream cheese, room temperature

1/3 cup (80 milliliters) heavy cream, at room temperature

1 tablespoon vanilla extract (may substitute paste from one bean)

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 large egg yolk, at room temperature

FOR THE TOPPING

3/4 cup (180 grams) sour cream

3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Fresh berries, for serving (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a seven-by-three-inch round cake pan with a removable bottom with the softened butter or cooking spray. Cut out a circle of parchment and use it to line the bottom of the pan.

Make the crust: In the bowl of a food processor, process the crumbs, sugar and salt until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the melted butter and vanilla and process until the crumbs are uniformly damp, about 30 seconds more. (Alternately, in a large bowl, combine the crumbs, sugar, salt, butter and vanilla and mix with a flexible spatula or with your hands.)

Transfer the crumbs to the prepared pan and, using your fingers, press firmly into the bottom of the pan and about one inch up the sides. Transfer to the freezer while you prepare the filling. Make the filling: In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt until combined.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a large mixing bowl and a hand mixer, mix the cream cheese on low speed until smooth, 30 seconds to one minute, stopping the mixer and scraping the bowl with a flexible spatula as needed.

Slowly, add the sugar mixture until combined, stopping the mixer and scraping the bowl as needed, about one minute.

Add the heavy cream and vanilla and mix on medium just until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the eggs and yolk, one at a time, and mix only until combined, scraping the bowl as needed. Using a flexible spatula, gently fold the filling one last time and pour it into the prepared pan. The filling will rise above the edge of the crust.

Add one cup of water to the insert of your Instant Pot or multicooker. Use the trivet’s handles or an aluminum sling (see NOTES), to lower the cake into the pot. Cover, set the steam valve to PRESSURE (or SEALING) and turn to HIGH. After the cooker reaches high pressure, which takes five to 10 minutes, cook for 26 to 30 minutes (at 26 minutes, the centre will be slightly softer and creamier than the edges and the cake a bit more lush; at 30 the cake is set and dense – in the best cheesecake way possible).

Let the pressure release naturally, 20 to 25 minutes, then take the lid off. Water will have accumulated under the lid and, as you remove it, it will drip on the cake. Do not worry – simply blot up the water with a paper towel.

Carefully lift the pan from the pot using potholders and the trivet handles or foil sling. Place it on the heatproof surface (the trivet serves as a wire cooling rack) and very gently run a thin knife around the perimetre of the warm cake. Let the cake cool to room temperature, about one hour and 30 minutes.

Cover with plastic wrap, transfer to the refrigerator and let chill for at least four hours and preferably overnight.

Remove the sides of the pan from the cake, running a knife around the edge again to dislodge it, if necessary. Remove the pan bottom by sticking a long knife between it and the parchment paper. Peel off the parchment and place the cake on a serving plate.

Make the topping: In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract until combined. Spread over the top of the cake.

Chill the cake for another 30 minutes, or until the topping has firmed. For clean slices, use a large knife dipped in hot water and dried between each cut. Add berries to the plate or top of the cake, if using.

NOTES: To crush the graham crackers: It is best to use a food processor to turn the crackers into fine crumbs. If using a rolling pin and a zip-top bag to crush the crackers, you may need to use your hands to break up larger chunks.

To make a tinfoil sling: Fold a 20-inch rectangular piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil into a strip about four inches wide. Place the strip into the Instant Pot to test its size and bend it up to create handles. Place the foil strip under your pan and lower it into the pressure cooker using the foil “handles.” To remove, use a kitchen towel or mitts to grab the foil handles to lift out the pan.

Nutrition | Calories: 544; Total Fat: 39 g; Saturated Fat: 21g; Cholesterol: 172mg; Sodium: 413mg; Carbohydrates: 42g; Dietary Fiber: 0g; Sugar: 35g; Protein: 7g.