If you have avoided making a cheesecake because you thought maybe it wouldn't come out right, here are a few ideas to get you started.

• When you're ready to bake a cheesecake, take all the ingredients out of the refrigerator and let them sit on your counter until they are room temperature. This helps the ingredients blend together into a delicious and creamy batter, and helps to keep the cheesecake from cracking as it bakes.

• When you make a cheesecake, it's not the time to get creative. The ingredients are very specific to keep them in a balance with each other and produce a delicious and attractive looking cheesecake. It's a good idea to stick to the recipe and get creative with special toppings.

• Always add eggs one at a time and beat just long enough to blend them in. If you beat them for too long the batter will have too much air and could ruin the cheesecake.

• Cheesecakes are usually baked in a springform pan, but you don't have to go out and buy one if you don't have one. Follow the directions for preparation and pour into a 13x9 baking pan. Cut it the same as for cookie bars.

• Important - Don't open the door to see how it's doing. It's surprising how much heat is lost every time the door is opened. The sudden change in temperature can cause the cheesecake to crack. If you don't have a light in your oven, check close to the end of the suggested baking time.

• When checking, look at the edges of the cheesecake. They should be a little puffy, and the center shouldn't be completely solid. Don't test it with a cake tester or a toothpick as you would with a cake, as this is another way it could get cracks.

• If your cheesecake was baked in a springform pan it should be cooled on a wire rack, and then put in the refrigerator for at least four hours before cutting it. If you made it in a baking pan it doesn't need to be cooled that long.

• You can freeze a cheesecake for as long as two months. After you have cooled it, cut it in pieces if you want to take it out a piece at a time, and wrap it well. When you take a whole one out of the freezer, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and add any toppings before serving it.

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