Monday, April 27, 2009

Cheesecake with The Daring Bakers

I'm happy to report that this month's Daring Bakers Challenge turned out to be cheesecake. Cheesecake is something that I seldom make. Due to it's denseness I have rarely had enough people over for dessert to consume such an item. So I was quite pleased when the daring bakers challenge forced me to make one. And I think the neighbours are pretty pumped about it too! least I hope they are:)

While we were allowed great leeway in what flavour combinations we wanted to try with the original recipe....I decided to play it safe and not rock the boat too much on this one. I like a plain cheese cake with a topping and didn't want to get carried away trying to come up with what might end up being a big mess of too much going on.
I added only the zest of one lemon and 1 tbsp of Godiva Liqueur to the original recipe. I hummed and hawed for days trying to decide what type of topping..........plain cheese cake with raspberry coulis?.....a chocolate sauce?......blueberry?.....Classic Cherry?......sliced fruit in a crab apple glaze or another classic.......strawberry sauce. In the end, I decided to go with fresh strawberries (probably because I just picked up a litre on sale this week) sliced in half and laid on top with a strawberry pureed glaze to hold them in place.
Let me just say that I whole heartedly loved this did my family.......neighbours are just eating theirs no news yet from them.
I baked the cake in a water bath as suggested, and the cheesecake baked up perfectly flat....without cracks.....and was super creamy inside. The strawberry topping had an ample amount of glaze.....which was thickened just enough not to run that there was a perfect amount of topping for each piece. I was a little hesitant to cut into the cake as it had not been in the fridge the recommended 4 hours yet......but under severe pressures from the two boys to have it for bedtime snack......I buckled..............and then unbuckled the world's most perfect and beautifully set cheesecake. It sliced perfectly with a hot wet knife each and every time.......and the crust stayed together perfectly! The recipe for the strawberry topping is from The Joy of Cheesecake and is included at the end of this post. And now for the details...............

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.
Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:

2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a spring form pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil "casserole" shaped pans from the grocery store. They're 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.

Prep notes: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for almost an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Please plan accordingly!

Some variations from the recipe creator:

** Lavender-scented cheesecake w/ blueberries - heat the cup of heavy cream in the microwave or a saucepan until hot but not boiling. Add 2 tbsp of lavender flowers and stir. Let lavender steep in the cream for about 10-15 minutes, then strain the flowers out. Add strained cream to cheesecake batter as normal. Top with fresh blueberries, or make a quick stove top blueberry sauce (splash of orange juice, blueberries, a little bit of sugar, and a dash of cinnamon - cook until berries burst, then cool)

** Cafe au lait cheesecake with caramel - take 1/4 cup of the heavy cream and heat it in the microwave for a short amount of time until very hot. Add 1-2 tbsp. instant espresso or instant coffee; stir to dissolve. Add this to the remainder of cream and use as normal. Top cheesecake with homemade caramel sauce (I usually find one on the food network website - just make sure it has heavy cream in it. You can use store-bought in a pinch, but the flavor is just not the same since its usually just sugar and corn syrup with no dairy).

** Tropical – add about a half cup of chopped macadamias to the crust, then top the cake with a mango-raspberry-mandarin orange puree.

** Mexican Turtle - add a bar of melted dark chocolate (between 3 and 5 oz., to taste) to the batter, along with a teaspoon of cinnamon and a dash of cayenne pepper (about 1/8 tsp.). Top it with pecan halves and a homemade caramel sauce.

** Honey-cinnamon with port-pomegranate poached pears – replace 1/2 cup of the sugar with 1/2 cup of honey, add about a teaspoon or more (to taste) of cinnamon. Take 2 pears (any variety you like or whatever is in season), peeled and cored, and poach them in a boiling poaching liquid of port wine, pomegranate juice/seeds, a couple of "coins" of fresh ginger, a cinnamon stick, and about a 1/4 cup of sugar. Poach them until tender, then let cool. Strain the poaching liquid and simmer until reduced to a syrupy-glaze consistency, then cool. Thinly slice the cooled pears and fan them out atop the cooled cheesecake. Pour the cooled poaching syrup over the pears, then sprinkle the top with chopped walnuts and fresh pomegranate seeds.

Some variations from Jenny (from JennyBakes):

**Key lime - add zest from one lime to sugar before mixing with cream cheese. Substitute lemon juice, alcohol, and vanilla with key lime juice.

**Cheesecakelets - put in muffin tins, ramekins, or custard cups. Try baking 20-35 minutes, or until still a little jiggly, and cool as before.

The Joy of Cheesecake's Strawberry Glaze

Fresh fruit may travel better it it's fixed to the cake with a glaze, and a touch of lemon juice can bring out the flavour in many fruits. Frozen fruit may also be used. Experiment.
1 quart fresh strawberries or other fresh fruit
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp corn starch
1/4 cup water
1 tsp butter
1 tsp lemon juice

  1. Hull and wash berries. Crush enough berries to make a cup of pulp. (I used my stick blender) Cut the remaining ones in half and arrange them on the cake.
  2. In a small saucepan, mix together the sugar and the cornstarch. Add the water and stir to dissolve.
  3. Add the berry pulp to the saucepan and bring to a rapid boil. Stir constantly while the mixture boils for 2 minutes.
  4. Remove the sauce pan from the heat and add the butter and lemon juice. Let the mixture cool to room temperature, then pour the glaze over the strawberries. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours.


Anonymous said...

Yes, the neighbours are pretty pumped about strawberry cheesecake. Debbie keeps us fat and happy!!!

LittleRed said...

You don't look very fat???? Maybe I'll have to bake some more!

Jenny said...

It looks so beautiful - perfect and creamy. Strawberries would be perfect with this. Sorry I am late in getting to your post. I’m determined to visit each of the 1k+ Daring Bakers who did this challenge. Thanks for being a part of it!

Jenny of JennyBakes