Daring Bakers 18th Challenge: Cheesecake Centerpiece

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge. One of my favorite cakes, after Boston Cream pie (which is actually a cake and not a pie), this challenge came at a good time. I finally had an opportunity to serve this challenge to a large group of people instead of facing the challenge of eating it alone or pushing it to my honey. Easter dinner was on the near horizon, and that’s where this cake was headed. I have to admit it was one of the easiest cheesecakes I have made. We were encouraged to use any flavoring we wanted, but when I read the Mexican Turtle variation included in the recipe, I knew it was the one I wanted: bittersweet chocolate, pecans and caramel sauce. Hummm.hmm… To keep with the theme, I added a tablespoon of tequila to the mix. I paired this cake with my favorite salted caramel sauce. The final result was very creamy and quite rich and to die-for, if I may say so myself. Although some of my fellow Daring Bakers experienced some problems with water-logged crusts due to water seeping in, I was pleased my foil-wrapped aging spring-form stayed tight. Now looking forward to next month’s challenge AND the first Daring Cooks challenge (which will be a lot of fun to do — the recipe was posted on Friday). Watch this space on May 14th for the results of this new set of challenges.

Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake

crust:

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

cheesecake:

3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 383 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 tequila

DIRECTIONS:

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 springform 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!

** 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.

Salted Caramel Sauce

  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/16 teaspoon sea salt (or kosher salt)

To make the salted butter caramel: In a saucepan set over medium-low heat, melt the butter in the heavy cream. Immediately remove from the heat and set aside.

Place the sugar in a separate saucepan set over medium heat. Sprinkle the water over the sugar and allow it to dissolve over the heat without stirring. As the sugar begins to caramelize, occasionally shake and swirl the pan to evenly distribute the color.

When the caramel is a rich golden color, remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the hot cream and melted butter to the caramel. Take care to stand back during this process; the hot caramel will bubble up the sides of the pan.

Return the caramel to the lowest heat setting, whisking constantly. Cook and stir the salted butter caramel for 2 minutes over the low heat. Remove from the heat and season the sauce with the 1/16 teaspoon sea salt; stir until it is dissolved completely.

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