Monday, April 27, 2009

Apr 27: Daring Bakers - Cheesecake Centerpiece

It's Daring Baker Time! It's Daring Baker Time!

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as this month's challenge.

A few words from our host...
"For this month’s challenge, I have picked a basic cheesecake recipe, courtesy of my very good friend Abbey T., who has tweaked and played with this recipe. She has made many variations, and anyone who knows her knows to ask her to bring a cheesecake!"

Challenge Description
The real challenge this month is to take this basic recipe and play with it. Make it unique. Make a showstopper of a dessert. Add flavor, sauces, decorations – dress it up and show it off. To be clear, I'm allowing for almost any flavor modification within the basic recipe (alcohol, lemon juice, vanilla), changes for dietary needs, and you can also experiment with the crust (graham crackers not essential). And then what you do on top - you have free reign here.

My approach to this challenge...
I'm not a big cheesecake eater, but cheesecake is one of those desserts that I've tried making in the past with some limited success (Mostly, just to sweet for my taste.)

For this challenge, as with most new recipes, I made a 1/3 of the basic recipe with minimal additions. This would give me a point of reference for Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake.

However, for me, the crust is always the key to a dessert so I just halved the crust recipe.

Also, I opted to make mini-cheesecakes using a muffin pan. I like the idea of individual servings.

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:
2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs [half recipe: 90 g]
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted [2 oz]
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar [1 T]
1 tsp. vanilla extract [1/2 t]
[My addition... a little lemon zest]

Crust in-training... Ready for their role.

A food processor comes in handy pulverizing the graham crackers.
Hurray for electric appliances!

Cheesecake filling:
3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature [1/3rd recipe: 1 Stick]
1 cup / 210 g sugar [1/3 C]
3 large eggs [1 egg]
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream [1/3 C]
1 tbsp. lemon juice [1 t]
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean) [1 t]
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake
[My addition... a little lemon zest in the filling too]

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.

As I mentioned above, me like crust!
I found that pressing in the sides first and filling in the bottom last made for a more uniform thickness.

I tried to show the progression from top to bottom.

Also, the question I asked myself was muffin paper or not?
Heck, I'm bold and a daring baker so what the hey... I'll try it with and without baking paper.
Note: I found it difficult to press the crust up the sides of muffin paper.

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.

A food processor to the rescue again!

Yum... pass the spoon and skip the baking!

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.

Used a plastic baggie to pipe the filling into the crust.

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.

Since I made mini-cheesecakes, I baked 20 minutes and cooled in the oven as directed.

Photo in the oven... smells delicious. I couldn't resist taking a photo.

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!

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

Hmmm... cooling in the oven may have been a bit much. Note the browning on the tops.
My first instinct was to pull them out of the oven to cool. I'll try that next time.

Tweaking Abbey's Recipe:
As I mentioned above, I'm not a big dessert eater. I'm more into savory foods... so for my creative variation, I decided to go savory. Since this is a cheesecake, I toyed around with swapping out the cheese. Blue cheese is one of my fav cheese so it was natural go that route.

Savory Blue Cheese Mini-Cheesecakes
1 cups / 90 g Ritz Crackers
1/2 stick / 2 oz butter, melted
2 tsp Grated Parmesan Cheese

Ritz, butter and Parmesan. I tried smashing in a ziploc which did 80% of the work. I finally used the food processor to finish the job.

cheesecake filling:
3/4 stick/ 6 oz of cream cheese, room temperature
2.5 oz Blue Cheese, Crumbled [I only substituted 1/4 of the amount with blue cheese. I felt that too much blue cheese would overpower the recipe and give a strong moldy dirt taste]
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, Grated
1 large Eggs
1/3 cup Heavy Cream

Yummy! 2 1/2 oz of blue cheese ready for smashing... er... I mean crumbling. lol.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat).

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. For the filling, combine all the ingredients, except the blue cheese, in a food processor. Mix until smooth.

Lastly, fold in the blue cheese.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface.

That mixture is pretty thick!

5. Bake 20 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool. Can be served warm or chilled.

Out of the oven and cooling. Smells delicious!

Tasting Time!
For the sweet cheesecake minis, they cooled and formed indentations in the center. I took that to mean that those are handy little pockets for fresh fruit.

I chose blackberries. I hoped the tart blackberries would counter the sweetness of the cheesecake.

I have to admit. Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake is very good. Not excessively sweet as I found in some recipes. Overall, I think this dessert recipe is a definite keeper.

Savory Cheesecake...
I paired the cheesecake with a salad to lighten up the overall meal.

First, I sent it out with bacon. Initially, I wanted to do a deconstructed spinach salad... but decided to keep simple with green salad dressed with a vinaigrette.

Can't go wrong with bacon!

Lastly, I used smoked salmon in place of bacon.

Also, a very good result.


Anonymous said...

Love your flavor combinations, they look so yummy!

Lauren said...

Mmm, your cheesecakes look amazing! I love that you did a savoury one as well =D.

Audax said...

That savoury one is to die for. Sorry John for being so late in replying to your comments in my blog but I got swamped with so many requests for the recipes for the flavour combinations I did. And it takes a long time to reply to everybody who posts on my blog. As always fabulous pictures and very detailed notes. I always look at your blog I find it gives me inspiration. Cheers

Anonymous said...

I cannot beleive I missed this yesterday. I am deeply in love with your blue cheese mini's with the Ritz crust, so much so, that I'm pilfering the recipe. As usual, everything - from the preparations - to the photos - to the final results, are top notch! Mucho Kudos!

Anonymous said...

I also cannot BELIEVE I spelled BELIEVE wrong..LOL Yikes!

JMom said...

Yours is the first savory version I've seen so far. I love it!

ice tea: sugar high said...

Love your sweet & savoury option. Both is equally good! Well done

Jenny said...

I love blue cheese, so your savory version sounds absolutely delicious! Especially with the bacon... yum!

Unknown said...

Wow, you made so many versions of this recipe. Which did you like better, with the liners or without? I love the idea of the savory versions being the central focus of a salad, yum. Thanks for being a part of the April Daring Bakers Challenge!

Jenny of JennyBakes

SEO Services said...

The only other cheesecake I made prior to this challenge was a Lavender Ricotta Cheesecake as part of my March Foodbuzz 24,24,24 post as a Foodbuzz Featured Publisher. I was excited to try more cheesecake “flavors” and use this infamous recipe. Fellow daring bakers came up with some fantastic flavors I was getting dizzy just thinking about what cheesecake I should make. Well…I was still high from my edible flower culinary experiments so I figured I’d do another edible bloom flavor. I thought about roses but people in my household were not so enamored with it. For some reason it reminds them of perfume (even though the food does not taste like perfume!). I already did lavender so this time I made a HIBISCUS CHEESECAKE.