The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.
I love doing Daring Bakers. It forces me to challenge myself in ways I would not normally challenge myself. It forces me to think outside of the box, and it allows me to be part of a group that includes the premier pastry chefs, bakers, and bloggers in the world. I don’t know how you imagine my life to be, maybe blithely moving from mixer to oven to computer and back again, but that ain’t it! Anyway, Daring Bakers gives me the chance to leave my daily stuff and imagine that I am a 5 star pastry chef once a month.
This month was cheesecake. Once again, something that i have lots of experience with. I used to create cheesecakes for Dallas area restaurants in the 80s as a little income. I make cheesecakes the way some people make chocolate chip cookies.
You see, basically all good cheesecakes have the same basic ingredients in the same basic proportions. You want to keep the fat content high and the air content low. It is really quite simple. Once you have the formula for a good cheesecake down it is just a matter of changing flavorings and textures. So, I was not surprised when the recipe for this months Daring Bakers Challenge was very very similar to my own standby recipe. I did not want to make something I had made before, again like last month I wanted to be stretched and challenged. So…I present to you my Triple Layer *Oh Yes I Did* Cheesecake.
This is the cheesecake before the ganache is spread on it.
I used my Xanadu Brownies for the crust (more about that later) then a layer of chocolate cheesecake, followed by a layer of espresso cheesecake, using the JazzyBirdCoffee I reviewed on Kettle and Cup. That is topped with a layer of intense vanilla bean cheesecake and then covered with a shiny, rich layer of ganache.
Oh wait…I forgot to tell you about a layer that you can’t see. In between the chocolate and the espresso….
Chopped up milky way bars. Uh huh…Oh yes I did!
I liked this cheese cake a lot. I did not know how much it would make, and I should have doubled the recipe to get the layering effect that I was looking for. Remember, my family is big so while this was a big cheesecake to most people, it gave us each one small serving. If you are going to make this in a 9″ springform I do suggest doubling to get thicker layers.
The other problem I had was that it did not look as pretty as I wanted it to when it was cut. I would suggest freezing slightly, and cutting with a knife dipped in warm water. This is how my slices looked:
By the time I realized the images were bad the cake was gone. LOL!
This is going to be a long post. I will give you the images and what I did first, and the recipe second.
I used my Xanadu Brownies for the crust. These are rich, chewy brownies, deep dark and delicious. I knew they would not be overbaked by being in the oven twice. Just spoon the batter in the bottom of your springform pan. Cover the outside with aluminum foil. You will want that on their later anyway. Bake until just done. Set the pan aside to cool completely.
The first thing to know about a cheesecake is that you do not want to whip air into the batter. You want it to be heavy and dense. Always beat on lowest speed and use cookie whips rather than the ballon whisk attachment if you have them. Everything should be at room temperature.
Once I had the basic batter made, but before I added the heavy cream called for in the recipe, I seperated the batter into three equal parts of about 3 1/3 cups each.
The recipe calls for one cup of heavy cream. You need to divide this into three 1/3 portions.
*The chocolate layer: Heat cream until bubbles form around the edge. Add 8 ozs of bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped. Stir until smooth.
*The espresso layer: I used one package of JazzyBird Espresso plus enough cream to make up the 1/3 cup. You can also just heat the cream as above and then steep ground espresso beans in it, then strain. You could substitute Earl Grey Tea for coffee if you wish.
* The vanilla layer. Heat the cream as above. Steep 1/2 inch of a split vanilla bean in it until it cools. Remove pod. Scrape out seeds into the cream and set pod aside.
Chop 10 fun size Milky Way bars coarsely.
Now, pour the chocolate layer on top of the cooled brownie crust. Add the chopped Milky Ways. Keep them to the center more because if they are on the outside they will ooze and mess up the look of the layers. Carefully spread the espresso layer over that. Now, spoon on the vanilla layer.
Bake as directed in the recipe.
Cool the cake overnight. Next day make Ganache:
1 cup heavy cream
12 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Heat cream until bubbles form around the edge. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth and shiny.
Remove cheesecake from refrigerator. Working very fast spread the warm ganache over the cake, spreading it smoothly over the top and sides. It is helpful to protect the cake plate with waxed paper while doing this.
Allow to set, in the refrigerator and then top with more chopped Milky Ways:
Store in the refrigerator. Allow to stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving for best flavor and texture. So here is the whole recipe without my changes.
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 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!
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 stovetop 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.