Monday, April 27, 2009

Daring Bakers, April: Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake

The plot: A top-secret recipe is given out to a group of daring bakers at the beginning of every month. Sometime during that month, the follow the recipe, down to the ounce! At the end of the month, they share their results with the blogging world!



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

Jenny posted the recipe in her blog, here.

We were tasked with the mission of flavoring the cheesecake however we liked. We were told to dress it up and show it off. At that . . . I failed. Because I was so busy with getting it done and served to my dinner party guests, that I simply dolloped it with mango whipped cream and sprinkled it with chopped macadamia nuts.

Daring Bakers April: Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake
This was delicious. The cake felt heavy, but it tasted light, and it was as creamy as the cream and cream cheese from whence it came. It was an easy recipe to play with, especially with as few ingredients as it used. I'll definitely file this as my go-to cheesecake recipe.



The biggest challenge came when I insisted on using my springform pan even though I knew I'd be baking the cheesecake in a water bath and that my pan wasn't totally waterproof.

Daring Bakers April: Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake
Luckily, my Hun helped me waterproof it a bit by wrapping the edges of the pan's bottom with foil. The recipe recommended using one of those disposable foil pans and just cutting the foil away. That's not eco-friendly! And I was too cheap and stubborn. So there.

Daring Bakers April: Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake
I waterproofed a little further by lining the inside of the pan before pressing my crust in. I wanted a free-form crust and thought the cheesecake batter would sort meld with the crust, so the two would marble together like some beautiful cheesecake ballet. Instead, I had crust stalagmites.

Daring Bakers April: Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake
The cheesecake seemed to come up relatively dry (meaning the crust wasn't soaked down by water that leaked in from the water bath--hooray!). I thought I might "hide" my crust stalagmites with a layer of mango gelatin, but then I saw that it would pour over the edge and down sides of the cheesecake. And I also thought that, just because it looks good, doesn't mean it would taste better. I'd already poured a bunch of mango nectar into the batter. I baked my cheesecake for 45 minutes before turning the oven off, and I'm sure that's why it was so nice and creamy.

Daring Bakers April: Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake
We were thankfully allowed to play with the crust. I've never had a graham cracker crust that I've really liked. I've always sort of associated it with sucking up an entire sandy dessert, only sweeter, and kinda buttery. I used a short crust instead. In other words--I wrapped my cheesecake's innards with a lovely coat of sugar cookie. I mixed in a bunch of chopped macadamia nuts, too. I thought about adding some white chocolate, but that would've been a whole other cookie.

Daring Bakers April: Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake
Most shameful of all, when I served this to my guests, I forgot all about the extra macadamia nuts until I was cleaning my kitchen counter off, long after my friends had gone home. Today's theme, then, was country rustic dressed in simple elegance.

Daring Bakers April: Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake
Bejeweled!

Want more? Visit my fellow DBers here!



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 / 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

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! Read more!