Daring Bakers – Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake
The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.
It was easy, peazie, and oh so nice! I locked the, procrastination wench in the closet this month. She’s been a bit too compulsive over the past. Besides, this was a cheesecake, I wasn’t letting that squirrel steal nuttin!
And so it was that I found myself amidst the cream cheese, sugar and eggs, drooling over heavy cream and intoxicated by the proceeds of my vanilla stash and a prized Meyer Lemon. The fusion of rhubarb, apricots and blackberries for a fruit filling, and the mixing and baking of chocolate cookie dough (for the crumb crust) kept me busy for the better part of a morning, but when I found myself shining bittersweet chocolate discs I realized the true value of this endeavor.
No counting down the minutes of the clock. No rushing toward a deadline. No forced momentum when fatigue blistered forth, I simply was enjoying my mission. I was in the moment. Alas, a dawning of something forgotten:
Living right here, right now, not then, nor when, or if, or should. No. Simply, here.
Right where I should have been, or rather, right where I am.
Thank you, Jenny Bakes (www.jennybakes.blogspot.com)!
This months lovely offering is dedicated to Jenny, and to the gracious and ever amazing hosts of Daring Bakers, Lisa, La Mia Cucina @ adelphia dot net, and Ivonne, Cream Puffs in Venice @ gmail dot com.
Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake
2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs (I chose a chocolate cookie as my crumb base, directions follow)
1 stick / 4 oz. butter, melted
2 Tablespoons/24 g of granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz. each (total 24 ounces) room temperature
1 cup/210 g sugar
3 large eggs (I opted for room temp eggs, fresh from market)
1 cup/8 oz. heavy cream
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract, or the innards of a vanilla bean
1 Tablespoon liqueur, optional (I had nothing suitable so I left this ingredient out)
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 large 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 the 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 the water bath. Let is finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is read 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 the 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 and hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Please plan accordingly!
And it was with this basic plan that we were given instructions to indulge our creativity. Going one, two, three steps further, etc., we were to showcase our item as we let our imaginations carry us to wild abandon. I took this opportunity to bake this lovely creation for Easter Sunday, beginning my journey on Good Friday. The following cookies were baked as a base for my crust:
Chocolate Wafer Cookie
(portion used for crumb crust*)
Several chocolate cookie wafer recipes are available through Internet search engines, but I finally cornered one, adapting it just a bit. The original can be found at: www.bigoven.com
2 cups unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs (room-temp, fresh)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt (Kosher)
1 1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
confectioners sugar to dust rolling pin and work surface
Instructions: Cream butter with sugar in mixing bowl for three minutes at medium speed. Beat in extract and eggs, one at a time, until light and fluffy. Sift together flour, soda, salt and cocoa. Combine flour mix with egg and butter mixture and stir until fully incorporated. DO NOT STIR EXCESSIVELY, we want our dough to be tender.
Divide dough into two equally portioned pieces, flattening them into discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours, or overnight, as I did.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Cut desired shapes for cookies and bake for 8 to 10 minutes depending upon cookie size. (Cookie dough should be rolled into 1/4 inch thickness before cutting.)
Once all of the cookies have baked, and are cooled, return them to the cooled oven to dry. I placed mine atop wire baking racks and allowed them to rest overnight.
*My crumb crust
2 cups crushed chocolate wafers
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons melted butter
pinch of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla
1/3 cup crushed pecans
Pulse cookies and pecans in a food processor until finely ground. Move crumbs to small bowl and add vanilla, espresso powder, pinch of salt and stir until fully blended. Now add the three tablespoons of butter and stir and combine until crumbs are fully covered with the melted butter.
Use two tablespoon amounts of crumbs as a base for each individual muffin tin, more or less may be added, depending upon your personal choice and pan size. DO NOT PACK, but simply press crumbs in place gently with the tines of a fork. Set aside for filling with cheese and fruit.
I also required, or rather, felt the need for, a fruit filling for some of my mini cakes. Off to the freezer and fridge to check the offerings. Here’s the result:
Rhubarb, Apricot, Blackberry Coulis
2 bags (16 ounces, each) frozen rhubarb (yes, I DO have a thing for this unique item, lol!)
1 cup dried California apricots (organic)
1 cup fresh blackberries
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
pinch of Kosher salt
a smidgen of ginger
Place all ingredients in a heavy duty, non-reactive saucepan over low heat, covered. Stir occasionally, and allow to cook for several hours over lowest heat possible. A nice gelatinous, and beautifully tasting Coulis will develop. Once desired consistency is reached, turn off the heat, remove fruit from pan and pour into a tempered glass bowl. Allow this beauty to cool to room temp, and DO refrigerate this item BEFORE using within the centers, or atop your cheesecakes*.
*These individual cakes were prepped with a crumb base, two tablespoons of cream cheese filling, a large teaspoon of the fruit Coulis and then topped with an additional two tablespoons of cream cheese filling. This particular baking tin makes six large sized Texas muffin/cakes.
The smaller muffin pans will reguire one about one tablespoon cheese filling after base, one smaller teaspoon fruit Coulis and another tablespoon cheese filling to top it off.
Be sure that these items are still baked Bain-Marie style, (water bath). Bake times for the smaller cheesecakes ran approximately 18 minutes, larger ones went at about 25 to 28 minutes. Another small springform pan was used for another bake, it’s bake time required about 38 to 40 minutes. All items were cooled per original instructions, in the oven.
I froze my small springform cake and several of the other sizes. They froze beautifully, wrapped within a double layer of heavy-duty freezer wrap.
Oh, for the love of Chocolate!
…and other little treasures…
I found myself gathering these lovelies from the cupboard. The nibs were used to cover one bake of mini-cheesecakes and the Chocolate discs were used to enhance the servings (and photo-shoot) mini’s.
Creamed Cheese Vanilla Piping*
Butter Cream / Cream Cheese Filling
*This was used to deco the edges of pecan/nutmeg infused mini-cheesecakes and some remaining chocolate cookies fashioned as cookie sandwiches.
1 box (1 lb.) confectioners sugar
1/4 cup softened butter (NOT MELTED….I’m talking ‘room-temp’)
1 (3 ounce) package of softened cream cheese….ROOM TEMP
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 to 6 Tablespoons half and half, milk, cream or sour cream (more if required for consistency, but start out with the least amount. We don’t want a runny filling).
Cream butter, cream cheese and a pinch of salt in a mixer until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and blend fully. Starting with one cup increments, beat in confectioners sugar with small amounts of milk (cream, sour cream). When fully incorporated advance mixer speed and beat until light and fluffy, but firm in consistency. If you find your filling is too ‘wet’, simply incorporate additional confectioners sugar.