The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.
When I saw this challenge, the first thing that struck me was the word infamous - surely we wouldn't be making a cheesecake that was notorious, having a bad reputation, of ill repute? Or perhaps it is Abbey that is infamous - but I think not. I think that in usage, the word infamous has come to mean well known - even if it is usually meant to mean well known for a bad reason.
Whatever it is, I was rather excited. Anyone who has read my
history of my cooking would know that I have had a long history with cheesecake and I enjoy making them. I have my own recipe too but each time I make it, I play around a little bit and although I really like my recipe, I still haven't perfected it. Tastes great, but at times it cracks, at other times the water bath leaks into the pan, sometimes the cake sinks; you get the idea!
As Jenny put it, The real challenge this month was to take the basic recipe given and play with it. Make it unique. Make a showstopper of a dessert. Add flavor, sauces, decorations – dress it up and show it off.
So what did I decide to do?
Well firstly the crust. I used Oatmeal biscuits for the crust and added a touch of chocolate to it.
Next, I followed the recipe exactly except that I left out the alcohol - for no other reason than I just didn't want to put it in. I wanted to see how the cake turned out, taste the cheese and not have anything to detract from it, and if I liked it then Next time I'd play around with alcohol!
I also decided to follow Jenny's tip and use a throw-away foil pan - it helped that I had one on hand.
I was kind of surprised that the recipe called for 24 ozs of cheese - that's 3 slabs and at today's prices it was bloody expensive. Then one day while I was at the supermarket, I found Tatura cream cheese instead of the usual Philadelphia cream cheese. The tatura was a fair bit cheaper (about 30%) than the Philadelphia and although I prefer the taste and texture of Philadelphia, I opted to go with the Tatura.
The cake was a breeze to whip up and I have to admit that the foil pan was a great idea. No seepage of water at all! The cake baked up really well and I followed the timing and temperature exactly. No cracking either and no sinking!!
I had a little left-over crust and cheese so I made two cheese-cakelettes in ramekins. This was a good idea as The Lovely Wife and my princess couldn't wait to taste the cake!
Once the cake was ready and in the fridge, and after devouring one cakelette, I contemplated the best way to 'jazz' up and 'dress up' the cake. I have always wanted to make a chocolate covered cheese cake and thought that this would be a good time to do it.
I decided to jazz it up a bit more by making a Chocolate-Caramel ganache. and poured it over the chilled cheesecake. I then roasted some almond slivers and sprinkled it all over. Finally, to finish off the 'dressing', I 'tarted' up the cake with strawberries!
This is the unveiling of the cake just prior to serving. The kids helped me to 'dress' the cake with the strawberries!
The cheesecake was a great success. I think I prefer the flavour of mine but this had great texture and a great flavour too. The Lovely Wife thought that this was one of the best cheesecakes she had ever eaten and she liked the addition of almonds and strawberries - although she wasn't quite sure if she liked the ganache topping.
My two kids LOVED this cheesecake as you can see in the pictures. They were too busy eating to bother about posing and they had a slice after every meal till the cake disappeard.
We had invited two good friends, Raymond and Priya, to share the cheesecake and they both enjoyed it. Priya - who is another Cheesecake Queen - thought it was superb. Can't you tell how much she enjoyed it?!!
Thanks Jenny for this challenge. It was a lot of fun to make and even more fun to eat!
Chocolate Caramel Ganache
2 tbsp sugar
125 ml cream
Make caramel by melting the sugar in the water and boiling it till it becomes amber. Add in the cream carefully as it will splutter and keep stirring till smooth. Remove from heat and add in chopped chocolate, whisking till smooth. Allow to cool slightly and then pour over chilled cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
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!