I love me some cheesecake. It's always been one of my favorite desserts. I could probably eat a whole one, if you give me a few glasses of water to wash it down with and don't tell me how much fat is in it. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to find out that this months DB challenge was cheesecake!
The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.
I made a layered cheesecake, with apricot on the bottom and vanilla-rum on the top, with a honey sour cream topping spread on once the cake was totally cool. For the crust I used my favorite biscotti recipe (found here), which I crumbled up to substitute graham crackers. I've also used Mi-Del GF ginger snap cookies for a cheesecake crust, or made my own gingersnap crust. Don't be deterred from making a cheesecake just because you're gluten-free. There is no reason, there are plenty of easy options to replace graham crackers. Because a lot of people had problems with their crust getting soggy, I used two precautions: first I pre-baked the crust for 20 minutes, then I wrapped the bottom half of the pan in plastic wrap before double wrapping it in foil, to create more of a seal. My crust was not soggy.
Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:
My notes are in italics.
2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs (I used crushed biscottis)
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted (I used 1/2 stick)
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar (I skipped this)
1 tsp. vanilla extract (I used T rum instead)
3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature (I used low fat)
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
*I skipped these, and used 1/4 c apricot jam, scrapings from vanilla bean, and 1/4 c rum
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.
2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan (I used a 10" springform pan). You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside. I baked my crust for 20 minutes, then cooled, then wrapped the bottom of the pan in plastic wrap, then foil. Since the plastic will be under the water, it won't burn and melt all over your oven.
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. Here I skipped that last step. I divided my batter into two bowls, and to one I whisked in the apricot jam, which I heated up a bit in the microwave to help it blend better. The other bowl got the rum and the vanilla bean.
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. Wait! Don't pour all that batter into the pan! Only pour in the apricot half, then bake for 20 minutes. Carefully and slowly pour over the vanilla batter and bake another 40 minutes.
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. And by serve we mean spread with the best part, maybe, the honey sour cream topping.
Honey sour cream topping:
1 c sour cream
1/4 c honey (more to taste)
1 T vanilla (optional)
pinch of salt
Whisk everything together, and spread on the cooled cake. If your honey is thick, warm it up a bit first.
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!