The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.
I missed last month’s Daring Bakers Challenge which was a lovely looking lasagna with handmade noodles. It was a tough month in my world and while the lasagna sounded delicious, it looked like a lot of work. And I just wasn’t up for work.
So when this month approached and I saw the challenge was cheesecake, I was excited. I mean, cheesecake! Yeah, baby! But the month drew on. And on. And then I found myself almost out of time. Although I did have ideas… chai, chocolate, coffee, kahlua, matcha green tea, and lots of swirls. But then it was Sunday and the deadline was Monday… and I wasn’t in the mood to bake. I mean, I was excited about my ideas just 2 days ago. But today I… well, I just wasn’t feeling it.
Then I remembered last month. And then I remembered the guilt. So… I baked cheesecake. This cheesecake was baked with guilt, not love. It still tastes pretty good though.
I made 3 flavors of cheesecakelets: coffee-kahlua with a chocolate cookie crust, chai with graham cracker crust, and plain with a graham cracker crust. I made half of amount of crust using Nabisco Famous Chocolate wafers, and the other half with regular old graham crackers. I mixed the cream cheese, sugar and eggs and then split the batter into thirds. To 1/3 of the cream, I added about 2 teaspoons of instant espresso powder and about 1/3 tablespoon of Kahlua. I didn’t have chai concentrate but I did have loose leaf chai tea so I steeped some chai tea for about 20 minutes to get a really concentrated flavor. Then I added 1/3 of the cream plus chai concentrate until it tasted enough like chai to me (about 2 tablespoons? ish.). The last 1/3 of the batter, I added the remaining cream and nothing else.
I ran out of patience for the cakelets and made a 4″ cake as well. This one has graham cracker crust and is mostly plain but about 1/3 chai is sort of swirled in… the swirling didn’t work very well.
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!