Thursday, May 7, 2015

For the love of Cheesecake

The time has come to talk about cheesecake.  I have a lot to say.

1. Fact: 8 out of 10 times ordering cheesecake at a restaurant is disappointing. Don't do it - it is never worth the calories.

2. You are either a cheesecake purist or you like all kinds of goop on your slice. (This is the start of a much longer rant - I think if you need a lot of stuff on your food it is because the food is not very good to start with.)
3. Dispel the myth: Cheesecake is NOT hard to make - it is SUPER easy, it is baking it correctly that is tricky and even that is not that hard once you have done it a few times.

4. Cheesecake should be creamy, creamy, creamy!

5. Don't stress over the top cracking - you can cover it up!

6. Dry cheesecake is a sin so always error on the side of slightly underdone.

7. Don't skimp on the quality of the cookies you use for the crust - good cookies + good butter = good crust.  The variations are limitless.

Cheesecake is not my favorite cake to make but it is hands down my single most requested dessert to bring for birthdays, holidays, or gathering of friends.  I make a good cheesecake. I have made a lot of them over the years so I think practice in this case, makes perfect. 

I use the same recipe but modify it as needed for different flavors or occasions.  There is nothing fancy about it at all.  The recipe is from Bon Appetit from 2005 and they credit a restaurant called Zoom in Park City, Utah.  The original recipe, just the way it is written, is awesome. I encourage you to make it as your first attempt.  I guarantee you will not only be very proud of yourself but the people whom you feed will think you are a culinary rock star.  (Note - buy extra Skor bars.  My guess is that you haven't eaten one in a while and they are crazy delicious!).

The caramel from the recipe is great for a go-to caramel recipe.  I use it on ice cream and it is always delicious.  For those who think they don't like cheesecake, this recipe can convert even the toughest of cheesecake haters. 
Here it is and thanks Bon Appetit for making me a cheesecake goddess.


Gingersnap crust:
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 1/2 cups ground gingersnap cookies (about 7 1/4 ounces)
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar (I always use white sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Caramel topping
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 4 1.4-ounce English toffee candy bars (such as Heath or Skor), chopped
For gingersnap crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray bottom of 9-inch springform pan with 2 1/2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Stir ground cookies, butter, and sugar in medium bowl until moist clumps form. Press cookie mixture firmly onto bottom of prepared pan. Wrap outside of pan with 3 layers of heavy-duty foil. Bake crust until firm and beginning to darken, about 14 minutes. Cool crust. Maintain oven temperature.
For cheesecake:
Beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until smooth. Beat in butter, then eggs, 1 at a time, until just blended. Beat in vanilla. Pour batter over crust in pan. Place springform pan in large roasting pan. Add enough hot water to come halfway up sides of springform pan. Bake cake uncovered until filling is puffed around edges and moves slightly in center when pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Remove pan from water; remove foil. Place hot cheesecake uncovered in refrigerator overnight.
For caramel topping:
Stir sugar, water, and lemon juice in large saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring until mixture turns deep amber, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush, about 9 minutes. Add cream (mixture will bubble). Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until reduced to 1 1/4 cups, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Chill until thickened but still pourable, about 15 minutes.
Spoon caramel over top of cake just to edges (do not allow caramel to drip down sides). Garnish top edges with chopped English toffee. Chill at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours.
Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake; release pan sides.

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