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Monday, April 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake

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One would think that with all of the rich and decadent desserts I create for this blog, I live in a house full of "Sweets Junkies". Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, I am the only one who fits into that category, and even I have my limits! Believe it or not, Mr. SGCC has never even tasted 90% of the desserts I've made in the year and a half that I've been blogging. Cookies, cakes and pies just don't do it for him. I find it difficult to comprehend, but I've learned to live with it. There are a few sweet treats, however, that he really does enjoy like the occasional slice of Key lime pie and a good cheesecake. In fact, whenever he does allow me to make a cake for his birthday, it almost always is a cheesecake. So, since his birthday happens to be next weekend, this month's Daring Bakers challenge couldn't have come at a better time! I made some delectable cheesecake to share with you here, and have one biding its time in the freezer for the big event.

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The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge. Now, I have no idea who Abbey is, except that she's a good friend of Jenny's and she makes a helluva great cheesecake!

I absolutely loved this challenge for several reasons, not the least of which I've already mentioned. I also happen to adore cheesecake myself, so believe me, it was no hardship at all to complete the challenge. We were given the basic recipe and told that we could tweak it to our heart's content, using any kind of crust and flavorings that we wanted.

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With total creative freedom, my brain kicked into overdrive. However, I knew that if I wanted Mr. SGCC to love it, I'd have to keep it relatively simple. With that in mind, I decided to make an almond flavored cheesecake with a crunchy amaretti cookie crust. I topped it with a layer of sweetened, whipped creme fraiche and and almond-scented peach puree. I also made a few mini cakes to give away topped with Bing cherries poached in an almond syrup and a bittersweet chocolate ganache. (Well, actually I'm keeping one of the chocolate ones for myself!) I also swapped out one of the bricks of cream cheese called for in the recipe for an equivalent amount of mascarpone, which I feel gives a mellow flavor and a more silky and luxurious texture to any cheesecake. Besides, I'm Italian. What more can I say?

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This recipe was a bit different from my "go to" cheesecake recipe. It provides for baking the cake at 350 deg. F. for an hour and then turning off the oven and letting the cake sit in the oven for another hour. I usually bake my cheesecakes at a lower temperature for a longer period of time. After an hour's baking time, my cake was still very jiggly, and I must say, I was concerned. After an hour sitting in the oven, it was still very jiggly, and I was even more concerned. However, after a nice overnight chill in the fridge, the jiggle was gone and it was damn near perfect.

WHEW!

I have to tell you, this was one of the best cheesecakes I have ever tasted! It was rich and impossibly creamy - yet light and fluffy all at the same time. And, the amaretti crust was oh, so much better than a traditional graham cracker one! It was delicious and stayed nice and crunchy even after a little seepage from the water bath. I really can't recommend this recipe enough. If you're a cheesecake fan, you will love it!

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Please don't forget to check out the new Daring Kitchen to see how the rest of the DBers fared this month.

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake

Crust:

2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs (I used an equal amount of crushed amaretti cookies.)
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract (I omitted this.)

Cheesecake:

3 bricks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature (I used 2 bricks and 8 oz. mascarpone.)
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) (I used almond extract.)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake (I used Amaretto.)

DIRECTIONS:

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!

Enjoy!

56 comments:

Karen @ Mignardise said...

I'll take the one with the chocolate ganache please. Sounds heavenly with the mascarpone and amaretti crust.

Nina Timm said...

Love it and please do not expect me to cheese between the two...I'll have to taste them both...even better, I'll bake them both!!!!Looks yum, Susan!!

City Girl said...

This looks absolutely fantastic!! Thanks also so much for stopping by my blog :)

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Yes they both look and sound absolutely scrumptious and your photos are beautiful too. Thanks for the heads up on the jiggly factor in case I decide to make it.

Sara said...

yum! i love the fruit sauces. your cheesecakes look amazing.

vibi said...

WOW! The Trump Tower of cheesecakes!
Beautiful Susan, simply beautiful!

Andrea said...

We don't have that problem at our house. Huz wishes I baked more than I do, but my body can't take it. Please save a slice of that chocolate ganache topped cheesecake for me! :-)

duodishes.com said...

Desserts do not last long. It's impossible to not eat them. Especially a great cheesecake. A nice sliver will take care of the craving!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

What beautiful cheesecakes! I love the toppings and flavorings! I'd gladly take a slice of each, please ;-P...

Cheers,

Rosa

Lauren said...

amaretti crust is a genius move!

Lori Lynn said...

Love your single slice photo, with that flowing topping.

Great idea for the crust, I am going to steal that idea for my Mexican Lime Tart. Thanks!
LL

anna said...

Ooh, I love the idea of an amaretti crust! They look delicious.

Steph said...

That looks like the perfect slice of cheesecake.. soo creamy and smooth! This was one decadent challenge I missed this month because I forgot to reregister. I love the almond and peach flavours.

Claire said...

Oh! These look absolutely fantastic. You definitely got a creamier cake than I did. Wonderful job!

Engineer Baker said...

Amaretti and peaches?!? Wow. That just sounds amazing.

Gretchen Noelle said...

I thought the taste and texture of this cheesecake was fabulous. I love your great renditions of it!

Tangled Noodle said...

Absolutely perfect! Even if Mr. SGCC doesn't seem like a dessert person, he knows how to pick the right ones! I'll gladly take any of your variations. 8-)

culinography said...

Ooooh... pass a chocolate one my way - I'm drooling here!

Patsyk said...

What amazing photos! The cheesecakes look so creamy and perfect. I'd love to try that chocolate one!

Jude said...

Everything looks so delicious. I'd go straight for the peach if I had to choose, though.

Elissa said...

These cheesecakes are adorable! I can't decide which looks the tastiest... They're all beautiful. And as always I love your photography.

Brilynn said...

I go through cheesecake phases where I love the stuff and I think seeing all the DBer's make it this month will inspire me to do so as well...

pinkstripes said...

I love all the different flavors you made. They all look so good!

Mermaid Sweets said...

Wow, they all sound so delicious. Must be hard with non sweet lovers in the house. I esp. love the amarreti crust.

Emily Rose said...

beautiful results!! I'm very impressed! My husband isn't much of sweet eater either but he just loves cheesecake!

Mama Bear said...

BEAUTIFUL!!!

Snooky doodle said...

i don't love cheesecake and you made me crave it :) magnificent photography !

Cristine said...

Gorgeous cheesecake and gorgeous photos!

Junglefrog said...

That looks so incredibly tasty! I'm starting to think I really need to try this cheesecake again, the more cheesecakes I see...!!

Zabeena said...

OMG, that looks almost like a possibility for the 'Earth' cake The Boy wants to make - the way I understand it, he needs a top layer of 'crust'(he envisages a caramel brulee sort of thing), then the mantle (sponge?), then 2 more squidgy layers (2 differently coloured layers of cheese cake???) - could this work? If you have the time and inclination, I'd be ecstatic if you could give me some advice!

Arundathi said...

Absolutely gorgeous!!

Maria said...

Fabulous job on the challenge!

Memoria said...

I wasn't too crazy about this cheesecake, but I love how beautiful yours look!! I especially love the one with berries on top! YUM!

Pam said...

Alot of people have said that this was the best cheesecake ever! I'm going to have to try it.

Ingrid said...

Seems like everyone really liked this recipe and had fun playing around with it. I know I've enjoyed viewing everyone's cheesecakes. Just wish I had a slice... yours are look especially yummy with the mascarpone cheese, creme fraiche, and amaretti crust! You live in FL, right?! :))
~ingrid

Jen Yu said...

Beautiful job, babe - as usual! I have to agree with you (and I am not a cheesecake fan) that this was the best cheesecake recipe I've ever made. Mmmmm :)

Mike of Mike's Table said...

I've actually never made a cheesecake before (weird, right?), but this one really caught my eye. I need to try this! I really like the idea of amaretti and mascarpone

MaryBeth said...

Very pretty cheesecakes.. they all look so darn good!

Elyse said...

Wow! These cheesecakes look delicious! I'm so glad this is a dessert your hubby is willing to partake in. Happy bday to him!! That peach topping just looks fantastic, and oh, that amaretti crust. How divine! Great job!

The Italian Dish said...

That's a heck of a cheesecake! It looks gorgeous. Great job.

Katrina said...

They both look AWESOME and delicious! Oh, all these cheesecakes from all you DB'ers! Sigh.

Judy@nofearentertaining said...

Marscapone! What a great idea. They all look incredible Susan and what great flavor combos!!!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I think I might have to fight you for the chocolate one!

It all looks wonderful. I love your addition of mascarpone. It is one of my favorite ingreidents of all time. It certainly does give a wonderful mellow flavor and texture.

Your hubby is the opposite of mine. Sir Pickypants won't touch his vegetables, but he'll eat sweets all day long.

ice tea: sugar high said...

I totally can relate to your situation! my partner hated sweets. I used to get quite offended by that, but I've learn to live with it now.

Your creation is always beautiful. Love the first picture! Great Job =)

gine said...

mmmm ... looks so delicious :-)! XOXO

Manggy said...

I gotta say, I'm wary of cheesecakes (I think the cheesecake factory has traumatized me with their over the topness), but I can't help but salivate when I look at your pics. Your husband is verrry lucky indeed! :)

Talita said...

Wow! This looks awesome! Really delicious!

JMom said...

I can just imagine how luscious that peach one was! although they are all beautiful and superbly photographed :)

Anonymous said...

I'm curious; how do you make the peach topping?

Tartelette said...

Looks like we were in the same frame of mind, fruit and chocolate!
Well done once more on the challenge Susan!

tasteslikeburning said...

WOW! I'd like a bite of each of them, right now!! Really, they look lovely and delicious - way to go!

I'm actually the Abbey behind the "infamous" cheesecake recipe, and I just wanted to say thank you for your kind praise. I'm so glad you enjoyed them, and hope you get more chances to play with the recipe again in the future. :-)

Lucy said...

Oooh you made brilliant things! I'd love a generous slice of all your cheesecakes! The amaretti crust is a great idea and the chocolate ganache... MMM:D

Anonymous said...

cakes looks great. can't wait to make one. How did you make the different toppings?

Susan @ SGCC said...

Anonymous- Glad you liked the cakes! The peach topping was made by pureeing frozen peach slices with a few tbsp. of peach preserves.

The chocolate ganache was made by scalding 2 tbsp. of heavy cream and pouring it over about 3 ounces of chopped dark chocolate. Let it sit for about 30 seconds and then stir until chocolate is completely melted and glossy.

For the cherry-almond topping, I used a can of dark Bing cherries. Drain them and reserve the syrup. In a small saucepan, add syrup, 2 tbsp. Amaretto, 1 tsp. lemon juice and 2 tbsp. cherry jam or preserves. Bring to a boil and reduce by 1/2. Add cherries back in and cool before pouring over the cheesecake.

Mer said...

Wow, your cheesecakes look amazing! The texture looks perfect, it must have been delicious!

Jenny said...

I'm over a month late in commenting, but this looks so beautiful! The amaretti cookies sound really tasty. I'm glad you enjoyed the challenge!

Jenny of JennyBakes