This month has been absolutely unbelievably busy - thanks mostly to Chase's school and work schedule. Yeesh. So after last month's day long challenge of making lasagna absolutely from scratch, I was glad to see that this month's challenge seemed a little less demanding of my time.
The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.
I can't say I ever crave cheesecake, but I do enjoy it when it's in front of me. I've had several different types of cheesecake:
a.) New York Style - very dense - and is a little difficult for me to eat because it's so rich
b.) A Creamy type cheesecake (is there a name for this?) - this recipe is just that! Take the concept of "cheesecake". Imagine it's perfected form. Got it? That's this stuff. SO GOOD.
c.) Jell-O Cheesecake - This stuff tastes good(ish) - and is a breeze to throw together - plus, no baking! - but in the end, is it really cheesecake?
To elaborate on this month's cheesecake challenge...the goal was to take a simple recipe and make it a "showstopper". I don't think I succeeded visually, but I'll attribute that to my brain being overrun by the pollen. (My car can attest to the loads and loads of pollen in the air. It once was silver, but now it's - Yellow!!) But the flavor (what little I could taste thanks to my POLLEN reaction (i.e. allergies)) was wonderful!!! My favorite dessert in the world is green tea ice cream with fresh blackberries. So for this challenge, I tried to translate that into a cheesecake.
Here's the recipe I started with:
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.
Recipe Edit # 1
: The Crust
Recipe Edit # 2: The Cheesecake
My goal was to make a fresh tasting Green Tea Cheesecake with blackberries. I needed a crust that didn't overwhelm those flavors. So rather than graham crackers, I crushed up some Vanilla Wafers. I figured they'd be just buttery and sweet enough - but still pretty plain so as to not detract from the green tea and blackberries.
I kept this part of the recipe mostly the same, except I added 2 tbsp. of matcha green tea powder (dissolved in equal parts water) to the filling. It may have been too much (green tea should be subtle - too strong and it just starts to taste bitter), but I can't really tell because my taste buds aren't working properly.
Here it is all baked up:
A couple of air bubbles - but no cracks! (This is thanks to being baked in a water bath.) Cracks in the surface of a cheesecake are a very common but purely superficial blemish.
Recipe Edit # 3: The topping!
For the topping, I just took some frozen blackberries, mixed them with sugar, a pinch of cinnamon and some vanilla, and then cooked it all until it broke down.
I entertained the idea of piping whipped cream around the edge, but I suspected it might be overkill. Instead, I served the whipped cream on the side - that way it wasn't a mandatory part of the dessert.
I'm glad I didn't pipe the whipped cream on the cheesecake, because It would have been tooooo much. And it didn't add anything. The cheesecake was absolutely wonderful by itself! The crust was perfect, and the cheesecake was so creamy and sweet - with a wonderful green tea flavor. And the blackberries complimented it so! It was wonderful!
Thanks Jenny, for an awesome challenge, and for giving me a new "go-to" cheesecake recipe!