To document my cooking and knitting experiments - hopefully many successes and few failures.

Monday, April 27, 2009

April Daring Bakers Challenge

Drumroll please!

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

In my past cheesecake creations I have stuck to the recipe on the box of graham cracker crumbs - very plain but very tasty cheesecakes made with cream cheese and sour cream. Our challenge for this month uses cream in place of the sour cream, and we were given the leeway to get creative with our cakes. I'm not a big fan of going crazy with a cheesecake.. it's so rich and delicious already.. so I decided on making an "Almond Crusted Amaretto Cheesecake." Heck.. the graham cracker crust has always been my least favorite part of the cake anyhow.

Here is the recipe as posted by Jenny.

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.

My alterations to the recipe:

Toasted the almonds a few minutes..

Ground 2 cups of sliced almonds in my beloved Cuisinart with 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of butter.

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Lined the spring form pan with the crust and baked it at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

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When making the actual cheesecake, I omitted the lemon juice and used about 1/3 a cup of Amaretto di Saronno.

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Mixed my cheesecake fixins together and into the spring form pan they went...

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I've never bothered with a water bath (with cheesecake - ha!), and I didn't really feel an overwhelming need for one this time either. I do tend to like my cheesecake a little bit dryer and was quite happy with my end product. The amaretto was not overpowering, it was nicely subtle and complimented the dense, heavy texture of cheesecake. Delicious stuff and I will definitely make Amaretto Cheesecake again!