Monday, April 27, 2009

Daring Bakers April: Cheesecake Centerpiece

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

This month's Daring Bakers post was centered on cheesecake. We were given a free hand to flavor and decorate the cheesecake as we desired. I have to confess to not being a huge cheesecake fan, so I decided to highlight what I really enjoy about cheesecake: its tanginess and the contrast of the crust against the creamy cheese cake.

I've posted the recipe below for those who want to try it at home. I wasn't 100% happy with the recipe; I thought the result was too sticky and didn't cut cleanly, but based on the other cheesecakes I've seen posted others didn't have the problems I did (I'm still adjusting to my new oven and that may have been a factor.). My taste testers were extremely happy with the results however, so I consider the whole operation to be a success.

I did not make many changes to the recipe other than adding 3 lemons' worth of zest to the cheesecake batter.

I topped the cheesecake with a thick layer of lemon curd and then piped meringue over the top. I pulled out my handy-dandy bruleeing torch and toasted the top for a lemon meringue pie look.

Here are all recipes I used:

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake
crust:
  • 2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

cheesecake:

  • 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. (My note: TRIPLE wrap the pan with foil with save it from encroachment by the water bath.)

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.

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!

Lemon Curd
This recipe is taken from Elinor Klivans and I love it, check out the Fine Cooking post for helpful photos. The technique of whipping everything together and then heating it save you from whipping up a batch of lemon-scented scrambled eggs.

You'll end up with about two cups, which will be a little too much for the cheesecake, but leftovers are great on toast or scones or ice cream.
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks (save the whites to use in the meringue)
  • 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer, about 2 min. Slowly add the eggs and yolks. Beat for 1 min. Mix in the lemon juice. The mixture will look curdled, but it will smooth out as it cooks.

In a medium, heavy-based saucepan, cook the mixture over low heat until it looks smooth. (The curdled appearance disappears as the butter in the mixture melts.) Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 15 min. It should leave a path on the back of a spoon and will read 170°F on a thermometer. Don't let the mixture boil.

Remove the curd from the heat; stir in the lemon zest. Transfer the curd to a bowl. Press plastic wrap on the surface of the lemon curd to keep a skin from forming and chill the curd in the refrigerator. The curd will thicken further as it cools. Covered tightly, it will keep in the refrigerator for a week and in the freezer for 2 months.

Meringue topping

  • 4 egg whites
  • pinch salt
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
Start whipping the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar with a beater, as the egg whites fluff up to soft peaks, slowly add the sugar. Whip the egg whites to firm peaks. Spoon with whites into a pastry bag.

Assembling the cheesecake
Spread a layer of lemon curd over the top of the cheesecake. Pipe the egg white meringue over the top the cheesecake. Using a bruleeing torch toast the meringue until golden. If you don't have a torch, you can run the cheesecake under the broiler to brown the top.

Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

2 comments:

vincent said...

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nicole said...

Your cheesecake is grogeous! I love the piped meringue on top.

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