Cheesecake Centerpiece: Daring Bakers April 2009

April 27th, 2009

This month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge is another first for me: cheesecake! Baked in a water bath and everything!

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

I left the flavor choosing up to Z and my dad, since they both love cheesecake. They agreed that chocolate was what they wanted, with dad being interested in the idea of chocolate shavings on top. As you can see, I got a little more creative than that.

Guess what's getting good? Strawberries!

Guess what's getting good? Strawberries!

The strawberries are getting goooood (so is the corn…I was feeling like a true Mainer happily taking in the combined scent of fresh sweet corn and ripe strawberries at the grocery store) and since I had used the blackberries I originally bought for the cheesecake for some incredible ice cream, I decided to go with a chocolate-covered strawberry theme. I wandered downstairs yesterday morning, pulled out some chocolate, my Silpat and some strawberries and went to work.

I arranged the strawberries around the edge of the cheesecake and melted the chocolate, tempering it all ghetto-style by melting half in the microwave and mixing in the rest of it in until it was smooth. I had to re-melt it a couple times so certain pieces weren’t as nice as the first ones, but I had fun swirling shapes. I made one piece look (sort of) like a strawberry and stuck it to the giant swirl that I stood in the middle of the cheesecake.

The edges looked a little sad and ragged so I made some round chocolate disks and used some more melted chocolate to affix each one to the exposed end of a strawberry.

I probably should have gotten a picture of the plain cheesecake before putting stuff all over it. It was PRISTINE.

I probably should have gotten a picture of the plain cheesecake before putting stuff all over it. It was PRISTINE.

Oh yeah – I also made my own graham crackers for the challenge. I followed Alton Brown’s recipe, which turns out a tasty, full-flavored batch of graham crackers. I also don’t own a food processor and used a pastry cutter to blend the dough, so my graham crackers come out a bit “healthy” tasting with the whole grains in them. But they’re totally delicious that way and easy enough to make yourself.

I also made the crust a bit chocolate-y by adding 1 Tbsp cocoa powder. The crust doesn’t have an overt chocolate flavor, but between the cocoa and molasses it does have a lot of deep, rich flavor that contrasts well with the creamy cheesecake.

I used blackberry brandy for the liqueur in the recipe, just because it’s the easiest berry-flavored liqueur to get my hands on. I also had about 4 oz. of leftover mascarpone from some fabulous pasta, so I substituted that for 4 0z. of the cream cheese. I don’t think it made much of a difference, though it probably balanced out the small amount of milk I had to substitute for a few missing Tbsp of cream.

Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake

There's that strawberry!

There's that strawberry!

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

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!

Z absolutely loves this cheesecake. I would definitely make it again – it was a little time-consuming but it was all very easy. The water bath was probably the most nerve-wracking part, and even that wasn’t so bad.

I used a very shallow pie plate and ended up with quite a lot of leftover filling, so I baked them without crusts in some shallow, oblong ramekins I happen to have (transferring them in their very shallow, sloshy water bath was even more nerve-wracking than the big one). They might be seen over the next few days, as the things I bought to top them are perishable and I can’t eat all that cheesecake at once!

27 Responses to “Cheesecake Centerpiece: Daring Bakers April 2009”

  1. dorie says:

    Love the way the cake looks — ditto your blog. Congratulations!

  2. Now that is definitely a show-stopping cheesecake! Love the chocolate swirl decorations.

  3. Little Miss Cupcake says:

    This is beautiful! I did a strawberry (and white chocolate) pairing as well and it was our favorite variety. I can’t believe you made your own graham crackers. Wow!

  4. I sweat Anna! Each and every post just gets better and better! You are a pastry queen!!

  5. Ninette says:

    Anna, thanks for stopping by and commenting on my mango cheesecake. Yours looks very fanciful and joyous with its chocolate swirls!

  6. LegalAlien says:

    Your cake has a beautiful Victorian design!
    I love the chocolate decor!

  7. Lisa says:

    Love the way you decorated your cheesecake, so elegant! Not to mention, the homemade graham crackers no doubt made this cheesecake even better! Very nicely done!

  8. linda says:

    Wow, you even made your own graham crackers!
    Pretty and delicious looking cheesecake!

  9. Esi says:

    The chocolate designs are awesome. Nice job.

  10. Elissa says:

    Wow. I’m seriously impressed by the chocolate decorations on top. Those are stunning!

  11. Ivonne says:

    You made your own graham crackers … I’m in awe!

  12. Jenni says:

    I know all about that Precarious Transfer of ramekins in a smoking water bath. Here’s the trick (looking both ways to make sure no one is listening). Wrap rubber bands around the ends of your tongs and use them to pluck the ramekins out of the water bath while it’s still in the oven. Works like a charm, and no sloshing. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go back into hiding… ;)

  13. Dragon says:

    Great job on this month’s challenge!

  14. Y says:

    Wow you made your own graham crackers too! Talk about baking from scratch :) Love the decorations by the way.

  15. Marija says:

    WOW! You’ve put a lot of effort in this cheesecake! I love the chocolate decoration on top! How did you manage to do it so perfectly?

  16. Hannah says:

    What fun decorations, your cheesecake looks great!

  17. asti says:

    great looking cheesecakes. Good job on the chocolate decorations.

  18. elra says:

    Impressive! Truly impressive.

  19. Wow, what a triumph! You really excelled with the decorating here-bravo :D and LOL at tempering chocolate “ghetto style”! :P

  20. anjelikuh says:

    awww, this is such a romantic cheesecake, no ghett0ness whatsoever! I really love the chocolate swirls :)

  21. peasepudding says:

    Blackberry liqueur sounds fabulous, love all your chocolate decorations too! Well done

  22. Carolyn Jung says:

    People would pay big bucks for this at a fancy bakery. It looks gorgeous. I wish I could cut myself a piece right now. ;)

  23. Michelle says:

    Beautiful! Love the chocolate swirls…

  24. Aparna says:

    You made your own graham crackers too? Wow!
    The chocolate swirls look very nice indeed.

  25. JennyBakes says:

    It is funny because since I follow you on Twitter now, I’ve seen many of your more recent posts. But I’m STILL going through the blogroll to comment on this cheesecake challenge since I hosted it, and there are over 1000 of us DB-ers around.

    I really love the boldness of the swirls, and would love to taste this cheesecake with the blackberry liqueur!

  26. [...] Cheesecake Centerpiece Daring Bakers April 2009 verysmallanna com Posted by root 5 days ago (http://verysmallanna.com) But i 39 m still going through the blogroll to comment on this cheesecake challenge since i hosted it verysmallanna com is proudly powered by wordpress Discuss  |  Bury |  News | Cheesecake Centerpiece Daring Bakers April 2009 verysmallanna com [...]

  27. peach says:

    great article. thanks!

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