Monday, April 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Cheesecake!

After several months on break from the Daring Bakers, I've gotten back into the swing of things.

This month, the Daring Bakers Challenge was Cheesecake. The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge. Every time I do a Daring Bakers I let one of the kids be my "helper". This month, Sarah was my helper.

The "challenge" was to mix it up in some way, to be creative. So our cheesecake was strawberry swirl, as the strawberries are so delicious and abundant right now in Louisiana. We were also VERY lucky in that we had some gorgeous yard eggs to use in our cheesecake

I'll have to admit, I have a cheesecake recipe that I typically use, and I didn't like this one as much as that one, but it's a very good recipe. I have included the recipe at the end of this entry. This cheesecake did not have the tang that I love in a cheesecake that has sour cream in it. It did bake BEAUTIFULLY, no cracks or anything, and serve very cleanly, which are important things in a cheesecake to me. So..we began with Ms Sarah making a crust for us:

We followed the recipe to the tee until we added the swirl. For our swirl, we mixed some strawberry preserves with part of the batter, and swirled it in the pan with the basic batter. Then, when it was baked and cooled, we covered it in sliced berries and glaze, with a whipped cream border. It was our Easter dessert, and everyone seemed to like it. One thing we did do that many people don't do is we bake our cheesecakes in a regular cake pan. This keeps the problem of leaking springform pans from happening. Just butter your pan, put in your crust, bake it off, cool, add your filling, then put in your water bath. After baking, leave in the oven with it cracked for 10 minutes, closed for 1 hour, then allow to cool on countertop. Place in the fridge overnight, and then reheat JUST the bottom for a second over a stove burner or in hot water, it will pop right out!
Here's a photo of how beautifully it bakes up, in a water bath, in the regular cake pan, in the oven!

Our completed, although not all that pretty, cheesecake. Sometimes, taste rules looks, and this was one of those days. Also, sometimes, we have to turn loose of everything being perfect when our children are enjoying what they are doing (I'm saying this to remind myself!!)

And a little slice, that's all that was left!!

The recipe that we followed:

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.

Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a spring form 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!

Some variations from the recipe creator:

** Lavender-scented cheesecake w/ blueberries - heat the cup of heavy cream in the microwave or a saucepan until hot but not boiling. Add 2 tbsp of lavender flowers and stir. Let lavender steep in the cream for about 10-15 minutes, then strain the flowers out. Add strained cream to cheesecake batter as normal. Top with fresh blueberries, or make a quick stove top blueberry sauce (splash of orange juice, blueberries, a little bit of sugar, and a dash of cinnamon - cook until berries burst, then cool)

** Cafe au lait cheesecake with caramel - take 1/4 cup of the heavy cream and heat it in the microwave for a short amount of time until very hot. Add 1-2 tbsp. instant espresso or instant coffee; stir to dissolve. Add this to the remainder of cream and use as normal. Top cheesecake with homemade caramel sauce (I usually find one on the food network website - just make sure it has heavy cream in it. You can use store-bought in a pinch, but the flavor is just not the same since its usually just sugar and corn syrup with no dairy).

** Tropical – add about a half cup of chopped macadamias to the crust, then top the cake with a mango-raspberry-mandarin orange puree.

** Mexican Turtle - add a bar of melted dark chocolate (between 3 and 5 oz., to taste) to the batter, along with a teaspoon of cinnamon and a dash of cayenne pepper (about 1/8 tsp.). Top it with pecan halves and a homemade caramel sauce.

** Honey-cinnamon with port-pomegranate poached pears – replace 1/2 cup of the sugar with 1/2 cup of honey, add about a teaspoon or more (to taste) of cinnamon. Take 2 pears (any variety you like or whatever is in season), peeled and cored, and poach them in a boiling poaching liquid of port wine, pomegranate juice/seeds, a couple of "coins" of fresh ginger, a cinnamon stick, and about a 1/4 cup of sugar. Poach them until tender, then let cool. Strain the poaching liquid and simmer until reduced to a syrupy-glaze consistency, then cool. Thinly slice the cooled pears and fan them out atop the cooled cheesecake. Pour the cooled poaching syrup over the pears, then sprinkle the top with chopped walnuts and fresh pomegranate seeds.

Some variations from Jenny (from JennyBakes):

**Key lime - add zest from one lime to sugar before mixing with cream cheese. Substitute lemon juice, alcohol, and vanilla with key lime juice.

**Cheesecakelets - put in muffin tins, ramekins, or custard cups. Try baking 20-35 minutes, or until still a little jiggly, and cool as before.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Our Easter!

We had a laid back Easter this year!

The Easter bunny was good to the kiddos, we went to my hubby's parents' house for an egg hunt, dinner and to spend time with family.

The Easter bunny is good to them!!

I had my own personal Easter bunny (well, she also sent to the kids and Molly) in the form of my Secret Pal. This is a little fun group that is a small part of a forum for cake decorating I belong to My Secret Pal has always been great, and this year is no different. I opened a beautiful package (with a label that always has a photo our our Molly on it) to find three BEAUTIFUL Easter plates, as well as goodies for the kiddies and Ms Molly herself) Sarah (my oldest child) has written a note to my secret pal, but does not seem to understand the SECRET PART, and is impatient for me to mail it. I promise we'll save it for the end of the year!

Ms Molly's collars from my SP

Goodies for the Kiddos!

Aren't my plates beautiful!!

Some more pictures for you:

It's UNBELIEVABLE that this child is five now!

I said, ACT like you like each other....really they do.

What a beautiful young lady my Sarah is becoming.

The kids and I dyed eggs Saturday night, while Dad worked on his homework. (CONGRATS Dad on another hard earned A!!) Being the cake decorating mom I am, I didn't buy egg dyes, and just used cake dyes, for all you cakers out there, THIS DOES WORK!! The kids love to write on the eggs with white crayons first, then dye them, so that's how we did it. Sadly, I was heping dip eggs, and got no photos of them in action, but did get some of their gloriously bright colored eggs (which Gabe seems to be eating all by himself).

Easter morning arrives, and at 6am I hear from the 8 year old cynic, "The Easter Bunny really is real, mom wouldn't have left all this mess around the table". Seems the Easter Bunny tracked in some leaves and knocked over the dog's food in his haste last night. Proudly, I can say, they did NOT glut out on candy. They've actually still got most of it left, BUT, the goldfish and raisins they have demolished!

On to Granny's for an Easter hunt. (well, let's be honest, it's really for the cornbread dressing she always makes!!) My kids have gotten really good about letting the little kids get most of the eggs, with just a LITTLE griping on their part. They looked so cute in their comfy but nice Easter clothes, I took a picture or two for you. Granny grows the nicest flowers, so I caught all the girls trying to pick them (which Granny does NOT allow on rose bushes!).

The Whole Gang (or at least those that could make it)

Hunting the elusive "special" egg that did NOT exist!!

Checking on Granny's roses.

LOOK at this look she gave me. Abi with my young nephew, who is just adorable.

I hope you enjoyed our Easter as much as we did. Keep watch for photos of our Easter Dessert..which was our Daring Bakers challenge for the month....