When I read that this month's challenge was going to be CHEESECAKE!! I was so excited that I had to make it within the week. Since my sisters had spring break during this month, I enlisted their help to make the cake. They really enjoyed helping me in the kitchen and this challenge became a truly family affair. My mom is a huge fan of tiramisu, thus for this challenge I decided to make a tiramisu version of Abby's Infamous Cheesecake... my alterations to the original recipe will be in red.
The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.
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
1 box of ladyfingers
1 cup fresh espresso, cooled to room temperature
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 cup mascarpone cheese)
1 tbsp. lemon juice (omitted)
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean) (1 tbsp rum extract)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake (2 tbsp kahlua)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
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 (mascarpone), vanilla (rum extract), lemon juice (omitted), and alcohol (Kahlua) and blend until smooth and creamy. Set aside.
4. Prepare ladyfinger layer by placing cooled espresso in a shallow bowl. Working quickly, dip ladyfingers one at a time in the espresso for only about 7seconds. Then place the soaked ladyfinger in the pan (on top of the prepared crust layer). Continue with the remaining ladyfingers until the bottom of the pan is covered in an even layer of ladyfingers. Note: If you are using a circular cake pan, you may have to "cut"/break some of the ladyfingers to fit in the pan.
5. Pour cream cheese 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.
6. 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, decorate by dusting it with cocoa powder and arranging chocolate swirls on top. Now it is ready to slice and 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!
My sisters really enjoyed working with me on this challenge. It was a lot of fun, and it was great to see them so excited to eat something that they helped make! We all enjoyed licking the bowl/spoons/spatulas/fingers after putting the cheesecake in the oven... that is always one of the highlights about baking. And since we couldn't all finish the whole cake in one night, we froze some of it to eat the next day... OMG! Frozen cheesecake is simply divine! The only alteration I would make to my Tiramisu Cheesecake would be to possibly make a second layer of lady fingers (i.e. layer the cheesecake: crust, ladyfingers, cream cheese, ladyfingers, cream cheese). I found that while I really enjoyed the bottom ladyfinger-layer, there simply was not enough of it, and you could barely distinguish it from the crust layer (I guess the heavy cream cheese batter kind of squished it flat :P)