fat free opinions on a food centric life

Cheesecake Two Ways: Easy and Delicious

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Yesterday was my birthday which means quite a bit to most people, but for me, most of my life, it’s just been a day.  Last night before we called it a night, my husband asked if I’d had a good one, and of course I said yes, because it was a pleasant and relaxing.  The sun was out early, and a strong breeze had the trees rustling early in the morning, which is unusual.  It was beautiful outside.

My youngest son is back in school, so the house was more quiet than it normally is. I was able to settle in and pay bills (w00000000000000t!), give myself a facial (not as big a deal as one might think and something I do about once every other week), and treat myself to some time with my alter ego in reflection of what I think is important in life.  Sounds like a good day to me.

My husband and I are the oldest in our families, and although we’re very different people, we both agree that we aren’t the hooplah type of people when it comes to birthdays — our own, that is.  Mine obviously falls at the start of school, so most of my life, I was so preoccupied with that, it overshadowed becoming another year older and the day just came and went.  And really, I’ve never cared.  Sure I’ve had birthday cakes, and yes, candles.  I didn’t say people didn’t celebrate for me!  But I’ve never enjoyed the attention, having to learn to not be embarrassed about it all.

My mother made a cheesecake for my birthday for many years.  She knew it was a favorite, and still is.  So it seemed a good thing to share a couple of new recipes with you just in case you need another one — or two!  Both are very easy, and travel well.  Actually, they were chosen for that reason since I recently was asked by a good friend if I’d mind making dessert for a large barbeque she was hosting.

Cheesecake for 50?  Sure.  No problem…

I spent quite a bit of time perusing peabody’s cheesecakes since she’s made so many different kinds, but decided that since they’re completely decadent sounding, I’d have trouble giving it away without getting some myself first, went with something different instead. 

This first one is pretty quick and easy. 

Mini Jam Cheesecakes

48 ginger snap cookies
6 T unsalted butter, melted
16 oz. cream cheese, softened at room temp
1/2 c. sugar
1-1/3 c. creme fraiche at room temp
4 lg. eggs
4 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. good blackberry jam
1/4 c. good apricot jam

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and position a rack in the center of your oven.
Remove the paper liner from 24 foil cupcake liners and place them in standard sized muffin cups.  Spray each foil liner with cooking spray.

Using a food processor (or a zip-lock bag and a rolling pin…) crush the gingersnap cookies to a very fine crumb.  Add the melted butter and whirl until the butter is evenly distributed and very small clumps form.  Drop an even amount of the crumb into each foil liner, and using a small soup ladle, or a glass that fits in the bottom of each circle, press the crumbs firmly and evenly down.  Bake for about 5 minutes, or until nearly set then remove from the oven.

In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese and sugar until completely smooth.  Add the creme fraiche and blend until smooth.  Then add the eggs and vanilla, making sure everything is well combined.

Pour the filling into the foil cups to a little more than 3/4 full.  Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the centers aren’t quite set and jiggle a bit when the pan is shaken.  When the cheesecake is still in the oven, heat the jam gently until warm, stirring to loosen a bit.
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When the cheesecakes come out of the oven, spoon about 1 tsp. of jam onto each one — half with blackberry and half with apricot.  Cool to room temperature, then peel away the foil liners.  Pipe a dollop of whipped cream over each and serve!

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Notes:

  • The original recipe is from the September ’08 issue of Food & Wine.
  • Crushed chocolate wafer cookies can be used instead of ginger snaps, but since the cheesecake in this recipe doesn’t have a pronounced cheese flavor, the gingersnaps give it some pizzaz.
  • You WILL have too much cheesecake batter.  I crushed about 15 more gingersnaps with 2 T butter and pressed the crumbs into a 6" cake pan with a removable bottom.  I wrapped it in foil, set it on a baking sheet, and baked it for about 7 minutes at 350, then poured the batter in and baked the whole thing until the center was set — about 20 minutes.  I let it cool about 5 minutes, poured warmed apricot jam over the top and added the blackberries.  Not bad for thinking on my feet, huh? 
  • The cheesecake will crack a bit.  I know this bothers some people.  Often, a water bath can be used to prevent cracking, but have fun figuring out how to pull that off with muffin cups.  I don’t think it’s worth your while.  Besides, the jam will take care of cover ups.
  • Speaking of the jam, the centers will sink after the jam is added, but it’s important to keep the jam from sliding off.  Trust me.
  • More on dark-colored jam.  It "bleeds" into the cheesecake and looks a bit unsightly, so plan on adding a bit more and spreading it just to the edges.  If it’s nice and warm, this is pretty easy.
  • Before you take off the foil liners, make sure the cheesecakes are cool enough.  You may want to have them spend a bit of time in the fridge or even the freezer before you do this.
  • You can make these a day ahead and keep them in the fridge.  Just make sure they’re covered.
  • There were no left-overs…

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Okay, so here’s the second one…

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Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake with Chocolate Caramel Sauce

5 oz. gingersnap cookies
5 oz. graham crackers
6 T unsalted butter, melted
4-8 oz. cream cheese, softened at room temp
1-1/4 c. sugar
5 lg. eggs
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 T heavy cream
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a food processor (or in a zip-lock bag and using a rolling pin) crush cookies to a very fine crumb.  Add the melted butter and process until all the butter is incorporated and very small clumps form.

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Line a flat-bottomed 9 x 13 pan with foil:  Using two sheets cut long enough to extend over the sides by at least six inches on each, center one sheet lengthwise, and the other widthwise.  (You will need to lift the cheesecake out of the pan with these sheets before cutting it, so make sure the foil is sturdy, and the "flaps" long enough to hang on to.)  Spray the foil with cooking spray.

Press the crumbs evenly into the bottom of the pan (on top of the foil…).

In a  large bowl, beat the cream cheese until it’s fluffy.  Add the sugar slowly and beat until the mixture is very smooth.  Add the eggs one at a time, and mix each in before adding the next.  Add the vanilla and mix.

Heat the cream in a small pan until is just begins to simmer — (or in a large measuring cup, microwave in increments of 15 seconds until almost hot, but not beginning to boil.)  If using a pan, add the chopped chocolate off the heat and let sit for at least 1 minute.  Then stir until smooth.  (If using the microwave, pour milk over chopped chocolate in a bowl, and let sit a minute before mixing until smooth.)

Pour 1/2 of the cream cheese mixture into the prepared pan making sure to smooth it evenly and being careful to not damage the crust.  With a small spoon, dollop the chocolate in an even pattern across the surface of the batter.  Using a skewer or knife, swirl through the chocolate and into the batter to create a design.

Pour over the remaining batter and repeat the dollops and swirls of chocolate in the second layer.

Bake in the center of the oven until sides are set and center jiggles when the pan is gently shaken — between 60 and 75 minutes.  The cake will crack where the chocolate swirls are and the surface will brown somewhat and the center will sink as it cools.

Cool to room temperature.  If making ahead, cool, then refrigerate overnight.

When cool, fold up foil sides to increase thickness, and using them as handles, lift the cheesecake out of the pan and onto a flat work surface.  A helper is good on this because each can grap one set of handles.  The cheesecake is pretty firm, so it moves easily.

Lightly measure and score the cake into the number of squares or pieces you’d like.  Then carefully so as not to crack the crust, from the middle, cut down toward the outside to form pieces.  Place each piece in large cupcake wrappers.

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For the Chocolate Caramel sauce...

1/2 tsp vanilla
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. heavy cream

In a small pan, heat sugar until it’s dissolved.  Avoid stirring it!  It will be a beautiful golden color.  Remove from the heat and add the cream.  Be careful, as it can boil up quickly.  Back over the heat, simmer and stir until the clumps of sugar melt, about 5 minutes.  Add the chocolate and salt, stirring until melted and blended completely.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.  Let cool completely, and store in a small covered jam jar.  Serve drizzled over pieces of cheesecake.

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Notes:

  • The original recipe is a popular on at Epicurious called "Turtle Swirl Cheesecake."
  • If you make it in a 9-in. springform pan, you don’t have to mess around with the foil liner
  • Although the original recipe calls for the crumb to be pressed up the sides in addition to the bottom, the cheesecake was fine with the crust only on the bottom.
  • The chocolate for the swirls is pretty thick, so will sink immediately into the batter.  Swirl away regardless.  Everything works out.
  • The chocolate caramel sauce is super easy (don’t be concerned about melting the sugar — just make sure the heat isn’t on high.) and is outstanding!  You’ll have plenty left over.
  • I didn’t get to taste the finished product, but was told that a teenager at the party said this was the best cheesecake he’d ever had.  That’s good enough for me!
  • I’d like to try this with caramel swirls, nuts in the batter, then the chocolate over the top.  Now that would be amazing.

Wait until you see the kitchen gadgets I got from my hunkster for my birthday.  The man certainly knows his wife, I’ll tell you.

Okay, go make some cheesecake! 

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