Monday, April 27, 2009
The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.
I have been looking forward to this date for the challenge to be revealed for the past few weeks. For this month, a basic cheesecake recipe was provided for the bakers which means that there will be hundreds of flavor variations, toppings and presentations.
I chose to make something completely experimental. I had some cherry blossom tea called Sakuracha that my mom sent me from Japan. I tried drinking it, but the taste wasn’t as elegant as it appeared. So I had been thinking about using it as a cooking/baking ingredient.
Believe it or not, these fine-grained crystals are salt granules. When you brew this tea, you are supposed to rinse it off briefly with water to remove excess salt. So if you don’t rinse it properly, you will end up with salty cherry broth.
I only used about 2 Tbsp of Sakuracha since it was there for a subtle touch of flavor, in other words, I didn’t want it to interfere with the flavor of cheesecake or discolor the whole cheesecake pink. But I regret not taking a photo of cheesecake mixture before baking it. It truly represented the image of cherry blooms: it looked as if small pink flower petals were flying in the bright spring sunshine. Though you can kind of see some petal pieces in the close-up shots, it’s not as defined as it was in the raw mixture.
I selected Oreo for the bottom crust and added mint glaze sauce for complimenting floral flavor & aroma. If you prefer simple, you could just substitute the mint sauce with fresh mint leaves.
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 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!