Apparently, April is cheesecake month for the DBs since last year we made cheesecake lollipops. The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.
As soon as this went up, I decided I was going to make a saffron and honey cheesecake because I wanted to make something that reminded me of Persian food and growing up in an Iranian household, but by the time I was up against the deadline we were out of saffron (something which rarely but evidently does happen and, with a little one around, getting to the store isn't what it used to be) so I turned to other flavors from my childhood.
Iranians consume several things without moderation, one of them being tea and another citrus fruit. The caramel sauce, while seeming odd, actually came out of the fact that at the end of Iranian meals, one will often be presented with tea and little pieces of caramel to finish the meal. In this instance, the caramel is simply sugar cooked to hard-stage caramel. One is meant to put the piece of caramel in his/her mouth (usually holding it between the teeth) and drink the tea which melts the caramel as it washes over it. Since hard caramel is a little hard to incorporate in a cake of any kind, I chose to go with a caramel sauce instead.
Major Variation: There was only one 200g (7 oz.) container of cream cheese left at the market so I used one container of light cream cheese and a container of mascarpone cheese to balance the fat content and ensure that the cheesecake wouldn't be too thin. It turned out just fine.
The flavor was very subtle so I might try using more tea bags next time and/or letting them steep longer in the cream. The slight mandarine flavor was lovely.
Unfortunately, now that the picture of the whole cheesecake is posted (you should see the time acrobatics involved just to get these pictures up), I'm not sure I have time to do a picture of a slice with the caramel sauce, but I will try. The caramel sauce is in a rather unphotogenic container at the moment so I won't bother taking a picture of that just to have a picture of it.
I'll definitely make the saffron-honey cheesecake, just not right now. Recipe with my variations below. Big thanks to Jenny for choosing something I could somehow manage with my mini-me.
Mes excuses aux lecteurs Français qui ne lisent pas l'Anglais couramment mais j'ai tout juste le temps de publier des billets en une seule langue. Si vous avez des questions sur la recette, n'hésitez pas à m'envoyer un message.
Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake (original recipe - my variations in blue):
2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz / 115g butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar (Omitted)
1 tsp. vanilla extract (Omitted)
3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz or 680g) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar (I used about 190g instead)
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz / 250ml heavy cream
4 good quality Assam Tea bags to infuse the cream
3 tbsp. Mandarine juice
Zest of 1 Mandarine
1 tbsp. lemon juice (Omitted)
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean) (Omitted)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake (Omitted)
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!