I giggle everytime I look a the picture above. It's Daring Bakers time today and my Cherry Blossom Strawberry Cheesecake looks like it is smiling. Maybe it's just me as I am eating some while typing this and smiling to know there is plenty left in the fridge.
And when I mean plenty, I am not exaggerating! For a household of two people this month challenge just kept on giving and we had no problem with it! We were given a simple cheesecake recipe and let loose with our creativity. If you let me loose in the kitchen on a Daring Baker's challenge this can happen, or this.
It might look like I did again but really I did contain myself (no snorting Jen). Somewhat...
This recipe was really straightforward and the end result was smooth, creamy and not overly sweet which I really like. I started by making the entire recipe and used half to make 4 individual cheesecakes. Two were Cherry Blossom and Strawberry Lava Cheesecakes and two were Peanut Butter topped with a chocolate ganache. I piped the remaining batter in different cups and jars and played a bit.
I drew my inspiration from Spring since cherry trees are still blooming and used cherry blossom extract that Rachael from La Fuji Mama sent me while she was still in Japan. For the strawberry lava center, I cooked about a cup of fresh strawberries with some sugar, strained it and thickened it on the stove before spooning it in between the cheesecake layers.
For the remaining batter, I spooned some of the graham cracker crumbs in different jars and topped with some plain cheesecake batter. The others were topped with a quick cranberry compote using frozen cranberries, sugar and lemon zest. And some were baked without crust and topped with a sprinkle of graham cracker crumbs and chopped pistachios.
One year ago: Daring Bakers - Cheesecake Pops.
Two years ago: Outrageous Brownies
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:
Helen's Kitchen Notes: For the cheesecakes baked in individual dessert rings, I lined them with parchment paper and wrapped them around a couple of layers of foil to prevent leaking since they were to be baked in a water bath. Just don't be shy with the foil or you will have some leakage. I lowered the oven to 275F (convection) and baked them for the same amount of time. I also baked all the jars and cups in a water bath at 275F. The possibilities are endless with such an easy going recipe thus I including the recipe as given by the host and my variations and tips at the end.
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
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Variations I used:
For the strawberry lava center: cook down 1 cup of clean strawberries with 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Strain and cook the syrp until reduced by half. Let cool. Spoon some cake batter over the crumb crust, add some strawberry juice and seal with more batter.
For the peanut butter cheesecake: I added 1/3 cup of peanut butter to 1/4 of the recipe and added 3 tablespoons of heavy cream to make sure the batter would remain smooth.
For the chocolate gananche: I heated up 1/3 cup of heavy cream over medium heat and poured it over 2/3 cup of bittersweet chocolate. Let stand 2 minutes and stir to smooth.
For the cheesecake in souffle cups: I just buttered the cups and baked them without the crust which I sprinkled later on with some chopped pistachios.
For the cranberry topped ones: I poured some crumb crust at the bottom of glass jars, topped with the batter and baked them like that. Once cooled I added the cranberry compote that I made by cooking 2 cups of frozen cranberries with 1/4 cup of sugar, a dash of cinnamon and some lemon juice.