Yep, it’s that time of the month again, Daring Bakers. Hmmm..what could the challenge be? Oh, once again, I gave it away in the title. Silly me.
Every month, Daring Bakers wait eagerly for the announcement of the next month’s challenge. When the day comes, you keep refreshing the page in hopes of seeing..’Insert Month’ challenge is here’ or something along those lines – OR, you come home looking forward to checking it out (for people who have lives – a category that eludes me at this juncture).
This month was no exception, and when I saw cheesecake, my brain went into overdrive, especially when I read we could take this particular recipe and dress it up beautifully, and/or add any flavors we wanted to ..be creative!! I must have made a thousand different cheesecakes in my life, so wow, I was going to run with this one. Then something weird happened. I went blank.
NO freaking idea why my lobes suddenly put up a velvet rope and wouldn’t let me in no matter how much I pleaded. Holy moly, I had cheesecake block! How could this happen? Cheesecake is a blank canvas of endless possibilities! It must be a tumor or an aneurysm waiting to burst (I’d like to introduce you to hypochondriac me). Nope, it’s just plain old cheesecake block. What the…?
I resorted to surfing recipe sites and numerous food blogs, pouring through my vast collection of cookbooks and pulling out dozens of my own or handed down recipes for unique cheesecake ideas, but NOTHING, and I mean , NADA, inspired nor excited me. This was getting bad. Okay, it’s probably the pain meds I still take on occasion for my knee when I have physical therapy..it has to be.
I finally gave up, and decided to keep it simple. I’d always wanted to try the Strawberry Mirror Cake from a past DB Challenge B.L.J (before Lisa joined), so I figured I’d make the mirror part of that recipe – but, I really wasn’t feelin’ the strawberry mirror, I wanted something a little off the beaten path. So, a simple white chocolate cheesecake with a fruity mirror would be my boring, albeit tasty, submission. But, what fruit?
After eating a lunch of blood orange slices mixed into plain yogurt, I decided on a blood orange mirror, which came out a little darker than I’d anticipated, and my lousy photo skills and lack of natural light failed to capture the ‘mirror effect’. But, it was there; I could sort of see myself in it. *big, fat eyeroll*
I knew I would have to gussy it up as best I could, so I made 1000 white chocolate curls, candied blood orange slices, and blood orange dust (I dried blood orange peel then ground it into a powder). I also add some fresh ginger and salted cashews to the graham cracker crust.
Then a light-bulb moment – I know how I could make it more interesting – make the cheesecake as planned, then make a deconstructed version of it!
I should have cut the white chocolate curls in half or made shorter ones. It looks like my cheesecake is incarcerated.
I’m sure many of you remember the deconstruction fad of the late 90’s – early millennium, and in fact, it’s still going on, but there was a time when every restaurant seemed to deconstruct almost everything on their menu. In the best case scenarios, you got a decent plate of food, arranged in ways that were delicious and incredibly creative.
Unfortunately, at many of the more expensive restaurants in the city, you got a plate of almost nothing aka “I’ll have the deconstructed lemon meringue pie for dessert”. Cut to several minutes later, an elegant looking plate containing one candied lemon slice, one toasted homemade marshmallow, and a small shortbread cookie was placed in front of me. $12.00 for this plate of bird kibble? Are you freakin’ kidding me?
Waiter – “Well, you’re supposed to eat it all at once so you get the lemon meringue pie in one bite”
Me – “Then you better give me twenty more plates of this so it equates to an actual slice of pie – no extra charge, Skippy!”
What makes this deconstruction slightly cool is that it’s an exact replica of Jen’s recipe and my additions, but each component is prepared in a different way, except for the blood orange mirror. I made a sort of a sabayon en Francais aka zabaglione en Italiano, by beating half the eggs (well, one egg and one yolk) over a bain marie with the sugar, orange liqueur, and lemon juice until light and fluffy, then folding it into the cream cheese-white chocolate mixture along with the heavy cream, which I whipped to make a cheesecake mousse.
After using half the graham cracker crust for the cheesecake with 1000 ‘to tall’ white chocolate curls, I took the rest and toasted it in the oven to make a streusel for my – TA DA – *insert flashing bulbs around this title* ;
White Chocolate-Blood Orange Cheesecake Mousse Parfaits with Salted Cashew-Ginger Graham Streusel!!
OK, hoopla over. Yes, many, many have created amazing cheesecake parfaits, and the JELLO company is probably having a good laugh right about now, but hey, mine is from scratch, so a big PFFFT to all boxes of edible powder!
For the parfaits, I juiced the oranges in one of those grinding super juicers. Unless you feel like skimming tons of foam off the top of the juice, (no matter how much you skim it, it seems to keep multiplying and never clears – like The Blob in foam form), DO NOT use one of those juicers if you’re going to make a gelee or mirror. I couldn’t get that damn juice clear, like it was for the cheesecake with 1000 ‘to tall’white chocolate curls, in which I squeezed the juice out each orange with a hand held juicing gadget.
This in turn led to a cloudy ‘gel’, and nope, I couldn’t see myself in it, not to mention, it didn’t seem to set up as well, resulting in a sloppy looking, bleeding parfait. Even the color was off! BAH! Thank god it tasted good, or I probably would have decorated my trash with it.
WOW, I’ve really veered off the DB challenge, but what else is new? I’m a ramblin’ woman. Okay, first let me start out by saying that the recipe from Jenny, of Jenny Bakes, is one the best cheesecake recipes I’ve ever baked/tasted – no lie. This cheesecake is heaven, so everyone who reads this must try it as is, at least once. Of course you can take it in many different directions, but just go with it plain to start, and you’ll see what I mean. I’ll post the original recipe, then just add my additions afterwards with these —> **.
OH – I forgot THE PARAGRAPH – blahhddy, blahhddy, blah, blah, blah. Just kidding, here it is;
The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge. Thanks Jenny and Abbey!
Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake
aka The BEST cheesecake ever
2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 Tbsp / 24 g sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
** I added 1/2 cup chopped, salted cashews and 2 teaspoons of freshly grated ginger
3 packages 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
** I added 4 oz melted white chocolate and 1 tablespoon Cointreau
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!
Blood Orange Mirror (Gelee)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Cointreau
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
1 1/4 cups fresh blood orange juice (about 3 to 5 blood oranges)
1/4 cup simple syrup (1/4 cup sugar plus 1/4 cup water, simmered until sugar is dissolved and it’s syrupy and clear)
1. Place lemon juice, Cointreau and water in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over this mixture; set aside until spongy and soft.
2. Combine fresh blood orange juice and simple syrup in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer; pour over gelatin mixture and stir to dissolve gelatin. Place bowl over bowl of ice water and stir occasionally until the mixture is syrupy and just begins to thicken (do not let gel); remove from ice water.
3. When mixture is syrupy, pour a 1/16-inch layer over the top of cheesecake in springform pan. Refrigerate until set.
Now let’s take the exact cheesecake recipe above, (dividing the cheesecake filling ingredients in half), and take it apart then put it back together again in a glass!
White Chocolate – Blood Orange Cheesecake Mousse Parfaits with Salted Cashew-Ginger Graham Streusel
White Chocolate Cheesecake Mousse
12 oz room temperature cream cheese ( 1 1/2 8 oz bars)
2 oz white chocolate, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons orange liqueur (I used Cointreau)
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or the beans from half a vanilla bean)
1. In a bowl over a simmering pot of water. combine egg, egg yolk, sugar and whisk until mixture is pale yellow and thickened, lifting the bowl of the heat intermittently to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Continue whisking as you add the lemon juice and orange liqueur at once. Keep whisking hard until the mixture is thick, doubled in volume and about 160 F. Again, if mixture is heating too quickly, remove the bowl from the double boiler and continue whisking off the heat. The whole process should take about 5-10 minutes and you should end up with a thick, fluffy mixture that coats the back of a spoon well. When ready, set aside to cool.
2. Beat cream cheese until smooth, then beat in the melted white chocolate and vanilla extract or beans. Lighten with some of the cooled egg (sabayon) mixture then fold in the rest.
3. Whip heavy cream until soft peaks form, fold into cream cheese – sabayon mixture.
Blood Orange Gelee recipe above
Half of Salted Cashew-Ginger Graham Crust recipe above
1 Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Spread the salted cashew-ginger graham combination onto a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet, squeezing some of it into clumps. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, stirring it once or twice to prevent burnt pieces, until lightly toasted.
1. In 4 to 6 clear glasses, pour a thin layer of the blood orange gelee (mirror) into the bottom of each glass. Place glasses in the fridge to let gelee set.
2. In each glass, top the layer of set gelee with graham cracker streusel, then cream cheese mousse. and another thin layer of the orange gelee. Let set again, then repeat above, ending with a thin layer of orange gelee. Top with white chocolate curls, orange dust, gold leaf or whatever suits your fancy, like whipped cream and orange supremes.
Don’t miss out on the other mouth watering creations other Daring Bakers came up with! Click on the links to their blogs at the Daring Bakers Blogroll, and check ’em out!