Sunday, April 5, 2009

Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake

Cheese cake... baked, no-bake, i love them all. Cheese is in fact one of my favourite foods. i enjoy the savoury soothing creamy taste. In cake, out of cake, on its own, on pasta etc. The list really can go on.

Cheesecakes are finicky, they are relatively easy to make...with some precautions. I've listed those below what those are so you will not make the mistakes like i did....twice.

Dos and Don't of Cheesecake Baking

1. Make sure that ingredients are room temperature before baking. Bring them out of the fridge at least 10mins before baking.
2. Bake the cheesecake in a springform tin, it makes un-moulding the cheesecake easy. Remember to lightly oil the sides with to prevent the cheesecake from sticking to the side and causing the cheesecake to crack during cooling.
3. Ensure that your oven is pre-heated to the correct temperature. Place the cheesecake in the middle of the oven in a water bath filled with boiling water.
4. When mixing the ingredients, DO NOT OVERBEAT! This was a mistake that I first made when I started baking cheesecakes. Overbeating will cause too much air incorporated into the cheesecake and will cause it to crack. This is not a butter cake or sponge cake where you would beat the crap out of the butter and sugar to get as much air into the batter so the cake will be light and fluffy. Cheesecakes work in the opposite way. Beat the cheese with a paddle beater just to soften it up and add in the eggs, one at a time, beating it gently in at LOW speed. Eggs can also be folded in with a spatula/wooden spoon.
5. Do not open the oven door when baking. This creates a flow of cool air into the oven and cause the top of the cheesecake to crack a wide smile. Not something that looks pretty unless its an oreo cheesecake and you intend to over the top with crushed oreo bits. Then I guess it really doesn't matter.
6. Once the cheese cake has completed the baking time, it normally takes about 60mins to bake, remove cheesecake from water bath gently. Avoid too much shaking. Run a metal spatula or small knife round the side to prevent sticking to the cake tin wall. Do not un-lock the springform pan right away. Leave cheesecake to cool in the room till before placing it in the fridge.
7. Some recipes indicate cheesecake to chill for at least 4hours before serving. My suggestion is to chill overnight. 4 hours is waaaay to short for the flavours to fully blend and meld together. For best results....chill overnight.... i cannot stress this enough. Trust me. This is also another mistake which impatient me has committed.
8. Finally, eating the cheesecake. To slice the cheesecake pretty-ly, use a metal knife sipped in hot water, and wiped with a paper towel between cuts. This will give you smooth cuts with clean slices of cake.

All set to try to make your cheesecake yet? Here's the recipe...

Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake (Adapted from Stefanie)

Ingredients for Base
170g Graham Crackers (or Digestive Biscuits / Marie Biscuits)
30g Light Brown Sugar
70g Melted Butter (either salted or unsalted)

Ingredients for Caramel Layer (Optional)
120ml Dulce de Leche*
Pecan nuts, chopped

Ingredients for Cheesecake Layer
170g Chocolate Ganache (Made from 200g of 55% Dark Chocolate, melted and 1 tin of Nestle Cream, 170g)
500g Cream Cheese, softened
150ml Sour Cream
150g Brown Sugar
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Eggs
1/4 Cup Plain Flour

1. Place biscuits in a clean, food-safe, disposable plastic bag and pound till becomes crumbs. Combine crumbs with sugar and melted butter. Press unto bottom of a 9" springform pan. Place in freezer for 10mins to firm up the base.
2. Remove pan from freezer and pour caramel or Dulce de Leche mixture, sprinkle nuts and freeze for 30mins.
3. Preheat oven to 160degC.
4. Using a stand mixer, use the paddle blade and beat cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, vanilla until smooth. Beat at medium speed, do not oven beat. We don't want to incorporate too much air. Beat in the eggs one at a time (you can also use a spatula to fold the beaten eggs in one at a time). Sift in the Plain Flour and beat gently. Remove 1/3 of the batter and mix with chocolate ganache till smooth. Take the springform pan out of the freezer and pour some of the non-chocolate batter on the base. Marble 1/2 the chocolate cheesecake batter into the mixture. Pour remaining non-chocolate batter into the pan, add the rest of the chocolate cheesecake batter and marble the mixture using a knife.
5. Wrap the pan in double layer of heavy duty aluminium foil and place it into a larger pan (already in oven), and pour boiling water into the larger pan, surrounding the springform pan with cheesecake in it. Bake for 55-60mins. The center of the cheesecake may not look like its cooked, and may appear wobbly. This is normal. Do not wait for the center to look firm, you cheesecake would be waaaay overcooked by then.
6. Very important step, remove cheesecake from water bath, place on counter, cool before placing in fridge. Refrigerate overnight. This is a must for the flavour and cheese to property meld and blend. It makes a very big difference. Trust me. you have the recipe, go try it and let me know how yours turns out.

*Dulce de Leche Recipe - Adapted from David Lebovitz
Preheat the oven to 22odegC
Pour 1 Can of Sweetened Condensed Milk into a Pyrex baking dish. Stir in a dash of sea salt.
Set the baking dish into a larger one, like a bain marie. The water should reach halfway up the side of the smaller one.
Cover the smaller dish snugly with aluminium foil and bake for 60-90min. Check frequently during baking and add more water into the larger, outer dish as necessary.
Once Dulce de Leche is browned and caramelized, remove from oven and cool. Once cool, whisk till smooth using a hand whisk.
Store in the refrigerator until ready to use. If its too stiff, warm in a water bath.

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