Monday, April 30, 2007

The Fastest Way To A Man's Heart Is...

The internet says that the fastest way to a man's heart is Chuck Norris' fist. I'm a traditionalist. I say the fastest way is through cheesecake.


When I was dating my future husband in college I knew he had a huge love for cheesecake. So one time when I flew home on break I made him a cheesecake. Not just any cheesecake, this was chocolate marbled cheesecake. I was so excited because this was a new culinary achievement for me and it turned out beautifully. I proudly carried this beauty onto the airplane, carefully stowed it beneath my seat, and then almost forgot it when deplaning. I had to run back into the plane to retrieve it from under my seat. Can you imagine that scene in today's security climate? Not a happy thought, there.

Anyway, when I presented my sweetie with the cheesecake he was thrilled. He promptly served himself up a generous piece and pronounced it wonderful. I think he ate a third of it the first day. The next day he ate it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Then a small piece the next day. A smaller piece the next day. I think he quietly threw away the rest of it and was unable to face a cheesecake for quite a while after that. So the morals from the story are that 1) most men really appreciate a good cheesecake, and 2) sharing is a good thing.

When faithful reader and kitchen princess, Gabe, requested a recipe for a Turtle Cheesecake for her sweetie I scrambled to find one. I didn't have a specific recipe that fit the bill, but put together several recipes that combine beautifully. The crust is from a magazine, the topping is from my faithful Baking by Dorie Greenspan and the cheesecake is from a new library find, The Best Recipe

The Best Recipe is a very cool cookbook from the editors of Cook's Illustrated Magazine. They exhaustively test all possible variations of a recipe to find the one, best way to make a dish. It's an engineer's dream cookbook. They discuss the way that all the variables affect the outcome and then tinker with them until they achieve the optimal result. So I turned to this source with confidence that their recipe would insure a wonderful product. And mostly that was correct.

I ran into only two problems. One was that I forgot the second layer of aluminum foil on the pan. This allowed the water from the water bath to seep into my crust so my crust was not crusty, it was more like mud. Tasty mud, but not pretty. The other was I underbaked it by about 5 minutes so the center is quite creamy. But still darn good. So good that I'm going to have to practice quite a bit of sharing so I don't get sick of cheesecake. Because I'll definitely need to make this again so I can get it right!

Turtle Cheesecake

1-1/2 cups chocolate wafer crumbs
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup melted butter

2 lbs cream cheese
1-1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp zest from small lemon, minced
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1-1/2 Tbsp light corn syrup
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temp
1 cup salted peanuts

1- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.

2- Combine chocolate wafer crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Line bottom of 9-inch spring-form pan with foil, tuck foil underneath pan bottom, assemble pan, then pull foil up the side of the pan. Brush bottom and sides with butter. Press wafer crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan and about 1-1/2 inches up the side of the pan. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, remove to cool and reduce oven heat to 325. Once pan is cooled, cover underneath and along sides with a wide sheet of heavy-duty foil and set in large roasting pan. Bring kettle of water to boil for water bath.

3- While the water is heating, beat cream cheese in bowl of electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add sugar and beat on medium speed until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated and scraping down after each addition. Add zest and vanilla and beat until just incorporated. Remove bowl from mixer; stir in cream and sour cream.

4- Pour batter into prepared pan. Set roasting pan on oven rack and pour in enough boiling water to come about halfway up side of springform pan. Be careful not to have water level over the rim of the foil. Bake until perimeter of cake is set but center jiggles like Jell-O when pan is tapped, 55 to 60 minutes. (I turned my oven off at 55 and in hindsight should have left it another 5 minutes. My cheesecake was quite jiggly in the center. I think a ring of "set" with jiggling just in the center is what to look for. The majority of mine was jiggly.)

5 - Turn off heat and leave oven door ajar, propping it open if necessary, for 1 hour longer. Remove springform pan from water bath and set on wire rack; cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours. It can be refrigerated up to 4 days.

6- After the cheesecake has chilled, make the caramel nut topping. You might want to save this step until just before serving for a warm, gooey presentation, but it can be done ahead of time. You'll just have a chewier topping.

7- Put the sugar, water and corn syrup in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir just to combine the ingredients and then put the pan over medium-high heat. Heat, without stirring, until the caramel turns deep amber, 5 to 10 minutes, wiping down any splatters on the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. To test the color of the caramel, drop a bit on a white plate. If it's too pale, it won't have much taste.

8-Lower the heat a bit and, standing back from the saucepan because it will splatter, add the cream and butter. When the splatters are less vehement, stir to calm down the caramel and dissolve any lumps. Stir in the peanuts, and pour the caramel and peanuts into a 1-quart Pyrex measuring cup or a heat-proof bowl.

Spoon the peanuts out of the hot caramel and onto the cake. After that pour or spoon on enough caramel to cover all the nuts. You'll have a layer about 1/4 inch high. You'll probably have caramel left over - save it covered in the refrigerator for making caramel sauce.

Allow the topping to set at room temp. about 20 minutes before serving. Run a knife around the edge between the cake and the pan and carefully remove the outer pan before serving. If you choose to make the topping ahead of the serving time, top the cheesecake and once the topping has cooled, refrigerate it. Then for serving, take the cheesecake out of the refrigerator 20 minutes ahead of time and allow it to come to room temperature. If the caramel is still a little too stiff, a quick wave of a creme brulee torch will soften it up.

My family rates it two thumbs up!


Jerry said...

I think I drooled when looking at the photo. I can't wait until schools out to make it

Anonymous said...

Wow thanks sooooo much! This looks delicious and I can't wait to make it. I'll let you know how it turns out. :D

I'm sure he'll love it!

**doffs her cap and vanishes**

Cookie baker Lynn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cookie baker Lynn said...

jerry allison, thanks for stopping by and drooling. I hope you get the chance to make it for yourself. Don't forget to share it, though.

Gabe, I hope your cheesecake turns out perfectly for your honey.