Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Best Cheesecake EVER: Caramel Cheesecake

Since it was Eric's birthday just recently, I needed to come up with a cake for the occasion. Unlike my friend Val, who always has Red Velvet Cake for her birthday, I make a different cake every time. There are just so many amazing recipes out there, why wouldn't I?

Caitlin had suggested an ice cream cake, but I didn't think Eric would go for it. However, whilst poking around one of my favorite bread baking sites, I saw that she had the recipe for Caramel Cheesecake. Immediately, I knew I had to bake it.

I've made cheesecakes before, and they've turned out very nicely, but this one took the cake (Sorry, I had to say that.) and received top honors. Mind you, it wasn't without its frustrating points. I broke the cake getting it out of the pan. Whoops! The first caramel I made for the topping went too far towards burnt sugar, so I had to toss it and start over again. Whoops! I also determined that next time (For there will be a next time! Oh yes. Yes there will be!) I will chop up the toffee bar finely. Or skip it entirely.

Did I mention this cake was crazy? Graham cracker crust, cheesecake, caramel top and bits of toffee around the edges. It may kill you, but you'll go out with a dreamy look in your eye!

My photo absolutely does no justice to this cheesecake. Instead, go to Wild Yeast's entry. Now that's pretty.

Instead, let me share with you her recipe with a few adjustments I've made.

Caramel Cheesecake
(Cake adapted from Wild Yeast's version of the SFBI cheesecake and Epicurious topping.)
Yield: one 8-inch cake
  • Mix: 15 minutes
  • Bake: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Cool: at least 2 hours
  • Chill: overnight
  • Unchill and top: about an hour
  • Chill: 2 hours or longer
Crust Ingredients:
  • 132 g graham cracker crumbs (1 pkg or ~9 graham crackers)
  • 44 g sugar (1 1/2 oz)
  • 64 g butter, melted (2 1/4 oz)
Filling Ingredients:
  • 532 g cream cheese, softened (18 3/4 oz)
  • 160 g sugar (5 5/8 oz)
  • 26 g melted butter (1 oz)
  • 10 (2 t.) g lemon juice
  • 5 g (1 t.) vanilla extract
  • 139 g (3 medium) eggs at room temperature
  • 46 g heavy cream (1 1/2 oz)
  • 46 g sour cream (1 1/2 oz)
Topping Ingredients:
  • 150 g sugar (5 1/4 oz)
  • 14 g (2 T.) water
  • 1/4 t. lemon juice
  • 120 g heavy cream (4 1/4 oz)
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Heath Bars, coarsely chopped (Any candy bar will do here and you really just need one. I used a high end toffee bar and chopped it finely.)
  1. Preheat the oven to 285F if you have a convection setting, or 325F for the regular bake setting. Start boiling water for the water bath.
  2. Butter the bottom and sides of an 8-inch cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, and butter the parchment.
  3. Mix the crust ingredients together well with your fingers. Press the crust into the pan and partway up the sides, to a thickness of 1/4 inch.
  4. In a small bowl, blend the cream and sour cream together.
  5. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese on medium-low speed until it is very smooth.
  6. Add the following ingredients is this order, mixing on medium-low speed until smooth after each addition and scraping the bowl frequently:
    • butter
    • sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla
    • eggs, one at a time
    • cream/sour cream mixture
  7. Pour the batter over the crust in the prepared pan. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to release any air bubbles.
  8. Place the cake on a rimmed sheet pan and set it in the oven. Pour boiling water in the sheet pan to just below the rim. (This may cause your pan to float. Cut back the water to about 3/4s up the sides of the pan. You want it surrounded by water to act as a temperature regulator and to keep the top from cracking. You aren't sending it on a float trip.)
  9. Bake until the cake has just a slight wobble in the center when nudged.
  10. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool, still in its water bath, to room temperature.
  11. Run a knife around the edge to make sure it is free of the pan, then invert the cake onto a plate and again onto a second plate so that it is right-side-up.
  12. Cover the cake with plastic wrap directly on its surface, and chill overnight.
  13. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and let it unchill slightly while you prepare the topping. Keep the plastic wrap on during this time so any condensation forms on the plastic and not on the cake.
  14. In a medium saucepan, stir together the topping sugar, water, and lemon juice over medium-high heat to dissolved the sugar. Heat on medium-high without stirring, washing down the sides with a wet pastry brush occasionally, until the mixture turns an amber color.
  15. Add the cream and the salt and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring from time to time, until the caramel is thick but not chewy (gauge the consistency by dripping a bit onto a metal spoon).
  16. Remove from the heat and pour into a metal bowl. Cool at room temperature until it is slightly warmer than body temperature; it should still be quite pourable at this point.
  17. Pour the topping over the cake; use an offset spatula to spread it to the edges and let it drip down the sides.
  18. Top with chopped Heath Bars. (Chocolate bars. Nuts. Crunchy bits of something yummy. Bacon? Maybe not.)
  19. Cover with a cake dome and chill for 2 – 6 hours before serving.
Here are a few of her cheesecake tips:
  • To make a smooth batter, the cream cheese needs to be very soft. Leave it out to soften overnight, or put it in the microwave a few seconds at a time.
  • Keep the mixer on low-medium speed, to avoid incorporating too much air. Scrape the bowl and paddle frequently.
  • Avoid using a Springform pan, which can allow water to seep into the crust when you bake the cake in a water bath (even if you protect the bottom with foil). A straight-sided cake pan works just fine.
  • Cool the cake completely at room temperature before refrigerating or freezing.
  • To cut cleanly, dip the knife in hot water and dry it with a towel before cutting each slice.
I've found that if you have the extra wide, heavy duty foil, you CAN use a springform pan. I tried this recipe initially in a regular cake pan and couldn't get it out of the pan to save my life. Fortunately, once you add the topping, you can't see all of the cracks where it fell apart after I whomped it on the counter to "extract" it. Cracked cheesecake is just as yummy as uncracked cheesecake, so don't fret if the same thing happens to you.

The best part about making the topping for this cheesecake is that once you've done it, you need to realize that you just made caramel. From scratch. And since that wasn't too terribly hard, you can do it again. And again. It's a lot of fun and yummy, too. Add assorted flavors to it and suddenly you have candy to give away to friends.

Or not. I won't tell.

This was my second attempt at the caramel cheesecake and it turned out even better. This time I used a 9" springform pan and only 1 chocolate bar.



Candy "Sweetstuff" said...

Wow that cheesecake looks so yummy! Someday when I am feeling very ambitious I will try it. I bet everyone loved it!

slow panic said...

love cheesecake. gonna have to try this one

Woman with a Hatchet said...

It is a FANTASTIC cheesecake and everyone loved it. Except my nephew, who doesn't like cheese. (I can't get my head around the concept of a boy not wanting cheesecake.)

Leap in there and give it a try! Totally worth every calorie.

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