The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.
so the main challenge this month was to be creative and customize a very basic (but very good) cheesecake recipe (included at the end). after racking my brain for ages, i decided to go really daring and make a savory tex-mex cheesecake. trying to think of what is good with cream cheese, i hit upon avocado. thus my plan, avocado lime flavor cheesecake, with a layer of refried black beans, on a polenta base. sour cream, bacon bits, and cilantro to finish. eureka!
the polenta base was very straightforward, 1 cup of polenta, about 3 tblspns butter, and just enough water to bring it together. since i planned the main cheesecake part to be mild and slightly sweet, i added salt, a bit of cumin and a bit of chili powder as well, then pressed into the bottom of my spring form pan.
for the cheesecake part i used about 2/3 of the amount of cream cheese called for, and one avocado. i creamed it up together with only about 1 tblspn sugar. then the recipe as written, with the juice of one and a half limes added at the end.
before i put it in the crust, i put a layer of refried beans on the polenta. i used amy’s organic refried beans because they’re sooo good. i’ve made my own in the past, but never made any better than her’s anyway.
then into the oven it went! the water bath worked well and it didn’t crack at all.
i spread a thin layer of sour cream on top, some chopped cilantro, and pressed fresh bacon bits into the sides. et voila!
so how was it? well, it was pretty damn good. i found the polenta a bit grainy. and i realized later i should of put the bacon bits on top. so i remedied that with the rest.
everyone certainly seemed to like it! i’m counting it as a success!
Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake:
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
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!