Thursday, October 30, 2008

Creme Brulee Cheesecake - yes, it's as good as it sounds

First, an apology. I don't have very many photos and the ones I do have are pretty crappy. The picture above is one someone else took of the entire table as we were still getting everything ready and I just cropped it - don't you just love that big box of crackers right behind the cake?! And it really was much prettier when you looked at it closer - the caramelized sugar was nice and twinkly.

I made this cheesecake a couple of weeks ago when I threw a surprise party for one of my very best friends. I was so preoccupied with keeping the whole shebang a secret and getting everything else ready, I forgot to snap pictures both as I made it and after it was all done. She's one of those people for whom it's practically impossible to either a) find a day that will work because she's so busy and/or b) genuinely surprise - miraculously, I was able to do both. This is her piece (after I finally remembered to take a picture):

I've only ever had Creme Brulee Cheesecake one time, but from that first forkful, I was smitten. It was a frozen one from Sam's Club, but I thought that someday I must try to duplicate it. After making Creme Brulee for the first time a few weeks ago, I knew that the time to try was at hand. So, thanks to some inspiration from Dorie, here's the recipe (should be prepared the day before you're going to serve it):

Creme Brulee Cheesecake

For the crust:
About 2/3 of a 16 ounce package shortbread cookies
3 Tablespoons melted butter

For the filling:

4 8 ounce packages low-fat cream cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs, room temperature
3 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 cup heavy cream
granulated sugar for topping (I used about 1/3 cup - you don't want too thick a layer of sugar 'cause it would be a real pain to cut through and really mangle the slices)

Preheat oven to 350 °. Wrap the outside of a 10-inch diameter springform pan (you could use a 9 inch pan, just cook it for a while longer, maybe 15-20 minutes) with at least 2 layers of aluminum foil. Make sure this is the large heavy duty foil so that the width of the foil exceeds the diameter and height of your pan - this will help prevent water from leaking into your cheesecake (trust my experience here, watery cheesecake = nasty mess). When you fold the foil over the sides of your pan, try to make sure you press the foil up and not to the sides of the pan.

Prepare the crust. Finely grind shortbread cookies in a food processor. Add melted butter and process until crumbs are moistened. Press into bottom of the prepared pan. Bake crust until golden, about 15 minutes. Cool crust completely on rack. Reduce oven temperature to 325 °.

Prepare the custard. In a medium heat proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks together. Mix together cream and 1/2 cup sugar and heat over low heat until just about to boil. Add about half the cream mixture to the egg yolks, whisking constantly, to temper them. Add the egg mixture back to the pan with the remaining cream and heat on low, continuing to whisk until just starting to thicken (don't overdo this because you'll get scrambled eggs); immediately remove from heat again and stir in the vanilla. Let the mixture cool slightly. (You can strain this mixture if you think any eggs curdled in the process)

Prepare the filling. Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese until very smooth. Add flour and beat until smooth. Gradually add the remaining 1 cup sugar and beat until smooth. Add whole eggs one at a time, beating just until blended. Slowly blend in the custard mixture until smooth.

Pour filling over crust in pan. Place the springform pan in a large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come about halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake cheesecake until cake is almost set (the center will still move slightly when pan is gently shaken), about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool cake on rack for 1 hour. Refrigerate uncovered overnight.

About 30 minutes prior to serving, remove the cake from fridge and unmold. Sprinkle the top with sugar and use a blow torch to caramelize.

Just a few side notes:

  • A lot of folks are turned off by the whole water-bath thing and skip it. Please don't. I've made it both ways and when in the bath, they have never cracked (without it, the cakes always cracked)

  • Getting the cheesecake out of the water-bath can be tricky. I finally got some of those silicone oven mitts and those work great because they're water and heat proof!

  • To get nice clean cheesecake slices, have a large, tall pitcher full of very hot water and heat a large knife in it for a few minutes before serving. After each slice, wipe the knife clean with a paper towel and reheat in the hot water; wipe dry and make your next cut.
All the party-goers raved over this cheesecake and I thought it was pretty darn tasty, too (if I do say so myself ;-). Next time I make this I may skip the extra steps involved in making the custard and just dump all the ingredients into the mixing bowl and see how it turns out. I hope you get a chance to make this cheesecake and if you do, I'd love to hear what you thought, so please come back and comment or send me an email!


Cathy said...

Holy moly, Laura -- I had to do a double take to make sure that somehow a picture of my kitchen didn't end up on your blog! I mean, that SAME box of Club crackers is always on my counter (they keep the one year old happy) and is by far the single most photographed item in our house! This cheesecake looks heavenly indeed. I will definitely be making this, and I'll check back in!

Darius T. Williams said...

I mean really - who can go wrong with this? This looks great!


Shari@Whisk: a food blog said...

Does this ever sound delicious!!

Jennifer said...

Yum... that looks lovely! I sure wish I could have been there - not only to taste your yummy Creme Brulee but to wish C - a happy 40th!

Beth said...

I wanted to tell you I have made this a couple of times now. I did skip the custard and dumped all the ingredients in first time. I haven't tried it the other way but this way is pretty incredible.