Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Salted Caramel Cheesecake

I recently made this cheesecake to bring to lunch with a group of wonderful ladies I used to work with, because there's no better combination than catching up with great friends and yummy desserts! Even though I bake a lot, I just realized that cheesecake is something I rarely make, but this simple and accessible recipe makes me think that more cheesecakes are definitely in my future (and my friends' futures)! I think that a lot of people are put off from making cheesecake because of the dreaded leaky springform pan, the long baking and resting times, and possibly the sheer acknowledgement of just how much cream goes into one cheesecake. For me, refrigerating the cheesecake overnight and waiting until the next day to eat it is always a pain (hence the popularity of the no-bake cheesecake), but having patience is definitely worth it for the best taste and smooth, creamy texture. I love that this recipe is made in a pie plate instead of a springform pan and doesn't make a sky-high monster of a cheesecake. I found it more manageable and simple to make and eat this way. The cheesecake is creamy and thick without being too dense or heavy, but it is quite rich so a little piece goes a long way and is best enjoyed with a cup of strong coffee. The salty-sweet combination of the caramel is the perfect way to top off each decadent slice.

Crust Ingredients:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
 Pinch of salt
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake Ingredients:
1 pound (2 blocks) cream cheese, room temperature - Now is not the time to use low-fat cream cheese either!
1 and 1/3 cups white sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. heavy cream
1 tsp. lemon zest

Caramel Ingredients:
1/2 cup white sugar
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. sea salt


Place two racks in the upper and bottom thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. You'll need a 9.5-10 inch pie plate and a 9x13-inch baking pan for boiling water.

To make the crust, combine the graham cracker crumb, brown sugar, salt, and melted butter in a small bowl. Stir together until the crumbs are moistened. Pour the mixture into the pie plate and press down firmly with your fingers and the palm of your hand, until the bottom and sides of the plate are evenly coated.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool while you make the cheesecake filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Begin to boil some water in a kettle because you will be adding the hot water to the 9x13-inch baking pan to place under the baking cheesecake.

To make the cheesecake filling: In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese and granulated sugar with an electric mixer or the paddle attachment of your stand mixer. Beat until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Beat in the salt and vanilla extract until well incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until each is incorporated before adding the next. Once the mixture is smooth, slowly beat in the cream on medium high speed until very fluffy and creamy. Add in the lemon zest.

Pour the cheesecake mixture into the prepared cheesecake crust.

Place a 9x13-inch baking pan in the bottom shelf of the oven. Carefully pour in the hot water until the pan is half full, then push it into the oven.

Place the cheesecake on the upper oven shelf. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the cheesecake is very lightly browned and puffed. When the cheesecake doesn't have a loose jiggle in the centre, turn the oven off and prop the oven door open slightly. Allow the cheesecake to rest for another 45 minutes in the cooling oven. Remove from the oven after 45 minutes and allow it to cool completely, for at least 4 hours. Cover and refrigerate overnight for the best results.

While the cheesecake cools, make the caramel so it can cool as well.

To make the caramel, combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, swirling around the pan once or twice, and allow it to brown. Once the sugar has browned to a medium amber colour (watch it closely so it doesn't burn!), remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately add heavy cream and butter. The mixture will boil and foam and you'll be worried but it's okay! Stir well until the mixture becomes smooth, then add the salt and stir to incorporate. Place the caramel in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight for best results. The caramel will thicken as it cools.

Pour or drizzle the cooled caramel over the cooled cheesecake (allow the caramel to come to room temperature for easier pouring). Completely cover the cheesecake as pictured, or just lightly drizzle the caramel over the cheesecake using a spoon or a squeeze bottle for a slightly less rich and sweet topping. Return the cheesecake to the refrigerator until ready to serve, then sprinkle with a dash of coarse sea salt before slicing and serving. It will last for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.

*Recipe adapted from Joy the Baker