I have had to do more resting than blogging or baking. However, I am slowly on the mend and, let's remember, I bake for all occasions ... so what do I do when I'm on a strict low fat diet so as not to suffer at the hands of my gallbladder (if my gallbladder did indeed have hands ...)? I bake a decadent, creamy cheesecake of course (and why? Because my friends, you know it's true. Everything I do, I do it for you ;))
When I think of cheesecake, I think of my older brother, James, without a doubt. Now, you may think you like cheesecake, and maybe even love it ... but my brother takes it to a whole new level. Every birthday? Cheesecake. Favourite food? Cheesecake. A million dollars? No thanks, I'll have a cheesecake (okay, I may be exaggerating with that one but you get the point). The only time in history James ever turned his nose up at a cheesecake was when our grandmother decided to bake one for his birthday and used lime gelatine ... 18 years later and she still hasn't lived that one down. Poor woman. So this particular recipe is dedicated to James, and, having learned from that particular dessert faux pas, you will not find any gelatine in this recipe. Peanut butter and chocolate? Oh yes, loads. The meaning of life? Quite possibly. My heart and soul? Oh that's where they went! But that's about it, aside from a whole pile of deliciousness.
This cheesecake was my first trip back into the kitchen since I became ill and I'll be honest, I was a little nervous. Would I have enough stamina? Would I remember where everything was? Would my oven and mixer cooperate after having left them for so long? Well, luckily for me, appliances don't generally seem to harbour feelings of resentment, and after getting myself organized I was ready to rock. I preheated Lucille (my vintage oven), and laid out my ingredients on the counter (excluding the eggs and cream cheese, which had been sitting out since about an hour previously in order to get room temperature. This is suuuper important to avoid super lumpy cheesecake batter). I ground up the graham crackers in my food processor and, mixing them with the butter, pressed them into my springform pan making a super quick crust (it's pretty loose before baking so not to worry if that's your result). After about ten minutes my crust came out of the oven, and, satisfied that Lucille hadn't taken her abandonment issues out on it, set it aside to cool. From there it was a blur of mixing, sprinkling, pouring and baking (and sitting. Lot's of sitting) and after a little over an hour had passed, the cake was ready to come out of the oven. When I pulled it out, I noticed that it was cracked. This is what happens when the internal temperature reaches over 160F, and it can be a pretty disappointing, although very common, sight. Instead of crumbling into a miserable ball of sad, however, I was comforted by the fact that once it was cooled it would be smothered in a smooth chocolately layer of ganache, so I put it into the fridge and waited. And waited. And then I waited some more ...
Here's the thing about cheesecake ... you have to have patience (which we all know I exemplify ...). It's not a particularly difficult thing to make, it just has a lot of different parts to it that are pretty time consuming, and, if you're anything like me, this can be a pretty difficult wait. (I recommend marathoning a great show while you're waiting, but not too great ... I became really engrossed in my "Boy Meets World" marathon and almost forgot to take the cake out of the oven). Finally after the four hours were up, I began on the ganache. I gave the chocolate a rough chop so it was all in approximately the same size (very important so it will melt at an even rate and not create a lumpy ganache). I heated my cream until just boiling and poured it over the chocolate. Here again, to avoid lumps, I waited about two minutes before stirring, watching the chocolate become dark and liquidy spots in the cream. Finally I stirred and BAM, beautiful ganache. Take that cake crack. As I poured the ganache over my cooled cake I couldn't help but think of the end of the Wizard of Oz, when the Wicked Witch gets a bucket of water thrown on her and begins to melt. Needless to say it was very satisfying when I stepped back to no longer see a large crack, but a melted witch ... I mean a smooth chocolately layer. Back into the fridge it went to harden.
Now, dear readers, the hard part is finished. Now is the time to get artistic, and really, you can do anything you want as a garnish for your cake masterpiece. After removing the cake from the pan, and smoothing the ganache down the sides (this can be done with either an offset spatula, or just a regular spatula. Just be gentle!) I whipped up my favourite caramel recipe and drizzled it across the cake with abandon (abandon I tell you. Abandon). I may or may not have successfully covered the cake, my counter, and the oven fan with a layer of caramel, but that's really neither here nor there ...
Finally, I framed my masterpiece with the remaining Reese's cups, and put it back into the fridge one last time for everything to come together.
I wasn't allowed to eat it, dear readers, but I can tell you I didn't have much problem finding some hungry volunteers. If you're looking for a great dessert that you can share with your friends and family, this is it. I'm so happy to be back, and I hope to be able to share many more recipes and stories with you all in the near future. Until then:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4x 8 ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
5 eggs, room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 bag mini peanut butter cups
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
3/4 cup heavy cream
15-20 mini peanut butter cups (saved from the cheesecake ingredients)
Preheat oven to 350°. Stir together graham cracker crumbs and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Press into the bottom of a 9″ springform pan and bake for approximately 10 minutes. Cool.
Beat cream cheese with a mixer until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well between each. Add sugar, peanut butter, and cream; mix thoroughly. Stir in vanilla. Pour half of the mixture into the cooled crust, layer with 2 cups of mini peanut butter cups, then top with remaining cheesecake mixture.
Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. The sides of the cheesecake should be set but the middle will be a little jiggly. Cool slightly then put it into the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
Chop up the chocolate put in a sizable bowl. Heat the cream until just boiled and pour over chocolate. Let sit for 2 minutes without stirring, then stir and pour over the cool cheesecake (while still in the springform pan). Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Decorate with remaining peanut butter cups