Monday, August 1, 2011

balance or lack thereof: amazing creme brulee cheesecake

Two weeks ago I was on a roll with posting.  One week ago I was on my bed exhausted.  Still loving the lululemon gig, but we opened the shiny new store last Friday and I worked almost 40 hours that week.  To many people 40 hours on the job is unremarkable.  To me it's kind of a big deal.  Not quite in working girl condition.  I'll build up to the challenge and I won't be working the straight 9 to 5 days we needed to get the store up and running.  A whole new appreciation for working moms.  Kudos to you.  And many thanks to my husband and my daughter who've been home and hungry.  They've run to the store, started dinner and not complained.  The last one makes me the happiest.   

This week looks good on paper, but traveling daughter arrives home from 10-weeks in Europe tomorrow night and has all of 12 days at home before heading to West Lafayette for her senior year at Purdue.  Somehow I think as soon as she gets over some jet-lag, there will be lots to do with her.  My baby moves to Duke in three weeks.  I know the hours unmarked by work and appointments will be filled with lists, shopping, packing and cooking everything they love before I send them off to sorority house and dorm food.  Food is love at my house.  Luckily for me, my family loves my food.   

I tweeted and posted on facebook a picture of the creme brulee cheesecake I whipped up for dinner club last Saturday night to celebrate Lance and Dawn's birthdays (yep, a couple born exactly one week apart and if you ever play Apples to Apples with them you'll re-think astrology because they are eerily on the exact same wavelength).  It would just be mean to post a picture and no recipe so here we go with an amazing dessert from my favorite cooking magazine, Fine Living.  Issue #104 from 2010 had a nice 8- piece feature on cheesecakes.  One of their fabulous base recipes with many suggested variations.  I chose creme brulee for the crowd-pleasing factor, but could easily have made lemon bar, chocolate coffee, cannoli, banana split, creamsicle, Irish cream caramel or chocolate peanut butter cup.  Yum.

A little note, a blow torch comes in handy for brulee-ing/caramelizing the sugar.  I thought of who might have a kitchen torch and the answer was clearly "me", but I do not.  But Tammy's husband, Bob right next door brought over two!  I gave him the honors of operating the blow torch (super scary for me).  We had left-overs so Sunday night Tammy and Bob came over for a little dessert.  

There's not much balance in a dessert like cheesecake.  I can say the balance of creamy goodness and crunchy sugar topping with the buttery crust is pretty amazing.  Here's what Kelly had to say on twitter when she saw my tweet and shared it with her traveling friends in Turkey:  " Robbie: whats that? me: creme brûlée cheesecake Robbie: hows that possible? Jackie: IN HEAVEN Robbie: your mom is a god".  

You won't find this version in Cooking Light.  But when you are getting your dear friends together or celebrating with your family, please don't care about the calories.  Have something amazing and savor every bite!  I might need to make this again for the family party we'll surely have so everyone can see Kelly's Europe pictures before Kelly and Sara are off to school.

look it's me and my cheesecake arriving at dinner club

Creme Brulee Cheesecake

Crust
2 C vanilla wafer crumbs (I used Ultimate Vanilla Wafers from Trader Joe's)
3 T sugar
7 T unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Crush vanilla wafers until fine in a ziploc bag with a rolling pin or kitchen mallet or use a food processor (easier and then you can mix in the processor bowl).  Combine with sugar and melted butter until crumbs are evenly moist and start to clump together.  Pat into a 9-inch springform pan evenly across the bottom and two-inches up the sides.  Bake until crust is slightly brown, about 10 minutes.  Let pan cool a bit on a rack and lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees.  

Filling
3 8-oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature (I used light/neufchatel cream cheese because that is what I had and it was plenty rich)
1 8-oz.  container mascarpone cheese
2 T flour
1 1/4 C sugar
1 T vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature

In a stand mixer with the paddle blade (or whatever you have), beat the cream cheese, marscapone cheese and flour on medium speed until very smooth and fluffy (about 5 minutes), scraping down sides every minute or so.  Make sure there are no lumps.  Add the sugar and continue beating until well-blended.  Add the vanilla and beat an additional 30 seconds.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended (overbeating once the eggs are mixed in will make the cheesecake puff too much as it bakes and crack as it cools).  Pour the filling into the crust and smooth the top.  

Bake at 300 degrees until the center jiggles like Jell-O when nudged, 55-60 minutes.  The cheesecake will be slightly puffed around the edges and the center will still look moist.  Set on a rack and cool completely (or cool a bit and carefully place it in your chest freezer because you only have 4 hours to cool it like me), cover and refrigerate until well-chilled (a minimum of 8 hours unless you cheat like me). Sprinkle top evenly with 2-3 T of sugar (I always use Baker's Sugar which is extra fine, but regular granulated sugar is perfectly okay).  Slowly pass a hand-held propane torch (surely the kitchen size is safest, but the industrial one was fun) over the sugar until melted and caramelized.  

Since there were pretty berries that morning at the farmer's market I added a topping to each plate.  Purely optional.  Fresh berries without the macerating in liqueur would be great too.

Topping (optional)
2 C mixed berries
1/4 C creme de cassis (or other berry flavored liqueur)
2 T sugar

Mix all ingredients together to dissolve sugar and chill until serving time.  

ingredients (including optional berry sauce)

crushed vanilla wafers

wafers, butter and sugar 

pressing into springform pan

cheeses and flour getting fluffy

plus sugar, heavenly light

crust ready to go

crust filled with creamy goodness

let the flames begin

Bob and his torch

working some magic on the sugar

almost done

ta-da!

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