the Daring Bakers and a lesson in indulgence

Oh, how I love being a Daring Baker. How can you not adore being part of a group that has you baking cheesecake? I mean… take a look at this thing! Is it not one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen? Look… not a crack to be seen.

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Right, so… the details! The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge. I can see why this recipe is infamous! Not only is it amazing, it’s also highly adaptable. Jenny gave us free reign to transform our cheesecakes into whatever flavor combination we wanted, and I knew immediately that mine would be a play on key lime (which also happened to be one of the suggested flavor variations – great minds!).

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Springtime absolutely screams key lime to me. It’s such a bright, fresh flavor – perfect for long-awaited, sunshiney days, spring breezes drifting in through open windows, and longer days. So, I absolutely took the opportunity to make this “infamous” cheesecake my own and turn it into a key lime cheesecake with macadamia nut crust. Yum!

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This was a beautiful cheesecake… so much so, in fact, that I was inspired to compliment the macadamia nut crust with a macadamia brittle to adorn each slice. Pure perfection! (I’m definitely also filing away the brittle recipe for future use – I’m already thinking of all sorts of ways to use it!) Thanks, Jenny, for a fabulous cheesecake recipe! I can’t wait to play around more with this one! Don’t forget to check out our blogroll to see what everyone else has been up to!

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Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake
for the crust:
2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tablespoons / 24 g sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the cheesecake:
3 blocks 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 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tablespoon liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 1. 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!

Key Lime/Macadamia Crust Variation: add 1/2 cup finely ground macadamia nuts to graham cracker crust mixture. add zest from two to three key limes to sugar before mixing with cream cheese. substitute lemon juice, alcohol, and vanilla with key lime juice.

Macadamia Brittle
(recipe courtesy of Epicurious)
1 cup unsalted macadamia nuts, toasted, chopped, cooled
1 tablespoon chilled butter, diced
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or other coarse sea salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Place a large sheet of foil on a flat work surface; butter foil. Combine nuts and next 3 ingredients in medium bowl.

Stir sugar, 1/2 cup water, and corn syrup in medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Boil without stirring until syrup turns deep amber color, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan occasionally, about 10 minutes. Remove caramel from heat. Immediately stir in nut mixture (caramel will bubble up). Pour caramel onto prepared foil; spread thinly. Cool brittle until hard; chop. (Can be made 1 week ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)

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16 thoughts on “the Daring Bakers and a lesson in indulgence

  1. Peter says:

    How kind you, two killer cheesecakes for the price of one comment. There…I’ve written a second sentence for the two…now I would like a smapling of each!

  2. grace says:

    i declare, your pictures are downright breathtaking! cheesecake leaves so much room for presentation, and you’ve done it magnificently. and the brittle’s awesome. :)

  3. Suzana says:

    Beautiful display! And I’m sure the combinations are very delicious. Haven’t had macadamias in a while… now I’m craving some!

    Well done, Michelle. :)

  4. vibi says:

    Nice! The first picture is so clear… I almost feel like I’m dancing on your cheesecake… which really, I wouldn’t have mind doing! lol Such great flavor and textures you’ve added! Mmmmm… Bravo!

  5. Michelle Simons says:

    oh my goodness!!!!

  6. lisamichele says:

    Oh wow, that cheesecake looks so beautiful and delicious. The macadamia brittle is calling to me right now..LOL

  7. pixie o says:

    That looks just scrumptious! I envy your perfectly piped peaks! For some reason, I couldn’t find my wilton tips and had to make do with a very old, small and inefficient set! =) Love key lime too! makes my mouth water!

  8. JennyBakes says:

    I think key lime was my favorite version of this cheesecake – the combo of the citrus with the creaminess was sheer heaven! However, I made a plain old graham cracker crust and yours sounds so much better! Great job on this challenge!

    Jenny of JennyBakes

  9. Judy says:

    Awesome looking cheesecake. I love key lime anything so this would be perfect for me!!!

  10. bellaguinness says:

    Beautiful! I want to try that macadamia brittle for sure!

  11. Nicole says:

    Bravo! I agree, key lime is the perfect springtime flavor. This looks lovely!

  12. Jess says:

    Your cheesecake looks awesome! I’ve made key lime pie a couple times, but key lime cheesecake. I may have to try it!

  13. Coco Bean says:

    WOW! Beautiful presentation, and I know anything that looks that good has GOT to taste just as great, if not better!

  14. gretchen says:

    OMG – beautiful!

  15. Lan says:

    your cheesecake looks absolutely gorgeous. and i am so jealous that you didn’t get a crack AT.ALL!
    you’re so right when you say that spring time screams key lime, i bet this tasted so decadently refreshing and light. what a great way to start off spring! :)

  16. sara says:

    Mmmm, this looks SO delicious! Love the flavors. :)

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