Monday, April 27, 2009

We're so cheesey

It's Daring Bakers time again! And for those of you who stalk bloggers' Daring Bakers posts like I used to before I joined - posting day will from here on out always be the 27th of the month! You can plan your life around us now...

For April the Daring Bakers made Cheesecake!

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

This cheesecake isn't from a book or website but really just from Jenny's friend, Abbey, who has tweaked her "infamous" cheesecake recipe so much that she calls it perfection! The thing that was so great about this challenge is that beyond the cheesecake filling recipe - we were free to get completely creative! We could flavor the cheesecake however we wanted, make the crust out of whatever we wanted and top it and decorate it however we wanted! While the freedom was actually a bit challenging (I polled friends for their favorite cheesecake flavor 'cuz I was at a loss) it's also been extremely fun to see all the amazing flavor combos that my Daring Baker friends have come up with!

I started brainstorming and trying to get creative but since I'm not really the biggest cheesecake fan - I was having trouble. I finally decided to keep it simple and do a fruit flavored version since I was going to be making it for Easter; and while Dulce de Leche and Chocolate Caramel Turtle (other ideas I'd had) sounded fantastic - they also seemed a bit more Fall/Winter flavors. Strawberry sounded too sweet, cherry too generic so I landed on raspberry. And with bags of Meyer lemons from my cousin's tree (she lives half a mile from me - how can one resist?!) the flavoring practically developed itself!
Looks like cherries huh?

You should be able to find the recipe we were given on Jenny's blog. It was a recipe for a basic cheesecake flavored with a hint of lemon juice on a graham cracker crust and baked in a water bath. I made these variations:
  • Instead of graham crackers I used Walkers shortbread cookies
  • Added a couple tablespoons more lemon juice to the cheese mixture and some Grand Marnier too
  • Made a raspberry puree with raspberries, sugar, orange juice, cinnamon and vanilla and then swirled it with the cheese mixture (right)
  • Topped my cheesecake with a sweet vanilla sour cream layer
  • Covered the cheesecake with fresh raspberries and glazed it with raspberry jam (seeds strained), vanilla and lemon zest
The flavor was fantastic! It was lemony - but just barely. It was raspberry-y but not over powering-ly so. It was sweet and smooth and.......WET. Yes. Wet. Remember the water bath we were suggested to use? Let's just say - mine sprung a leak!

So why use a water bath in the first place? And how does a water bath leak if you thoroughly wrap your springform pan in heavy duty foil and plastic wrap, as I did? A water bath is used often with custards or puddings or anything you want to bake gently and come out smooth. I do it all the time with crème brûlée, baked custard and bread pudding. You place the item you're baking into a large roasting (or other) pan and fill the outside pan with water until it's about halfway up the side of the smaller item you're baking. Then bake as usual!

I wasn't kidding: 2 layers of plastic wrap
and 1 layer of heavy duty foil

That dang water-bath still managed to leak!

It works beautifully! EXCEPT when you're using a springform pan. A springform has a removable outer ring, so it is not exactly water-tight at the bottom. It's rare batter would run out, but water can certainly seep in! And that's exactly what it did with mine - through 2 layers of plastic wrap and 1 layer of heavy duty foil!! Yet I don't actually think my wrap/foil was punctured. BZ Girl helped me to figure out - my cheesecake probably didn't take on water from it leaking through all the layers of protection, but more likely from condensation due to sitting in that water bath for 1+ hours after baking (as called for in the recipe) to finish cooking and cool.

Argh - it was so frustrating! I've had soggy cheesecakes before but once I started covering the bottom of my pan with multiple layers of plastic wrap AND the foil - it solved it. However I've never let a cheesecake sit in the water bath after it was done baking before. I'll never do that again!
Who would want to skip the option of tossing
in a [few] tablespoon[s] of liquor!?

Before swirling -------- After swirling

A few other suggestions were made to avoid the "soggy cheesecake" problem and I will definitely be trying these in the future:
1) remove the springform from the water-bath immediately after it's done baking and let it remain in the oven to cool
2) bake the cheesecake in an inexpensive, disposable foil pan from the grocery store - then CUT the cake out of it when it's done!
3) bake in a regular ole 9" cake pan (with high enough sides) and then freeze it after baking - it's been reported to actually make the texture better - when frozen, remove by up-righting

No cracks - we have success, people!

I covered my cheesecake with a vanilla sour cream frosting
then raspberry jam with vanilla and lemon zest

Getting past that "wet" factor, the cheesecake was a wonderful texture - smooth and creamy and no cracks on top. I particularly like the shortbread crust I opted for instead of graham crackers, but would suggest you cut the butter in Abbey's recipe in half. 1 stick of butter was too much for 2 cups of crackers/cookies - it wouldn't all absorb and ran out the bottom of the springform when I removed the foil. My go-to cheesecake recipe is 1/2 a stick to 2 cups cookies and works perfectly.

Waiting for more raspberry glaze and a sprinkling of lemon zest

Worth mentioning since I recently had a friend ask me - if your cheesecakes sink in the middle after they cool, you're probably over-beating... when one over-beats a batter it whips the eggs up more than the final product can support. Sort of like a soufflé. Unless a recipe says otherwise, it's usually best to only stir a mixture until all ingredients are combined and STOP. As fun as it is to stir and beat... just say no!

I think I'm becoming obsessed with lemon zest - I can't squeeze a
lemon without first zesting it. Then I freeze it
if I don't immediately need the zest!

Many thanks to Jenny for picking a great recipe that allowed us all tons of creativity and flexibility! I'm not a big cheesecake lover, but I'm tempted to make this again with the few tweaks I've mentioned to see if it comes out even better. But you know, I couldn't help but notice; wet, or not - I certainly didn't have to throw any away...

You'll just have to make your own!

Oh yes... and stayed tuned... the Daring Cooks are coming soon to a blog near you! Very soon... very soon...


  1. What a gorgeous cheesecake! So pretty, perfect and refreshing! I love your choice of flavors!



  2. Raspberries the cheesecake looks fab and the photos are very clear. Love the honest comments in the posting. I never knew that water could form in the pan just from condensation. Your cake still looks great. Yours from Australia.

  3. Your cheesecake looks delicious! I love the fruit on top, it looks so spring-y and light. And that sour cream frosting... a huge weakness of mine. I almost wish I had used one on my cheesecake... yum!

  4. What fantastic flavours and I also like using shortbread in the crust. it makes it so buttery good!

  5. Your cheesecake looks absolutely delicious and every so pretty. Great job!

  6. Gorgeous cheesecake, Lisa! I love the fresh raspberries, all lined up so neatly on top.

    I'm looking forward to seeing your Daring Cooks challenge next!!

  7. Wow, that look so tasty! Yum. :) Gorgeous photos, too!

  8. I actually bought a springform pan built differently than the usual ones in order to prevent leakage and the need to wrap it with foil. I tested it out by sitting it in water, and the inside of it stayed dry without foil! Unfortunately, I didn't get to use it for my DK cheesecake, but I will definitely use it for my other cheesecake recipe.

    I think your cheesecake looks sublime! I could see doing the same thing you did with cherries or blueberries. YUM! Lovely photos as well!

  9. That's so pretty! I love the contrast of the yellow Meyer lemon against the bright red raspberries. I bet it tasted just as nice, too.

  10. Oooh nice! I passed on raspberries since they were so bloody expensive... but I like how you incorporated them into your cheesecake! Lovely lovely.

  11. I'm in love with your cheesecake? Is it odd to be in love with an edible, inanimate object? Not in this case! Great flavors, gorgeous presentation and photos! Awesome everything!!

  12. Now that's the perfect fruit cheesecake!

  13. Gorgeous! I adore cheesecake and love the berries.

  14. The lemon raspberry combination sounds divine, and what is better than using local seasonal fruit!? I also learned that various cookies would require less butter in the crust (the hard way... I'm not sure my oven is completely recovered!). Thanks for bringing out the creative juices for this challenge!

  15. The shortbread crust sounds awesome. I'll have to try making cheesecake using that.

  16. Hello
    I admired this cake since I saw the photos earlier, it looks gorgoues... great job

  17. Your cheesecake looks so decadent and enticing!Love the pretty pink swirls.

  18. Wow! Your cheesecake is so pretty even after sliced!! Very well done. :)

  19. Hi Lisa!
    Just had to say your cheesecake looks spectacular!
    I really like the result.
    You are welcome to check mine if you like.
    Nice to meet you, Inbal from Israel
    (a new daring baker)

  20. Wow, what a beautiful cheesecake! Delicious choice of flavor too.

  21. We wanted to make raspberry cheesecake but couldn't find good looking fresh ones. I only had jam so we decided to wait until we can get some good raspberries.

    Yours is beautiful! I will definitely use your cheesecake to model mine on.

  22. your cheesecake looks absolutely beautiful.

  23. YES, I WANT SOME!!! Gosh, Meyer lemons...I'm dying to find some here in OR! I'm so jealous that Californians can grow Meyer Lemons in their back yards! :P Lovely photos!

  24. Mmm, your cheesecake looks amazing!! I love the flavours you used =D.

  25. Wow. Lemon, raspberry and cheesecake... perfection! I could really go for a slice now... perfect late night snack!

  26. Thanks so much to everyone! It was definitely one of my more satisfying challenges! :)

  27. I love the glazed raspberries! They look like little jewels and the light glints of them so nicely. Very photogenic cheesecake!

  28. I love that flavor combination, and even though your pan leaked, it doesn't show. The cheesecake is beautiful.

  29. Abolutely amazing, I'm lookingat your pictures and I'm starving !