Monday, April 27, 2009

April Daring Bakers' Challenge: Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake with Blueberry Lavender Topping!

Aaaand she's back! After taking a little hiatus to concentrate on the details of planning a wedding and getting into graduate school, I'm coming out my corner swinging with a particularly exciting Daring Bakers' Challenge. 

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.While the basic recipe is fantastic on its own, Jenny encouraged us to get creative and put our own spin on the cake. I've been obsessed with lavender-infused anything lately, so that provided the jumping off point for my brainstorm.


After a brief love affair with Smitten Kitchen's Key Lime Cheesecake, I came across this recipe in the Washington Post and decided to incorporate the key elements into Abbey's Infamous version. It's unfussy enough to please diehard cheesecake fans, but the addition of the honey and lavender along with the blueberries give it an added sophistication. 


Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake with Blueberry Lavender Topping 

CRUST
 
  • 2 cups vanilla wafers, crumbled
  • 1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
FILLING
  • 8 vanilla wafers, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons good-quality honey, such as wildflower
  • 3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
TOPPING
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, stemmed and washed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dried culinary lavender (I found a small package for $3.99 at Kalustyans in New York's Curry Hill)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (do not use low-fat or nonfat)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
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, so plan accordingly.

EQUIPMENT: 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.

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

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.

Combine the crumbled wafers and 3 tablespoons of the honey in a small bowl.

Star thistle honey from my home state of MI.

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, and lemon juice, and blend until smooth and creamy. Fold the wafer-honey mixture into the batter.

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.

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.

While the cake is baking, prepare the topping: Combine the blueberries, water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the berries are very soft.

Add the lavender and remove from the heat. Let the mixture steep for 15 minutes, then transfer to a blender and puree. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. There should be about 1/4 cup of lavender syrup; discard the solids.

Culinary lavender
Beat the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer on medium speed for several minutes, until it is smooth and creamy. Reduce the speed to low, then add the yogurt and the lavender syrup. If needed, use a spatula to make sure the mixture is blended together completely.

Remove the pan from the bain-marie and place on a wire rack; let it rest for 5 minutes, then spread the topping evenly over the cheesecake. Cool completely, then cover and refrigerate overnight (still in the springform or aluminum pan). Drizzle with honey or garnish with mint leaves prior to serving.

          3 comments:

          Jenny said...

          This looks beautiful and must taste delicious. Lavender is such a refreshing flavor with the creamy cheesecake. Thanks for being a part of the challenge!

          Jenny of JennyBakes

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