The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.
So this month was my first month of joining The Daring Bakers for a worldwide baking experiment. What am I talking about? Each month, a group of daring bakers all cook the same recipe, pre-chosen by one host, on the same day and then write about it. This month's challenge, as I said, was to make cheesecake with your own personal twist ... any variation you could devise.
I struggled with this one for a few weeks. I wanted to do something besides the obvious chocolate or berry accompaniments, especially since berries are out of season. I finally settled on a mixed nuts theme.
I skipped the graham crackers in the crust (in keeping with my avoidance of processed foods, I can't bring myself to buy one baked good to make another), and instead decided to search for a dry, crispy cookie with a similar texture to a cracker. Turning to one of my favorite cookbooks, I found Anise-Almond Biscotti from Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food.
Other than the nutty modifications listed below, I followed the recipe exactly.
I used a 9" springform pan, and heeding the warnings about leakage from the water bath, I layered the inside of the pan with about 4 layers of aluminum foil.
The verdict? The cake was definitely as good as or better than restaurant cheesecake - smooth, creamy and fresh instead of the usual soggy and grainy texture common in so many. The mixed nuts worked well together, and the unsweetened hazelnut topping provided a pleasant contrast to the sweetness of the filling. In the end, it may be a little rich for my tastes, but if it's cheesecake you're after, Abbey's recipe is more fabulous than infamous.
The full cheesecake recipe is on JennyBakes blog.
- Amaretto is the optional liqueur in the filling.
- Substitute crumbs of Anise-Almond Biscotti for the graham crackers in the filling.
- Top with 1 cup of toasted, coarsely chopped hazelnuts. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 6 minutes in a 3500F oven. Let nuts cool. Rub between two rough towels to remove as much skin as possible (you'll never get it all). Crush the nuts in a large mortar and pestle, chop or pulse in a food processor to get a coarse, irregular mix. Press the nuts into the top of the chilled cheesecake.
*(about 40 cookies - I don't recommend it, but you can halve the recipe if you only want enough for the cheesecake)
- 1 1/2 c. whole almonds
- 2 1/4 c unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp aniseed
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- 1 c sugar
- 1/4 tsp lemon zest
On a baking sheet, toast the almonds in the oven for 5 minutes, let cool and then coarsely chop.
Combine in a bowl the flour, baking powder and aniseed.
In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, sugar and lemon zest. Beat until themixture forms a ribbon. Stir in the flour until just incorporated and then gently fold in the almonds.
On a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet, form the dough into two 3-inch wide loaves, 3 inches apart. Smooth the loaves with damp hands. Bake for 25 minutes, or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Lower oven temp to 3000F. Cut the loaves into 1/2 inch thick cookies and place cut side down on 2 baking sheets. Cook for 10 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.