We've already talked about the meals at this year's ACFW conference -
(remember the purple mashed potatoes?)
- but we haven't touched the desserts yet.
I think it's important to notice that there haven't been any pictures of the desserts circulation around - they were so good that none of them lasted long enough to get a picture!
The same lunch where we were served the purple potatoes, the dessert was Caramel Swirl Cheesecake.
It was REALLY good! And rich!
And, of course, calorie-free since it was at conference, right?
I had to have that recipe...so I took the recipe I had for Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake (to die for!) and tried it with caramel.
The recipe is from "The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion" - by far the best cookbook I've bought in a long time.
And don't think cheesecake is hard to make! It's time consuming, but not hard.
The biggest misconception people have about cheesecake is that you have to make it in a spring-form pan. It helps to have one, but you can also use an 8x8 baking dish, and it works just fine - although maybe not so pretty.
But when something tastes this good, does it really matter how it looks?
There are two recipes here - one for the crust and one for the filling. We'll do the crust first.
Pate Sucree (or pasta frolla in Italy)
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon non-fat dry milk (optional, but helpful for browning and tenderness)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick, 4 ounces) cold butter
1 large egg yolk (sorry, this time it's a permanent separation)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon water
Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together flour, dry milk, sugar and salt, and then cut in the butter.
Whisk together the egg yolk, vanilla and water in a small bowl, and then stir the liquid into the dry mixture.
The dough should be crumbly, but should hold together when you squeeze it.
Press the dough into the bottom of your pan and about 1/2 inch up the sides.
Prick the bottom all over with a fork, and then bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.
It should be lightly browned.
Remove it from the oven and set aside to cool.
Before you do anything else, reduce your oven temperature to 325 degrees. You'll thank me later.
And now it's time for the good stuff!
3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, at room temperature (or you can go to a warehouse store and buy the huge block)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
You'll need to put your mixer to work on this one, but don't work it too hard. You want to work at gentle, slow speeds so you don't incorporate air into the cheesecake mixture. I use my whisk attachment, but you can also use regular beaters.
At slow speed, beat the cream cheese until it's soft and doesn't have any lumps. Scrape the bottom and sides of your bowl a couple times while you do this.
Add the sugar and salt and mix until well blended.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until well blended and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.
Now add the vanilla and cream slowly, and mix until it's well blended.
Measure out 3/4 cup of the filling and put it in a small bowl, and then pour the rest into your pan, on top of your crust.
Measure 3/4 cup caramel bits into a microwave safe bowl, add a couple Tablespoons water, and heat in the microwave, 30 seconds at a time, until the caramel is melted and you can stir the mixture into a nice, smooth bowl of caramelly goodness.
Mix your caramel into the small bowl of cheesecake filling, stirring until its all smooth.
Drop the caramel mixture onto your cheesecake filling by the tablespoon-full. Don't worry about squiggles or drips.
Next, take a knife and gently zig-zag through the dollops of caramel.
Now, isn't that pretty?
Make sure your oven temperature is at 325 degrees (aren't you glad you turned it down earlier?), and put your cheesecake in the oven. Bake it for about 45-50 minutes, or until lightly browned and slightly jiggly in the middle.
The cheesecake will puff up like nobody's business! But it won't last.
Turn your oven off, open the door slightly, and leave the cheesecake in the oven for another hour. As your oven cools, your cheesecake will continue baking (no more jiggly center) and cool slowly (hopefully, no cracked top!). And it will deflate.
After an hour, take the cheesecake out of the oven, run a knife around the edge to allow the cake to pull away from the pan, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Yours shouldn't be this brown.
I'm still fighting with my oven - it refuses to keep an even temperature - but I'm sure this cheesecake will still taste good!
If you're here too early on Monday morning to see the final results, check back in later in the day - I'll post a picture of a slice of heaven - I hope :)
Oh! And a bonus recipe! If you want to make Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake, just substitute chocolate chips for the caramel. Now, isn't that easy?
Except for the extra brown top, I'd say this cheesecake deliciousness was a success. The only complaint I would have is that the caramel swirls are too similar in color to the regular cheesecake, so they don't stand out - but you can taste the caramel!
I remember our cheesecake at conference having more of a caramel texture to the swirls, so when I try this again, I think I'll use 1 1/2 cups caramel bits instead of 3/4.
On the other hand, the chocolate swirl is so good...
This cheesecake doesn't have that classic tang that I associate with plain cheesecake, but it is still so good!