The final round of the five Willow Bird Baking challenges required contestants make a cheesecake. Since Julie is the queen of cheesecakes – featuring selections like Red Velvet and Sticky Toffee Pudding cheesecakes on her blog – I should have seen this coming. I, on the other, am lukewarm at best about the dessert. Then she threw in the requirement to bake something representative of our personal culinary journey. What is that exactly, and how do I get one?
I have said many a time that I am not a “foodie”. Words like “scrumptious” or “delectable” simply do not fill my brain when I am called upon to describe food. Though I look forward to a meal at a really good restaurant, I also enjoy eating pizza from the grocery’s freezer aisle. What the heck and I doing writing a “food” blog?
I am still looking for the answer to that one too. Maybe it was because I was bored to tears with work. Perhaps I just needed a creative outlet. Some people thrive off creating drama in their lives. It very well could be that I like inflicting pain upon myself in the form of continually failing at recipes.
Though I have no formal training and in anything I do here – cooking, writing or photography – people visit from time to time. I can’t say why I started this blog, but I can safely say I keep it up because I value the community, connections, and new friendships it has brought to my life. So thank you for keeping me going.
I chose to craft a turtle cheesecake simply because a good family friend makes these bad boys, and they are to die for. And that’s coming from someone who is not a big fan of cheesecake! It is also worth noting that aside from watching my grandmothers and mother cook, the first thought of a culinary journey outside of my family extend to her.
As a teenager, I remember spending an evening where she tried to teach a few of us to cook. I fear we probably spent more time playing with the dog and just generally messing around. She was also the first person I ever saw use dental floss (not mint flavor!) to cut pieces of cake. This trick also works well for cinnamon-type rolls (see Challenge 1), though I inconveniently forgot about that until well after I made mine.
Why the coffee? Because I never made a coffee cheesecake before and that sounded good. As I was making the filling, complete with a layer of chocolate ganache as suggested, I remembered coffee is certainly indicative of my earliest tastes. As a young child, I used to make a point of drinking a half cup when I visited my grandma, despite warnings it would stunt my growth and perhaps put hair on my chest. Maybe I was just trying to act grown up, but I loved the flavor of the hard coffee candies she had sitting out as well.
The only things I recall loving as much as those coffee candies, were red hot cinnamon disks, tiny Chicklets and those big, red NutraSweet gumballs that used to come in the mail. Hmm, what about gumball cheesecake? Ideas like that are precisely why I should probably not be writing a food blog. Yet since I do, enjoy!
- For the Crust
- 2 heaping cups graham cracker crumbs (about two sleeves worth)
- 6 tablespoons butter, melted
- For the Ganache
- ¾ cups heavy cream
- 10 ounces chocolate chips
- For the Cheesecake Filling
- 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1½ teaspoons light molasses
- 3, 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 large eggs
- Aluminum foil, for baking
- For the Topping (measurments approximate)
- 1-2 tablespoons pecans
- 1-2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
- caramel sauce, enough to drizzle
- Combine the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter in a small bowl.
- Mix thoroughly to moisten all of the crumbs.
- Press the mixture into a thin layer covering the bottom and sides (about 2.5 to 3 inches high) of a lightly greased springform cheesecake pan. Use a flat-sided glass to get the crust even and thin.
- Bake the crust in a 350 degree F oven for about 6 minutes, then allow to cool while preparing the ganache.
- Bring the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan.
- Place the chocolate in a medium bowl.
- Once the cream reaches a simmer, pour it over the chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes.
- Whisk in small circles until a smooth ganache has formed.
- Pour 1½ to 2 cups of the ganache over the bottom of the crust (leftovers are good for eating or decorating).
- Place the ganache-laden crust in the freezer until firm, about 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the cheesecake filling.
- In a small bowl, combine the coffee granules, vanilla extract and molasses.
- Allow to sit until dissolved, stirring as needed.
- Beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until well blended.
- Next add the flour and dissolved coffee flavor and mix until well incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time until very well combined throughout the mixture.
- Pour the filling into the crust.
- Line the bottom outside edges of the pan with aluminum foil, then place the entire springform pan in a 9 x 13 baking dish.
- Fill the baking dish with about two inches of water. Make sure water does not get into the cheesecake mixture. It should also not top the edges of the foil lining the springform pan.
- Return the cheesecake dish to the oven and bake until the top is lightly browned, puffed and cracked at the edges, about 40-50 minutes. The center should move only very slightly when the pan is gently shaken.
- Remove the cheesecake and allow to cool.
- Before serving, sprinkle the top with pecans and mini chocolate chips.
- Complete with a drizzle of caramel sauce over the top.