Monday, April 27, 2009

Nothing Says “Happy Anniversary” Like an Orange Blossom and Pine Nut Cheesecake with Honey.

This month's Daring Bakers Challenge post date happened to fall on our 7-year anniversary. I would like to claim that I waited until the very end of the month so we could have a celebratory cheesecake on this special day, but… Regardless, it was a happy coincidence that after dinner out together, we will get to come home to a wonderful homemade cheesecake dessert. (Shhhh, don’t tell, but while photographing the cake this morning, we had a little taste – delicious: creamy, smooth, and pleasantly floral without overdoing it)

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

The challenge of this month’s Challenge was to get creative with the flavor combinations of the cheesecake. I had several ideas (lavender/lemon with a shortbread crust, espresso liqueur with chocolate ganache, lemongrass and thyme…) but ultimately ended up with an orange blossom cheesecake with a vanilla/pinenut crust. Not amazingly creative, but it sounded good to us. I had originally planned to serve it with an honey cream topping but decided that might be overkill (although I think I may still mix up a little and give it a try).

The recipe calls for a traditional graham cracker crust, which I actually like quite a bit, but since we have found out J is allergic to soy, we have realized that there is soy in EVERYTHING – graham crackers included (along with most sandwich bread, crackers, cookies, dressings, all restaurant food, etc.). So I swapped out vanilla wafer cookies and added some toasted pine nuts. Because the nuts have a pretty high oil content, I cut the butter back to about 6 Tbs. instead of 8. I also omitted both the sugar and the vanilla extract since the cookies are vanilla flavored and quite sweet already.

In the cheesecake part, I swapped Orange Blossom Water for the vanilla (I used about 1.5 Tbs.) and added .5 Tbs. or so of orange liqueur. My original plan was to swap out some of the sugar for orange blossom honey, but frankly, I forgot. And while the cheesecake ended up amazingly delicious, I will definitely try the honey substitution next time.

My plan for the honey cream was just a made up sort of whim, but I may yet give it a try. I am basically planning to whip together some heavy cream, sour cream, and honey. This could be served on the side like a dollop of whipped cream, or spread on the set and chilled cake like a traditional sour cream layer. Without the honey cream, it was still quite nice served with a drizzle of orange honey and a smattering of toasted pine nuts.

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:

(see notes above for my substitutions)
2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

(see notes above for my substitutions)
3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. 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.

3. 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, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. 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.

5. 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. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.


Claire said...

Happy Anniversary!!!! Your cheesecake looks just delicious and quite refreshing!

Sara said...

Mmmmm, orange blossom sounds really delicious. Yum! Gorgeous photos. :)

Dragon said...

Happy Anniversary! Your cheesecake is lovely. Great job on this month's challenge.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this looks so good, love the orange blossoms, very creative. What a great anniversary dessert.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a wonderful combination...and the way you captured the honey just about to drip off the side - fabulous! And of course, happy anniversary!

Catalina said...

I am so glad you and Ru are married, that you love each other and that you bake delicious cheesecake for your anniversary. Cheers to you!

Ramya Kiran said...

What a perfect slice. Loved the touch of honey. Looks great!

Anonymous said...

This is such a sophisticated flavor, and paired with such elegant photographs... Love your blog!

Dhanasakthi said...

Happy Anniversary!!!

Katia Clark said...

Happy Anniversary and bravo on the cheesecake. I'm certain it tastes as good as it looks.

Erica said...

Oops, I think I ate one of the toasted pine nuts you were planning to use for the crust when we were at your house the other night. I hope the crust wasn't noticeably one pine nut short! The cheesecake sounds delish.

Chantal said...

Happy anniversary. Your cheesecake flavour sounds delicious and your photo is beautiful

ice tea: sugar high said...

your flavours sounded divine!! Happy anniversary to you both

Anonymous said...

What a great flavor combination! The orange blossom sounds wonderful!

Danielle said...

yum! this looks and sounds insanely good. happy anniversary you crazy kids!

Jenny said...

This sounds so delicious, and perfect for spring. Thanks for being a part of the April Daring Baker's Challenge!

Jenny of JennyBakes