The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.
Since I've made cheesecake before, I wasn't afraid of this challenge (something that typically doesn't happen after I read what Daring Bakers challenge us to do!).
Alas, somehow I was uninspired to come up with something extraordinary, and settled on following the recipe to a "t" and only adding zest of an entire orange to the filling. I also made the cheesecakes in muffin liners: individual portions are always my favorite!
Overall, the recipe came together without a hitch. But, after the cheesecake muffins were baked for 30 minutes, I opened the oven door and could not believe my eyes: they rose by at least one inch and were completely cracked! I was horrified, and too upset to take any photographs.
After sitting in the oven for an hour, however, the cheesecake leveled off, and actually fell slightly. Alas, after chilling in the refrigerator over night it sunk even further.
I was thinking of making sugared orange zest to go on top of the cheesecakes, but then changed my mind: they really were sweet and orange-y enough. And so, below are my un-adorned Orange Zest Cheesecakes.
Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick butter, melted
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each at 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)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 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.
NOTES: I used 2/3rds of the recipe and made 12 individual "muffin" cheesecakes and baked them for 30 minutes. Also, my muffin tin did not fit into any other container. So instead of using a water bath, I just placed a 9x13 Pyrex dish (Thanks, Jenny!!!) with boiling water on the oven rack below the one that was holding up the muffin tin.