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

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We love cheesecake, the hubby and I.  This challenge was definitely for us, but not a challenge in the least.  I have over the past few years perfected my cheesecake baking process to a T, so that is now the easy part.  That leaves me plenty of time to do what I love, alter the recipe.  Thankfully this month we could do just that, Jenny even encouraged us to “alter” the recipe and make it our own.  I am calling this one American Cheesecake.  It takes diversity to make it work, and oh how it works!

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Kaighty was my assistant daring baker for this challenge, as she was on spring break.  We first crushed 20 Oreo cookies in a bag (counting to 20 is my 5 year olds speciality).  Added the butter, spread the mixture in the pan and baked our crust for about 10 minutes.  Now to mix the base recipe.  I used Abby’s recipe but added a few extras such as flour and one more block of cream cheese, as well as omitted the lemon juice.  Once we had our base mixed up, I poured 2/3rds of it into our cooled spring-form pan and crust.  The we doctored up the last third with some instant espresso and a smidge of cocoa powder.

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To ensure and even layer, I pipped on the espresso layer.  Into the oven it went, for about an hour and half.  I do open the oven door long enough to test the cheese cake, then close it back up and turn it off.  I leave it in the oven until the cake is at room temperature, this will prevent a crack in the top.  I realize I am about to top mine, so a crack could be covered.  At this point I carefully remove the cake from the pan, then put it right back in the pan.  pour the prepared ganache over it and place it in the fridge overnight.

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Overnight is the key to a good cheesecake.  For some reason it continues to meld together and comes to it’s creamiest point at about 36 hours out of the oven.  Don’t skip this step, as it is crucial for optimum taste!

The following evening, we cut and served it.  My girls ate the ganache off the top, and that was it.  The hubby and me, oh, we ate the whole thing, it was divine.  Like fresh cold watermelon in the summer, just amazing on your tongue!  Thank you Jenny, it was a wonderful challenge and a wonderful April in our house!

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Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake:

crust:
2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

cheesecake:
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

DIRECTIONS:
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.

Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil “casserole” shaped pans from the grocery store. They’re 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.

Prep notes: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for almost an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Please plan accordingly!

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