Tuesday, December 23, 2014

White Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake


Here's a last minute idea for Christmas dessert. White Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake. Oh Boy! Cheesecake is one of my all time favorite desserts. Any kind really. As long as its cheesecake and this one fits the bill for the holidays. A smooth mellow white chocolate batter, spiked with peppermint extract, sprinkled with crushed candy canes and sitting atop a chocolate Oreo crust. This will last a few days so making it now is a good option. It also freezes beautifully. I actually froze it, cut it into serving sizes, wrapped those tightly in plastic wrap, and popped them back in the freezer. Single servings of cheesecake anytime I want. It IS Christmas. 

I've adapted this recipe from my current blog crush "The Woodland Bakery Blog". Go check out Gretchen's tips for cheesecakes, they are invaluable. Although this recipe is step intensive it doesn't really have any fancy technique. It's pretty hard to mess it up. So in the interest of time, let's get to it. . .

One key to success is proper pan prep. Say that ten times fast. I'm using a high (4-inch) sided, removable bottom, non-stick cake pan. You can use a regular 8-inch cake pan but it will be a bit more work to remove the cheesecake once its cooked and cooled. Start your prep by cutting a circle of parchment to fit the bottom of the pan.

Grease the bottom and sides of the pan, fit the parchment circle in the bottom and grease that. If you're using a pan without a removable bottom, you can also line the sides of the pan with greased parchment. Next, wrap the outside of the pan with a double layer of heavy duty aluminum foil. This prevents water from the water bath from seeping into the pan. Again, if you're using a pan without a removable bottom, you can skip this step.

For the water bath, you'll want a pan that is at least 2-inches bigger than your baking pan all the way around. I'm using a 12-inch cake pan. Ok, enough on pan prep. You may notice that I trimmed the foil at the top of the pan. There is no need to do this, I've just got a bit of OCD.

Start with the crust: Oreos and butter are all you need. I like a chocolate crust for this cheesecake so I use Oreos but if you prefer graham cracker the method is the same.

Break up the Oreos into a food processor fitted with a blade and pulse until you have fine crumbs.

Add the melted butter and toss to distribute the butter evenly.

Press the mixture into the bottom of your expertly prepped pan and bake at 350°F until it starts to brown and is set. If you are using Oreos, you'll smell it more than see it. Set aside to cool.

Now on to the cheesecake. You'll need: cream cheese, eggs, granulated sugar, good quality white chocolate, heavy cream (not shown), peppermint extract and peppermint candies or candy canes.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave, 30 seconds at a time until smooth. Let it cool slightly but it should remain liquid.

Use a meat tenderizer or other heavy smasher type tool to break up the peppermint candies. I put them in a zipper bag, and wrap that in a towel. I've also noticed lately that stores are starting to sell already crushed peppermint bits in the baking section. That would make things a whole lot easier. See what you can fined.

You'll need about 1/4 cup of the peppermint bits and you'll want them pretty small, about 1/8-inch sized pieces.

To pull the whole mix together, start by creaming the cream cheese. BTW, it (as well as all your ingredients) should be at room temperature.

Slowly add the sugar and continue to beat until smooth. You'll want to stop the mixer a couple of times and scrape down the sides to make sure it's well mixed. Add the peppermint extract and blend well.

Add the cooled, but still liquid, white chocolate and blend well. Here is where it's critical that all ingredients be at room temperature. If you mix is cold, the chocolate will turn solid before it is blended with the cream cheese and you'll get lumps of chocolate in your cake.

In a small bowl, combine the eggs and heavy cream and whisk until smooth.  Then slowly add the egg/cream mixture, a 1/3 at a time, scraping the sides after each addition, until well blended. Avoid whipping the mix, you're not trying to get air in the mix and if you whip it you risk your cake cracking as it bakes. Lastly, gently fold in the peppermint bits.

Pour the batter over the baked and cooled crust and set this pan in the larger pan.

Set the whole thing on the center rack of the preheated 350°F oven and fill the outer pan with boiling water. Water should come about 1/2 way up the side of the cheesecake pan.

Bake for about 1 hour. Cheesecake is done when the center barely jiggles, like Jello. If it seems to liquidy, give it a few more minutes. Then, turn the oven off, crack the door (a wooden spoon works well to hold it open) and let the cheesecake cool for 1 hour. In spite of my efforts, I still got a few cracks around the edges. No big deal, they'll kind of disappear as it cools. Someday though, I'll finally make a crack free cheesecake. Someday.

After an hour cooling in the oven, set it out on the counter until completely cool. See there, the cracks have kinda disappeared, kinda. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. 

To remove the cake and serve: If you used a removable bottom pan, just run a knife around the edge to loosen and pop up from the bottom. If you used a regular cake pan, you want to heat the sides and bottom of the pan to loosen the fats. Use a blow torch, open flame on the stove or set the pan in another pan (like the one from the water bath) with boiling water. Run a hot wet knife around the edge. Place a plate over the top and invert the pan. Tap gently until you feel the cheesecake release. Remove the parchment from the bottom and then invert to right side up on a serving plate. 

There you have it. Creamy, pepperminty, white chocolaty, delicious. I've made a lot of different cheesecake recipes over the years and I'd say this, so far, is the best. Both in ease of preparation and taste. I can't wait to try other variations, my head is swimming with possibilities.

Check out these links for tips on making cheesecake:

White Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake
Adapted from Woodland Bakery Blog

3-8oz. packages cream cheese*
3/4 C. granulated sugar
6 oz. white chocolate, melted and cooled
1 t. peppermint extract
5 eggs*
1/3 C. heavy cream*
1/4 C. crushed peppermint candies

1 C. Oreo cookie crumbs
3 T. melted butter

*It is important that all ingredients are at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350°F
Grease the bottom and sides of an 8-inch cake pan. Line with parchment, cut to fit, and grease the parchment paper.
Combine the Oreo crumbs and melted butter and press evenly into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes until set and slightly browned. Set aside to cool.
In a large stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, blend the cream cheese on medium speed until creamy. Slowly add the sugar, stoping the mixer as necessary to scrape down the sides. Blend until smooth. Add the melted white chocolate and blend until combined.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, heavy cream and peppermint extract.
With the mixer on low, slowly add the egg/cream mixture, a 1/3 at a time. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Blend until smooth, don't whip. Fold in the crushed peppermints.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Set pan into a larger pan on center rack of oven. Fill the outer pan with boiling water to 1/2 way up the side of the cake pan. Bake for 1 hour or until the center jiggles just slightly. Turn the oven off, prop the door open and let cool for an hour in the oven. Then let cool completely on the counter before wrapping and chilling overnight in the refrigerator.
To remove cake from pan, heat the sides and the bottom of the cake and run a hot knife around the sides. Invert onto a plate and tap until the cake releases, remove parchment and invert again onto a serving plate.
Store refrigerated for 1 week or frozen, tightly wrapped, for two months.

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