Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cheesecake worth dreaming about...

by Ann
Ginger is one of my all-time favorite flavors.  I share the love for this taste with my mom and a few of my closest girlfriends.  We are on the constant look-out for recipes featuring this wonderful ingredient.

For the past ten years I have been an active member of a women’s service organization that devotes its efforts to earning money to then donate to charities, most of which benefit women and families in need in our area, and to provide scholarships for high school students who share our passion for community service.  When we’re not busy with a fundraising project, we’re doing something fun, which almost always includes eating. 

A dessert reception is held for the scholarship recipients and their parents to highlight the students’ accomplishments and to congratulate them.  The club members take extra care to make this evening lovely, and typically the desserts are fabulous.  A couple of years ago one of those decadent treats was a crystallized ginger cheesecake that was so good that I had a dream about it (no kidding!) a few nights later.

One of the ingredients is a full pound of white chocolate.  I would never sit down and eat white chocolate for a treat – in fact I’m somewhat offended that it is even called chocolate, when it is certainly not!  However, as the sweet ingredient in this cake it makes the end product so rich and sinful that I am willing to give white chocolate props this one time.

I have used different types of gingersnaps for the crust which has always turned out well, but I must say that the Nyaker snaps (from Cost Plus World Market) that I raved about as dippers for the pumpkin dip in a previous post work wonderfully for this as well.

If you try this recipe you will see why it was dream-worthy.  I make it on special occasions for large gatherings because it takes a while to put it together, the ingredients are a bit spendy, and it makes a huge cake.  I have cut the recipe in half using a 6” springform pan which works well, but it takes as much time and effort to make the smaller version, so as long as I’m going to all of the work to make it….

The end product comes out looking as beautiful as any quality restaurant cheesecake, but you have to do it right to get the desired appearance and consistency.  Besides the obvious components like using fresh quality ingredients and mixing thoroughly, the key is to cook the wrapped cake in a water bath at a low temperature for a long baking time.

I use a double layer of the largest width (18” width) of aluminum foil around the springform pan and a turkey roasting pan as the vehicle for the water bath.
Pictured above is the oh-so-yummy mixture of ginger snaps, meleted butter, and powdered ginger pressed into the bottom of a springform pan double wrapped in heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Yummm...  You can see how beautifully golden brown this is when it came out of the oven after baking for between 1 1/2 and 2 hours in a water bath in a turkey roaster.
See below for the recipe.  Yes, there should be a lovely photo of the finished product plated, but hey, this is only week three of the blog, and I don't have all the steps figured out quite yet -- I brought the beautiful end product (you'll have to take my word on this) to a family gathering, where it got rave reviews!

White Chocolate - Ginger Cheesecake
13 oz ginger snap cookies (about 50)
2 T sugar
1 t ground ginger
6 ½ T unsalted butter, melted, cooled
1 lb. good quality white chocolate  (Lindt, Bakers), finely chopped
4 8 oz pkgs cream cheese at room temp
¼ c sugar
4 large eggs, room temp
1 large egg yolk, room temp
1 T vanilla extract
1 t ground ginger
2/3 c minced crystallized ginger
For crust:
·         Butter 9-inch diameter spring form pan with 2 ¾ inch high sides.
·         Wrap the outside of the pan with 2 layers of heavy-duty foil.
·         Finely grind cookies, sugar, and ginger in food processor.  Add butter; blend until moist clumps form.  Press onto bottom and up sides of the pan. 
·         Chill while preparing the filling.
For filling:
·         Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 300 degrees. 
·         Stir white chocolate in top of double boiler set over hot water until chocolate melts.  Cool too lukewarm, stirring occasionally.
·         Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until fluffy, about 3 minutes. 
·         Add eggs and yolk 1 at a time, beating just until combined after each addition. 
·         Beat in vanilla and ground ginger.
·         Gradually beat in melted white chocolate.
·         Stir in crystallized ginger
·         Transfer filling to prepared crust.
To bake:
·         Place springform pan in large roasting pan.  Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of springform pan.
·         Bake until cheesecake puffs and edges crack slightly, about 1 ½ hours
·      Transfer cake to cooling rack.  Run small knife around sides of cake to loosen.
·         Cool completely.  Remove foil from pan sides.  Chill cake overnight. 
This cake can be prepared 3 days ahead – keep covered and chilled.
When ready to serve, release sides of pan and transfer to cake platter.

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