As my fellow Daring Bakers will notice, I was a day late in posting.  After skipping last month.  But this month’s challenge was something I could really get into, as I happen to love cheesecake, and I make a mean one to boot.  We were given a basic cheesecake recipe and then told to do what we wanted with it.

I happened to choose espresso chocolate chip, as I LOVE the combination of chocolate and coffee.  Nothing goes better together…at least at the moment.  I actually made this cheesecake a few weeks ago at my parents house, and it was sadly dropped on the floor before anyone was able to sample it.  My mom had the fridge full of food, and my dad, unawares that I had literally shoved the cheesecake in there (why I didn’t just put it in the fridge in the basement is beyond me), opened the door, and that was that.  But that was also the same night that the BU hockey team won the NCAA title (go terriers! and no, I didn’t go there), so it wasn’t ALL bad.

I was able to sample my sad little cheesecake, and in turn was able to tweak it a bit.  The second time around I left out liqueur, and used mini chocolate chips instead of full sized ones, as they tended to sink into the batter (although the minis did as well, they were just cuter).  I also made a few mini cheesecakes, and according to my sister in law’s husband, they were just the right amount of cheesecake for him.

Now my husband won’t touch the stuff, and I didn’t want to stuff my face full of it and immediately hate myself for doing such a thing, so I sent it to work with him, as I knew my coworkers would both love and hate me for bringing it in.  It was promptly devoured by his colleagues.  Which is no easy task, if you ask me.

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

Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake:

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

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.

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!

For my variation I stirred in a bag of mini chocolate chips at the end, and added instant espresso to taste.  The espresso I didn’t measure, so it’s something you kind of have to play around with until you get a flavor that works for you.  I also baked mine in a spring form pan and stayed away from the water bath, I’m not really picky about the top cracking, it’s all about how it tastes!