Sunday, December 2, 2012

Caramelized White Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake

I made this cheesecake twice in one week around Thanksgiving, and both times they were completely gone within 2-3 days. I've gotten raves and a ton of people have asked for the recipe, only to be mildly disappointed because it seems too complicated, so they just toss it aside. While the recipe may seem complex since it has three parts to make: filling, topping, and crust, it's definitely worth it. I'm going to go through the steps, as well as some tips to simplify it to cut down on time.

First is to make the caramelized white chocolate. The original recipe by the Voltaggio brothers calls for a pressure cooker, but since I don't own one (sad face), I had to get crafty. I stumbled across how to make caramelized white chocolate using an oven on David Lebovitz's blog.

It's pretty simple: just melt a 10oz bag of white chocolate at low heat. I used the suggested 250F but got frustrated since it took too long, so I cranked it up to 300F. Add some unflavored oil to help it melt smoother. Stir every 10 minutes or so, until it's the color of peanut butter. 

Unfortunately, 300F was way too hot and I baked mine for way too long, so it came out darker than what I needed :(

Heat a cup of heavy cream in a saucepan until it's steaming hot. Stir in the browned white chocolate and whisk well. This is what mine looked like, although it's darker than what it should be. The effect of the over caramelization is that it tastes a little smokier and more caramelized, and the white chocolate undertone slightly disappears. On my second attempt, my caramelized white chocolate was perfect, but even if yours is a little overcooked, the result will still be fine.

Filling: whip together 3 blocks (8 oz each) of softened cream cheese until smooth and fluffy. I didn't want to break out the mixer, so I just mashed it, since we're going to be blending later.

In a blender, add 3 eggs, 2 egg yolks, 1 cup sugar, 2 Tbsp flour, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp cloves, 1/8 tsp nutmeg, and a dash of vanilla extract. Blend until smooth.

Add the cream cheese and blend until smooth (it looks chunky in this picture, sorry). My blender was too small to hold such a large volume of filling, so I ended up blending half of the filling at a time.

The instructions say to make your own pureed butternut squash. While I'm a patient person...I'm not THAT patient. So I substituted the 2 cups that the recipe calls for with a 16oz can of pumpkin, and that was fine. Blend until smooth, then add a few tablespoons of the caramelized white chocolate and blend again until smooth.

This is the filling. Look how smooth and creamy it is :) Keep it in the fridge while you make the crust.

Crust: crush about 10 graham crackers into crumbs. I just put the crackers in a ziplock, then rolled over it repeatedly with a glass cup (or a rolling pin if you're less ghetto lol). You need about 1 3/4 cups of crumb, then add 3 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, a dash of salt, and 1 stick of melted butter.

Mix together the crust ingredients really well, then compress into the sides of a greased springform pan.

Pour the filling into the crust (I'm proud of this action shot, it required dexterity).

Dollop some caramelized white chocolate on top, then swirl with a sharp knife. Do not overswirl of it'll look godawful. Bake in a preheated oven at 275F until set, but the middle should still be jiggly. Refrigerate overnight and it'll be ready to serve by the next day.

This is what I brought to work. I skipped all the pretty plating steps that the original recipe calls for, sorry Voltaggio brothers, I have wronged you :(

And this was from my second attempt from my Thanksgiving post. The second attempt was much better because the white chocolate topping was just right (that's why there is much less contrast between the filling and the topping in this pic), so the heady white chocolate notes were much more pronounced.

If you want to try this yourself (which you do), here's what you can do:
  1. Skip the homemade butternut squash step and sub with pumpkin filling as I did.
  2. Skip the plating steps, they're nice but not necessary.
  3. Use a store bought graham cracker crust and cut the filling recipe in half. This is what I did on the second attempt (use 1 egg + 2 yolks). 
  4. I'm not sure you want to skip this, but you can try using storebought caramel sauce instead of the homemade caramelized white chocolate. It'll taste similar to my first attempt, but if you have time and get the topping just right, you'll get perfect white chocolate undertones that are completely worth your while.
Awkward me holding a half-eaten cheesecake -_-;

Would I make this again? Yes!

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