Thursday, April 10, 2008

Creme Brulee Cheeseckake

Confession: in the week I spent in Paris, I never ate a single pastry. It's sad, but true. And, while in Senegal, I ate more ice cream at the Patisserie than I did pastries. So, my first real experience with an authentic French pastry was in Provo, Utah, of all places. And it opened right before I moved away. In my trips home to visit family, I have frequented the shop and my sister Emily introduced me to the creme brulee cheesecake. As soon as I ate it, I knew I could make it gluten-free and had to try to re-create it. Though I haven't been able to completely duplicate it, I've come close, and I assume that I'm as close as I want to get without adding loads more calories and cost to my creation. We're having houseguests this weekend and so the cheesecake is the decided dessert for Friday. I have a picture from my birthday cheesecake-bash, so I'll add that with the recipe, and will add more images when I make it tomorrow night.

The thing that drew me to this cheesecake was the crust. I had made a similar crust with a white-chocolate raspberry pastry I'd made the summer before, and so I knew I could make it for this, and, being a nut crust, fits right into our gluten free parameters. This is how I make it for the cheesecake:

1 cup walnut pieces

1/2 cup pecan pieces

¼ cup sugar

4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Pulse nuts and sugar in food processor until ground, add melted butter and pulse till consistency of moist sand. Press in bottom of springform pan and bake at 350 for 12 minutes or until golden.

Then, the premise for making the cheesecake is to make a basic cheesecake, and add a creme brulee. You don't have to do this, but I find it works very nicely.

24 oz cream cheese (I use one pkg full fat cream cheese, and two pkgs Neufatchel cheese)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 TBSP sour cream

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Blend above ingredients well in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add 3 eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition.

In the meantime, heat 1 cup heavy cream on medium low heat in a small saucepan. If I have it, I like to slit open a real vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds and heat it with the cream and 2 Tbsp sugar. If no real vanilla beans are available, then use 2 tsp vanilla extract. Heat until bubbles start to form on the sides of the pan, but do not let the cream scald. Let sit to cool slightly and then add to bowl while mixer is on low. (If you've used the bean, strain the cream into the cheese mixture)

Position a rack in the center of an oven and preheat to 325F. Have a pot of boiling water ready (I just heat the tea kettle).

Pour the cream cheese mixture into the pan, spreading it evenly. Line the outside of the pan with aluminum foil, shiny side out. Use two sheets, going opposite directions to make sure no water can get into the cake and sog the crust. Place the cheesecake in a medium roasting pan and add boiling water to fill the pan halfway up the sides of the spring form pan. Bake until the filling is just set in the center, about 1 hour.

Transfer the cheesecake to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Remove the foil, cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours.

To serve, remove the cheesecake from the spring form pan and sprinkle about 1/4 cup sugar evenly over the cheesecake. Using a kitchen torch, melt the sugar according to the caramelizing sugar instructions until evenly melted and golden. I have a small torch, and it takes forever to do this. You may also not want to purchase a torch, so you can place the cheesecake directly under the broiler and watch for the sugar to melt and carmelize. It really tastes great.

I especially like to serve this with fresh berries.

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