So I am finally just getting back into the groove of things after the move, and now I am going to throw a wrench into the daily routine by going on vacation! Trust me, I am not complaining about getting away, I am just thinking about all the stuff I’ll have to do when I return. Since the house we bought was a short sale, the yard is in disarray and is in need of some TLC, especially if I want to get a garden planted in time for Summer. I have also been dealing with computer issues (more than just issues, I got to find out what the “white screen of death” on a macbook is) and haven’t been able to upload photos or write blog posts about my most recent forays in the kitchen. I finally have the computer under control though (thanks to my husband’s buddy who is a mac expert and determined my hard drive was shot) and can share this ridiculously rich and creamy salted caramel cheesecake I made this past weekend.
I made this cheesecake for the first time at work about a month ago, and I knew when I tasted it I had to make it for my high school girlfriends. I know you’re probably thinking “How old is this girl? She still hangs with her high school friends?” Well, I am 30, and unfortunately I don’t see my high school friends all that often. In the past 13 years we have gone our separate ways. But even though we live in different cities, have met new friends, have gotten married, and have had kids (not me!), 5 of us still remain pretty close and we try to see each other whenever we can. My upcoming vacation is actually a three leg tour of the East Coast, and the first 3 days will be spent in North Carolina with my high school girlfriends. It has been probably 4 years since we have all been together, and this is a long overdue girl’s weekend. Our plan is to head to the coast and then spend time catching-up and reminiscing about our younger years (most likely with wine glasses in hand).
As a precursor to the trip, this past weekend my friend Kristen was in town celebrating her son’s 1st birthday and I knew it would be the perfect opportunity for the cheesecake. When we were in high, my friends Kristen and Amy had a love affair with the dense, creamy cake and it was served quite often at birthday celebrations. I however, didn’t love cheesecake, there just wasn’t enough sugar or chocolate! Since my high school days though, I have acquired the taste, but I still prefer a touch of sweetness in combination with the savory cream cheese, hence the salted caramel. Caramel is delicious on it’s own, but the addition of gray salt or fleur de sel enhances the flavor and helps to balance the sweetness. I am not going to lie though, this cheesecake is rich, dense, and on the sweeter side. Even though the recipe only makes a 9″ cheesecake, this cake easily serves 10-12 adults because of how decadent it is. It also can be quite messy when it starts to warm up to room temperature and the caramel begins to soften. Cold or room temperature though, this cheesecake is delicious and was a hit among the adult guests at the party.
This past weekend’s celebration with my girlfriends was just a warm up to my upcoming vacation. I am sure there will be much more eating, drinking, and socializing while we are all together in North Carolina. After I leave my friends, I fly to Pennsylvania where I will meet my husband and my parents. We are heading into the country to my mom’s cousin’s house/farm for 3 days. I have only visited once before, when I was about 5, and all I can recall are seeing lots of green pastures and fluffy baby lambs. I hope to catch up with my distant relatives, and this time eat a fluffy baby lamb! When we leave Pennsylvania, we finish our East Coast tour with 3 days in New York City. Other than seeing the sights, I am of course planning to eat my way through the city. There will be pizza, bagels, jewish delis, italian, and a special stop just for cheesecake. Stay tuned for posts in the next couple weeks about my travels.
For the Crust:
2 cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
3 TBSP Sugar
5 oz Butter – Salted (melted)
2 TBSP Salted Caramel Sauce
For the Cheesecake:
24 oz Cream Cheese – room temperature
1 1/2 Cups Salted Caramel Sauce – room temperature
2 TBSP All Purpose Flour
3/4 cup Sugar
1 TBSP Vanilla Extract
4 Large Eggs – room temperature
For the Salted Caramel Sauce:
1 cup Light Corn Syrup
1 2/3 cup Sugar
8 TBSP Butter – Salted (cut into bits)
1 1/3 cup Heavy Cream
*Garnish – Pinch of Sea Salt or Fleur de Sel
- Start by making the salted caramel sauce. Heat the corn syrup on medium in a heavy-bottomed medium pot. Add the sugar, and stir with a wooden spoon slowly until it is dissolved. Allow to cook untouched until the sugary syrup starts to turn golden brown (about 9 minutes). If the edges are getting brown quicker than the middle, you can swirl the pot to incorporate the cooler sugar in the middle. Remove pot from the heat, and carefully add the bits of butter. Swirl or stir with wooden spoon until it is dissolved. Then slowly stream in the heavy cream while stirring with the spoon. Stand back a little at this point, because the sugar will start to bubble. Continue to stir until the sauce is smooth and all the sugar is evenly distributed. You can put the pot back over low heat if needed. Transfer the hot caramel to another bowl, and allow to cool.
- Preheat oven to 375F. Prepare a 9″ or 10″ springform pan, by cutting a piece of parchment into the round bottom. In a medium sized bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar, and 2 TBSP of the caramel sauce. Stir until the graham cracker crumbs are moistened. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the spring form pan and about 2″ up the side of the pan. Cook in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool.
- Reduce oven temperature to 300F. To make the cheesecake, make sure all ingredients are at room temperature. You can speed up the process if needed by using the defrost setting on the microwave for the cream cheese. If you have a large food processor (cuisinart or other brand) this is preferable. If not, a mixer will work too. Beat the cream cheese in the processor or mixer until light and smooth. You don’t want any lumps. Then slowly add in 2 cups of the salted caramel. Next add the flour, sugar, and vanilla extract. Mix until combined. Then add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides if needed. Once the batter is smooth (do not overmix), pour batter into the pan with the crust. Place in the middle of the oven, but on a upper shelf. Fill an oven safe pot or cake pan with hot/boiling water and place on the oven shelf right below the cheesecake. This will help create humidity and keep the cheesecake from getting too dry. Check the cheesecake after about 45 minutes. It should be starting to brown on top, but still might be just a bit “jiggly in the middle.” Turn the oven off, and crack the oven door about 2″. Allow the cheesecake to cool in the cooling oven. After about 30 minutes, remove the cheesecake from the oven and allow to cool at room temperature for an hour. Then place the cheesecake in the fridge, until ready to serve.
- The final touch on the cheesecake is the caramel topping. A half hour before serving the cheesecake, remove the cheesecake from the fridge and take it out of the springform mold. Pour the remaining Salted Caramel Sauce over the top (there should be a small well on top from where the cheesecake sank a little). Sprinkle Sea Salt or Fleur de Sel over the top if you like. If the caramel is a little stiff, warm it a little in the microwave before topping the cheesecake. Place the cheesecake back in the fridge to allow the caramel to set back up (takes about 20 minutes). When ready to serve, cut with a hot knife.