Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bourbon and Cheese for dessert?

Many people cannot stand cheesecake. And yet many people swear by it. Last night I was offered a bourbon-caramel cheesecake at a birthday gathering, a feast that also included cayenne dry-rub smoked ribs, hush puppies and Sriracha-infused mac & cheese. I thought I might die of cardiac arrest, but the first bite prepared me for any potential medical emergency that might ensue from said meal: a state of serene bliss. I asked my friend for the recipe and offer it here with adaptations and thoughts on perfecting the recipe. Let me know what you think.

Bourbon Caramel Cheesecake

1.5 cups graham-cracker crumbs [or perhaps a mixture of crushed pretzels, chocolate cookies, and ground almonds]
3 Tbs brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 Tbs unsalted butter, melted

3 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, room temperature
1.25 cups sugar
6 eggs, separated
1 pint sour cream
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp vanilla
Zest of 1 lemon
1/3 cup bourbon, plus more for brushing

Bourbon-Caramel Topping
1 cup refined white sugar
6 Tbs salted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1-2 Tbs bourbon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

To make crust: Grease 9x3-in springform pan with butter; place pan in center of a 12-in square of aluminum foil and press foil up around side of pan. Combine graham-cracker crumbs (or other mixture), sugar, cinnamon and melted butter in a small bowl until blended well. Press 3/4 cup of crumb mixture into bottom and side of pan. Chill prepared pan while preparing the filling.

To make filling: Beat cream cheese in a large bowl until soft with electric mixer. Beat in sugar gradually until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks, one a time, until blended well. Stir in sour cream, flour, vanilla, lemon rind and bourbon until smooth. In separate bowl, beat egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Fold whites into the cheese mixture until blended well. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake at 350ºF for 75 minutes, or until top is golden; turn off oven heat and allow cake to cool in oven for 1 hour. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack at room temperature. Chill overnight before serving. The next day, before adding the topping, prick the top of cake with a toothpick and brush with an ounce or two of bourbon.

To make caramel topping: Melt the sugar over medium heat in a medium saucepan, then add butter, stirring vigorously. Remove from heat and carefully add cream, stirring until incorporated. It will bubble up and is extremely hot. Stir in bourbon and vanilla. Mixture will thicken as it cools.

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