Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Tiramisu Cheesecake

Cheesecake is an American favorite, but the New York style and Cheesecake Factory ones are usually too thick and too sweet for me. The American palate tends to turn their desserts into sugar and fat bombs that are quite bad for your health, but are sure addicting! Being health-conscious and familiar with Asian-style sweets, I lean toward less sweet or sweet and salty desserts. I like combining sweets with something slightly salty or savory and bitter, such as adding nuts. Red bean and sesame desserts are delicious to me, too, because the flavors help cut the sweetness of whatever dessert they are in.

I must admit that I do like cheesecake, but in small portions, like the cheesecake bites at Yogurtland. Sometimes, I get that craving but never go out and buy one because most restaurants and stores makes theirs too sweet and thick. Finally, I had time to make one. I found this tiramisu mascarpone by BelGioioso, and I wanted to make tiramisu, because that is one of my top favorite cakes, but that required getting heavy cream and whipping cream and other things. I already had cream cheese at home so I thought a tiramisu cheesecake would be an awesome thing to make.

After searching a bit, I found this recipe for tiramisu cheesecake on AllRecipes that met my requirements for minimal ingredients and only a moderate amount of work and complexity. Earlier, I made a batch of homemade graham crackers and decided to add that to the crust to add a bit more crunch and flavor. I made some other adjustments as I went along: (1) soaked ladyfingers in a mix of Kahlua and coffee and wedged in the cheesecake batter, (2) added more Kahlua to the crust, (3) added more Kahlua and coffee to the cheesecake batter, and (4) topped with a pretty design using finely-ground coffee. I reduced the sugar by half because of my aforementioned aversion to sweet desserts and the cheesecake came out perfectly. It was just sweet enough and just thick enough to be addicting and enjoyable without getting sugar headaches. In addition to those changes, I baked the cheesecake in a waterbath, which helps maintain moisture while baking. I think I read somewhere that the waterbath also helps the top from cracking and helps the cheesecake bake evenly.

My family was very impressed by the presentation and flavor of this cake. This is definitely a recipe that I will return to time and again when I want a show-stopping cake!

Tiramisu Cheesecake with Kahlua
1 7 oz package of ladyfinger cookies, crushed to a coarse powder
About 5 crushed graham crackers to bring up the dry weight to 12 oz (I will increase the amount of crust in the future. This was too thin for my liking)
2 Tbs Kahlua (coffee liqueur)
4 Tbs of unsalted butter, melted

16 oz of cream cheese (regular or Neufchatel)
8 oz of BelGioioso tiramisu mascarpone cheese (mascarpone cheese flavored with real coffee and sugar; you could probably make your own by mixing mascarpone with some instant espresso powder and some sugar, or with a splash of room temperature strong brewed coffee with some sugar)
2 eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
4 Tbs all-purpose flour or white whole wheat flour
3-4 Tbs Kahlua (I would add more Kahlua and coffee in the future)
3-4 Tbs of strong-brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature OR 3-4 Tbs water mixed with 1-2 tsp instant coffee granules
4-6 ladyfinger cookies
Finely ground coffee for decorating top (optional)

Special Equipment
A 9" springform, nonstick pan
A jelly roll pan with at least a 1" rim

1. Mix the crushed ladyfingers and graham crackers with the Kahlua and butter. Press into the bottom of a 9" springform pan.
2. Beat the cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, and sugar until smooth. Add the Kahlua and coffee and mix. Add the eggs and four and mix slowly, just until incorporated. You do not want to overbeat or else the cheesecake will crack as it cools.
3. Pour half of the cheesecake batter over the crust.
4. Mix the brewed coffee (at room temperature) with some Kahlua. Dip each ladyfinger in the mixture and arrange in a single layer over the cheesecake. You don't need to cover the entire top.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
6. Pour the remaining cheesecake batter over the ladyfingers. Jiggle the pan a bit to distribute the batter evenly.
7. Place the pan on a large sheet of aluminum foil. Wrap the foil up and around the sides of the pan, making sure there is no opening for water to get in. Make a second layer of aluminum foil wrap in the same fashion. Place the wrapped pan in middle of the jelly roll pan. Pour water to reach 1/2" up the side of the pan.
8. Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes - just until the cheesecake is only slightly jiggly in the center. If it is browning on top too quickly, cover the top with foil and lower the temperature 10 degrees. Once done, turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in the oven with the oven door open for 20 minutes. Then, remove from the oven, let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate at least 3 hours.
9. Before serving, dust finely ground coffee over the top, using patterned stencils if desired. Slice and serve!

1. Wipe your knife with water in between slices to prevent dragging cheese filling over the rest of the cake.
2. Cheesecake freezes and thaws well too. You can wrap individual slices, or put wax or parchment paper in between slices, then wrap and freeze. When you want to eat, just remove from the freezer, thaw, and eat!
3. You can sprinkle cocoa powder on top instead of finely-ground coffee.

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