Turtle Cheesecake (2/52)

It was fully my intent to share a German Chocolate Cake recipe with you all today.  I’ve wanted to make one for, well, forever, and I did actually make one to celebrate my mom and mother-in-law’s birthdays as they’re only a few days apart from each other.  The thing is that my husband and father both dislike coconut, and I have this thing about having a little something for everyone, especially when celebrating a birthday.  Enter this cheesecake.  I was going to just make a basic one, but I don’t know the definition of basic; besides, a Turtle Cheesecake sounded so much better.

I started looking for recipes for and couldn’t find anything I liked.  Not one.  Every recipe on almost every blog that I looked at called for condensed milk and three eggs– just renditions of the recipe that can be found on the Eagle Brand website.  None of the pictures I found looked the least bit appetizing to me, so I did what I always do.  I made it up.  Martha Stewart’s Easter Cheesecake looked like a good starting point and I’d seen a recipe for a pecan crust for some brownies on bakingdom.com earlier in the week.

This is how I found myself at seven o’clock at night, camera, notebook, and pen in hand, all of the chocolate and caramel that I have on hand on my countertop, trying to create my own personal version of a Turtle Cheesecake.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the results of all of that hard work:

Try not to drool too much on your keyboards.

Turtle Cheesecake

Crust inspired by Darla’s crust for her German Chocolate Brownie Bars at bakingdom.com; basic cheesecake recipe adapted from Martha Stewart’s Easter Cheesecake ‘The Martha Stewart Show’ (2006)

Ingredients:

Crust:

3/4 cups finely chopped pecans

8 cinnamon graham crackers

1/8 tsp. salt, to taste

1/3 cup brown sugar

6 Tbsp. butter, melted

Filling:

2 lbs. (32 oz.) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 ½ cups sugar

4 large eggs, room temperature & lightly beaten

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/3 cup caramel bits, chopped

¼ cup pecans, chopped

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Toppings:

1 Tbsp. Caramel sauce (your choice)

1 Tbsp. Chocolate sauce (your choice)

1 Tbsp. Chopped pecans

Directions:

Get ready:

Move oven rack to the lower 1/3 of your oven.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.    Place large roasting pan filled 1/3 of the way with water into oven.

Prepare 10-inch springform pan by tightly wrapping it in aluminum foil.  Multiple large sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil will probably be necessary.  The goal is to keep water from the water bath (bain marie) away from the crust of the cheesecake.  If the water seeps in, then the crust will be a mushy mess.  I used seven sheets of aluminum foil and was still unable to keep the water completely out.

Go ahead and roughly chop the caramel bits, pecans, and bittersweet chocolate for the cheesecake filling, mixing them in one bowl once chopped.  Set the bowl aside.

Make the crust:

Place the chopped pecans and graham crackers in a gallon-sized zip-top bag.  Squeeze out most of the air, sealing the bag 95 percent of the way.  Crush the crackers with a rolling pin or a mallet or your hands.  Your call.

Periodically shake the bag a bit to mix the crackers and pecans together.

Empty the mixture into a medium-sized bowl.

See all those bigger chunks?  I used the end of my rolling pin to break them into tiny pieces– think mortar and pestle.

Mix the salt and brown sugar into the pecan mixture.  The salt is more or less to taste. I used a few sprinkle of the salt shaker and I think that may have been too much.

Pour in the melted butter and mix just until all ingredients are combined.

Press as much of the crust mixture into the bottom of the pan as you want.  I don’t like a thick crust, and I wanted to save some for an idea I had for strawberry cheesecake ice cream, so I used all but about 1/3 cup of my crust mixture.

When pressing the crust down, I’ve found used the bottom of a clean measuring cup works wonders.

Prepare the filling:

In a large bowl (stand mixer or regular bowl with a hand mixer) at medium speed, beat the cream cheese until fluffy.  Not like this.  This is cream cheese before mixing.  You know, just in case you didn’t know what that looked like.  Oh, you did? Oops.

Slowly add the sugar in a relatively steady stream.  This helps to keep the filling from becoming grainy.

After the sugar is added, add the cream in a slow stream.

The addition of the cream made the mixture creamier than any cheesecake I’ve ever made.  It was also considerably less dense.

Then add the beaten eggs

and vanilla extract.

Turn the mixer off and scrape the sides of the bowl down to make sure everything is fully incorporated.

Pour in the chopped caramel, chocolate, and pecans,

and gently fold them into the cream cheese batter..

Pour the mixture over the crust in the prepared springform pan.

Bake it:

Carefully set the pan into the water bath.

Be very careful—the water should be hot by now and you don’t want to slosh water onto yourself (ouch) or into your cheesecake filling (yuck).  The water should come no higher than halfway up the sides of your pan.  If it does, use a heat-proof measuring cup to remove some of the water.  Slowly and very, very carefully, slide the rack back into the oven and close that door!

Bake the cheesecake for approximately 90 minutes or until the cheesecake is firm.  Mine took exactly 90 minutes.  Turn the oven off and prop the door open with a wooden spoon or a ball of aluminum foil.

Allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven for about two hours.

See how dark it is in this photo?  It was one o’clock in the morning.  My timing, it’s brilliant!  Brilliant, I tell you.

Store it:

Once cool, wrap the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 8-24 hours.  I put a small square of waxed paper directly on top of the cheesecake before wrapping it in plastic wrap.  Whether that was necessary or not, I don’t know, but it made me feel better.

Garnish & serve it:

Caramel Sauce

I used Hershey’s Caramel Topping for mine, but only because I had about 20 minutes left before guests arrived.  You can use any caramel sauce that you’d like, though.

Chocolate Sauce:

Because I also made a German Chocolate cake as one of the evening’s desserts, I just melted some of the ganache that I used as frosting.  You could use store-bought chocolate or hot fudge sauce, if you prefer.  You could also just melt a little chocolate with a little butter mixed into it.

Now remove the cheesecake from the pan, and sprinkle the top with chopped pecans.  Then go all Jackson Pollock with the caramel and chocolate sauces.

Yeah, it took me ten minutes to clean off my countertops, cabinets, and stove, but it was worth it.

The cheesecake is rather large– 10  inches across.  We had six adults over to eat dinner and dessert, and everyone had a slice and took home a slice as well.  We also sent a couple of slices to some neighbors and a slice to a coworker.  This great big cheesecake was so quickly reduced that I had to hide the last slice just for a beauty shot.

Hence the lack of a cake in the background:

And, while I tried to resist, I’m afraid this last lowly piece of not-so-humble cheesecake became my breakfast.

And it was delicious.

Yield: 8-16 slices, depending on how you like it

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