Sunday, September 6, 2015

Peach Pecan Cheesecake

Using fresh fruit in a recipe that requires baking does have its challenges. First of all, you have the juice issue which may add too much liquid to the recipe. The other challenge is the acid in the fruit. In review, I would say that the citrus fruits are the most acidic and the other end of the spectrum would be bananas. The mid range would be peaches, apples and melons.

While most cheesecake recipes have a fruit sauce that you ladle on top, this one actually has diced peaches baked in. That texture, along with the crunch of chopped pecans and a cookie crust, is an excellent contrast to the creamy cheesecake. The cream cheese batter bakes up with a nice depth of flavor, incorporating a blend of dark brown sugar and peach schnapps. The chopped additions of diced peaches and toasted pecans offer an occasional zing of flavor.

My co-workers really liked this dessert and it disappeared quite quickly, so I this particular recipe is marked as a keeper. The instructions are for 1 nine inch cheesecake.

Peach Pecan Cheesecake
adapted from Cheesecake Extraordinaire

3 tbs chopped toasted pecans
3 tbs melted butter
11 vanilla sandwich cream cookies

Ingredients/Peach Pecan Filling
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
1 1/4 cup peeled and diced fresh peaches
5 tsp cornstarch
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
24 oz cream cheese
1 egg yolk
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbs heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup peach schnapps

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan.

Using a food processor or blender, grind the cookies into a fine powder. Empty contents into a small bowl and stir in the pecan pieces. Pour in the melted butter and mix until all crumbs are damp and can clump together. Transfer mixture to springform pan and press into the bottom, forming a flat, even layer on the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with brown sugar and cream cheese. Beat until smooth. Sift in the cornstarch and beat for 30 seconds, so it is evenly distributed into the batter. Add egg yolk and beat on low speed for 15 seconds. Repeat this process for each egg. Once all the eggs are blended, add vanilla extract, peach schnapps and whipping cream. Beat again on low speed for about 1 minute.

Remove bowl from stand mixer and fold in pecans and diced peaches. Pour the batter over the crust in the springform pan. The baking process will be in intervals. Bake the cheesecake for the first session at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Then lower the oven temperature to 225 degrees and bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. The cheesecake will be done once the center no longer looks wet or shiny.

Take the cheesecake out of the oven and run a knife around the inside, between the pan ring and the cheesecake. Also, turn the oven off. Put the cheescake back in the oven for another hour.  After the hour has expired, place in refrigerator to chill overnight.

Tips and Notes:
1. Use only fresh fruit, canned and frozen will have too much liquid for this recipe.

2. None of the recipes in this book use a water bath in order to keep the cheesecakes from cracking. The book does offer other pointers in order to minimize cracks, but none are guaranteed to prevent all cracks. The eggs should not be over beaten into the batter, which is why the instructions state using low speed when blending. Also, running a knife around the interior edge right after baking helps because the cheesecake will contract upon cooling. Other tips include: making sure your oven is at the correct temperature and not overbaking the cheesecake.

3. So you did everything right and you still have a cracked cheesecake? The author suggests using a wet knife to smooth it out on top when the cheesecake is still hot. However, due to discoloration, a dry knife is recommended with chocolate cheesecakes. This will not fix "Grand Canyon" cracks. Those are the big cracks that result when the cheesecake is overbaked.

4. Do not cover your cheesecake when you place it in the refrigerator to chill. Covering will cause moisture to form on top.

5. For best flavor, cheesecakes should be made 1 day in advance of serving.

6. If you are making a cheesecake with topping, slicing prior to the topping is easier. Slicing should be done with a thin, hot and sharp knife.
                                            **LAST YEAR:Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese**