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Multi-layered cheesecakes


In this story:

Raspberry and Almond Praline Cheesecake

Spirited Pumpkin Spice and Rum Cheesecake

Triple-decker Chocolate, Coffee and Toffee Cheesecake



(Los Angeles Times Syndicate) -- As I was checking out of the supermarket with the 10 pounds of cream cheese for my cheesecake experiments, the checkout person noticed the stacks of cream cheese boxes and said wistfully, "You must be making cheesecakes." She had lived in New York City and went on to describe her favorite cheesecakes from city bakeries.

 Cheesecake tips:

Springform pans make good choices for baking cheesecakes. They are deep and have sides that release easily. If baking the cheesecake in a water bath, wrap the pans with foil to make them watertight.

Soften the cream cheese thoroughly. If you press the cream cheese with your finger, it should feel soft and not cold. Placing the wrapped packages of cream cheese in a sunny window for 30 minutes to an hour speeds softening. On a hot day watch the cream cheese carefully.

I prefer full-fat cream cheese rather than reduced-fat cream cheese for these cheesecakes. It has less water and yields a firmer textured cheesecake.

Most cheesecakes can be frozen for up to one month. Cool them thoroughly and refrigerate overnight. Remove the cold cheesecake from the pan and slide it onto a cardboard circle or serving platter. Wrap it tightly with plastic wrap, then with heavy foil. Label with date and contents. Thaw the wrapped cheesecake overnight in the refrigerator. Any moisture that forms during thawing forms on the wrapping, not on the cheesecake.

Cut cheesecakes with a large sharp knife and wipe the knife clean after each slice is cut.

Although cheesecakes are soft when warm and freshly baked, they become firm as they cool and even firmer after being refrigerated.

The people in line behind me were listening and began chiming in with their favorites. It was an impromptu sampling, but 100 percent were in the cheesecake lovers' group. Then I mentioned my latest cheesecake idea of dividing one batch of cheesecake batter and adding different flavors to it to produce multi-layered cheesecakes -- raspberry with almond, pumpkin with rum or a triple-layered mocha toffee cheesecake. Everyone in line began clamoring for recipes and volunteering to come to my house to do the taste test. I decided I'd better make my exit and begin baking.

Despite their fancy reputation, cheesecakes are easy to make if you're familiar with the mixing and baking process. Soften the cream cheese thoroughly because soft cream cheese mixes easily into a smooth batter. If the cream cheese is cold, no matter how long you beat it, little white specks will remain in the batter. A quick method for softening cream cheese is to let the wrapped packages stand in a sunny window just until they feel soft.

Mixing a cheesecake batter is just a matter of combining ingredients rather than trying to beat air into the mixture. Mix cheesecakes on low speed, just to the point that each ingredient blends smoothly into the batter.

Baking cheesecakes in a moist, warm environment suits them perfectly. Commercial bakeries create the moisture with steam injection ovens, but for home-baked cheesecakes a water bath works fine.

Before filling a springform pan, wrap a large piece of heavy foil around the outside of it to make it watertight. Fill the pan with the batter, place the filled pan in a large baking pan, and place both in a preheated oven set at a moderate 325 degrees. Pour hot water into the large baking pan to reach about 1 inch up the sides of the springform pan and bake the cheesecake in this steamy water bath.

When done, the cheesecake looks set and may have a few tiny cracks around the edge. These cracks close up as the cheesecake cools.

Cool cheesecakes slowly and protect them from drafts. Let them remain in the water bath at room temperature, loosely covered with paper towel, for the first hour. The paper towel allows steam to vent, preventing any moisture from forming on the cheesecake. After 1 hour, the cheesecake is firmly set and can be uncovered for thorough cooling.

When baking these multi-layered cheesecakes, bake each layer until it is firm enough to have another layer poured over it without collapsing. Add additional layers of batter carefully by pouring the batter slowly around the inside edge of the pan. The batter will flow evenly towards the center and cover the top of the cheesecake. I put darker colored layers or heavier chocolate ones on the bottom.

For example, a strawberry and vanilla combination would have the lighter colored vanilla batter on top. Adding chocolate to cheesecake batter makes a dense mixture that is best baked as the bottom layer, so coffee and toffee layers would bake on top of a chocolate one. Alternating the light and dark colors adds to the striking presentation.

Store cheesecakes in the refrigerator, but let them stand at room temperature for about 1 hour to bring out the most flavor. If fresh fruit toppings are used, they will be at their best if added when the cheesecake is served.

Raspberry and Almond Praline Cheesecake

Any cheesecake is party fare, but raspberries and praline make this cheesecake an especially elegant choice. The butter crust holds a layer of raspberry cheesecake topped with a layer of vanilla cheesecake flavored with almond praline. Almond praline is made from a mixture of almonds cooked with caramelized sugar. It can be prepared ahead, sealed tightly and frozen, to be used as needed.

Toasted ground almonds can be substituted, but they will have less crunch than the almond praline.

Use fresh or frozen unsweetened and thawed raspberries for the puree. Serve this exceptionally soft and creamy cheesecake cold.

Almond Praline:

  • Butter for pan
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup blanched slivered almonds

Crust:

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup almond praline powder or ground toasted blanched almonds
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus extra for pan

Filling:

  • 2 pounds cream cheese, softened 3 to 4 hours at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups almond praline powder or ground toasted almonds
  • 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened raspberry puree, strained from about 2 cups raspberries
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries, for serving with cheesecake, optional

To prepare Almond Praline, lightly oil metal baking sheet. Cook sugar over low heat in large, heavy skillet or medium saucepan, preferably with nonstick finish, stirring occasionally with wooden spoon.

When sugar begins to melt, increase heat to medium and cook sugar to light golden color, about 6 minutes.

Add nuts, stirring to coat completely with syrup, about 1 minute. Mixture will turn slightly darker golden color.

Immediately pour praline onto prepared baking sheet, spreading with wooden spoon. Be careful. Mixture is very hot. Cool until hard and cool to touch.

Break praline into 1- to 2-inch pieces and crush with clean hammer, rolling pin or meat pounder into small pieces, about 1/2 inch. Process praline in food processor until it forms a powder.

Praline powder is ready to use same day or can be frozen up to 3 months.

Makes about 2 cups.

To prepare crust, butter 9-inch springform pan with sides at least 2 3/4 inches high. Wrap outside of pan with large piece of heavy foil.

On low speed, mix flour, sugar, praline powder and butter pieces in large bowl just until pea-sized crumbs form. Mixture should not form ball. Press mixture onto bottom and 1/2 inch up side of prepared pan.

Bake at 325 degrees until crust is golden, about 25 minutes.

To prepare filling, mix cream cheese in large bowl on low speed until smooth.

Add sugar and mix until smooth. Mix in flour. Add eggs, 2 at time, mixing until batter is smooth.

Mix in vanilla. Transfer 2 1/2 cups batter to medium bowl. Stir 3/4 cup praline powder and almond extract into mixture and set aside.

Mix raspberry puree into batter in large bowl, stirring just until mixture is evenly pink. Pour raspberry batter into prepared pan.

Place cheesecake in large baking pan with at least 2-inch-high sides. Place in oven. Pour hot water into large pan to reach 1-inch up sides of springform pan. Bake 40 minutes.

Carefully slide oven rack out several inches. Pour reserved almond batter all around inside edge of pan. Batter will flow evenly to cover top of cake. Bake 20 minutes. Give cheesecake gentle shake and top should look firm. Cool cheesecake in water bath 1 hour, covered loosely with paper towel.

Carefully remove cheesecake from water bath. Remove paper towel and cool 1 hour more.

Cheesecake should feel cool to touch. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.

Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup praline powder over top of cheesecake. Serve cold with fresh raspberries. Cheesecake can be covered and refrigerated up to 1 week.

Makes 16 servings.

Spirited Pumpkin Spice and Rum Cheesecake

Perfect for fall celebrations, the gingersnap crumb crust holds a layer of pumpkin cheesecake that has a rum cheesecake topping.

Crust:

  • Butter for pan
  • 2 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs (about 9 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Filling:

  • 4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened 3 to 4 hours at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum
  • 3/4 cup canned solid pack pumpkin

To prepare crust, butter 9-inch springform pan with sides at least 2 3/4 inches high. Wrap outside of pan with large piece of heavy foil.

Mix cookie crumbs, cinnamon and melted butter, combining well. Press mixture evenly over bottom and 1 inch up side of pan. Bake at 325 degrees 6 minutes.

To prepare filling, mix cream cheese in large bowl on low speed until smooth.

Add sugar and mix until smooth. Mix in flour. Add eggs, 2 at time, mixing until smooth. Mix in 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ginger, cloves and vanilla.

Spoon 2 1/2 cups batter in medium bowl. Stir in rum and set aside.

Mix pumpkin into batter in large bowl, stirring just until pumpkin is incorporated and no white batter shows. Pour pumpkin batter into prepared pan.

Place cheesecake in large baking pan with at least 2-inch-high sides and place in oven.

Pour hot water into large pan to reach 1-inch up sides of springform pan. Bake 35 minutes.

Carefully slide oven rack out several inches. Pour reserved rum batter all around inside edge of pan. Batter will flow evenly to cover top of cake. Sprinkle remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon evenly over top. Bake 25 minutes.

Give cheesecake gentle shake and top should look firm. Cool cheesecake in water bath 1 hour, covered loosely with paper towel.

Carefully remove cheesecake from water bath. Remove paper towel and cool 1 hour more.

Cheesecake should feel cool to touch. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. Leftover cheesecake can be refrigerated up to 1 week.

Makes 16 servings.

Triple-decker Chocolate, Coffee and Toffee Cheesecake

The three layers of this unrestrained cheesecake meld into one extravagant mocha toffee blend.

1 chocolate crumb crust (recipe follows)

Filling:

  • 2 pounds cream cheese, softened 3 to 4 hours at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee dissolved in 1 tablespoon whipping cream
  • 2/3 cup (2, 1.4 ounce bars) crushed toffee, such as Skor or Heath Bars
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted

Prepare chocolate crumb crust and set aside.

To prepare filling, mix cream cheese in large bowl on low speed until smooth. Add sugar and mix until smooth.

Mix in flour. Add eggs, 2 at time, mixing until batter is smooth. Mix in vanilla and cream.

Place 2 cups batter into each of 2 medium bowls. Stir dissolved coffee into mixture in 1 medium bowl and set aside.

Mix crushed toffee into batter in second medium bowl and set aside.

Mix melted chocolate into batter in large bowl, stirring just until chocolate is incorporated and no white batter shows. Pour chocolate batter into chocolate crust in prepared pan.

Place cheesecake in large baking pan with at least 2-inch high sides and place in oven. Pour hot water into large pan to reach 1-inch up sides of springform pan. Bake at 325 degrees 20 minutes.

Carefully slide oven rack out several inches. Pour reserved coffee batter all around inside edge of pan. Batter will flow evenly to cover top of cake. Bake 20 minutes.

Pour reserved toffee batter all around inside edge of pan. Batter will flow evenly to cover top of cake. Bake 20 minutes.

Give cheesecake gentle shake and top should look firm. Cool cheesecake in water bath 1 hour, covered loosely with paper towel.

Carefully remove cheesecake from water bath. Remove paper towel and cool 1 hour more. Cheesecake should feel cool to touch.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. Leftover cheesecake can be covered and refrigerated up to 1 week.

Makes 16 servings.

Chocolate crumb crust

  • Butter for pan
  • 2 cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Butter 9-inch springform pan with sides at least 2 3/4 inches high. Wrap outside of pan with 1 large piece of heavy foil.

Mix cookie crumbs and melted butter, combining well. Press crumb mixture evenly over bottom and 1 inch up side of pan.

Bake crust at 325 degrees 6 minutes. Use as directed.

Makes 1 crust.

(Eleanor Klivans is the author of "125 Cookies to Bake, Nibble, and Savor," Broadway Books.)

(c) 2000, Eleanor Klivans. Distributed by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate.



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