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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Salted Caramel Cheesecake

It's Too Yummy Tuesday!

On select Tuesdays I share delicious recipes either inspired by my books or that are just plain delicious!


My husband's birthday is this week (today, in fact), and we celebrated early since I had the weekend off from work. Since he's not a big "cake" fanatic, I made him his favorite dessert--cheesecake. Now, he prefers his cheesecake topped with cherries, and that's good fun. Still, I thought I'd add a twist. I made the cheesecake plain and served toppings on the side, so each of us could heap on whatever we wanted. So today I give you MY ultimate fantasy--cheesecake with homemade salted caramel sauce. Heaven! 

Don't be afraid to try making your own caramel sauce. It's not at all difficult and doesn't even require a candy thermometer. However, it does take a close eye, so I'm including photos of the steps I took to prepare it.

I almost didn't wait long enough to snap this photo before eating!
Salted Caramel Cheesecake

Ingredients
Crust
1 cup vanilla wafers, ground fine
1 cup graham crackers, ground fine
1/2 cup nuts (pecans, almonds, or walnuts), ground fine (optional)
1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)
4 Tbsp butter, melted

Filling
1 1/2  lbs cream cheese, softened
1 2/3 cups sugar
5 eggs, room temp
16 oz carton sour cream
1/4 cup flour, sifted
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp lemon juice

Salted Caramel Sauce
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup heavy cream
Kosher or other coarse salt of your choice, to taste

Directions
Grease a 9-inch springform pan over bottom and up the sides. Fill a 13x9 inch baking pan (or something similar-the size isn't crucial) about half full of water and set it on the bottom rack of oven. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 

Make crust: Combine all crust ingredients and press into bottom and partly up sides of prepared pan. Set aside. Note: if you opted not to use nuts, add an extra 1/2 cup of either nilla wafers or grahams, your choice.

Make filling: Beat cream cheese til fluffy with a hand mixer on the lowest setting. Add sugar and cream together well. If you're like me, by now you want to zip up the speed on your mixer. Resist and keep beating on low. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well. Blend in sour cream, flour, vanilla, and lemon juice. Pour onto crust and bake on the middle rack of your oven for one hour and fifteen minutes. Turn the oven off, open the door and let it sit for an additional one hour. Remove to cool. 


Make sauce: 
I like to start the caramel sauce about 20-30 minutes before serving the cheesecake, to give it a chance to cool off a bit. Just two points of caution:

1. Careful. Hot sugar can splatter like heck at times and stick to your skin! Which isn't nearly as fun as eating the caramel. So stand a bit away from your pan when adding ingredients to the melted sugar.
2. Don't walk away from caramel. Once you start melting the sugar, stand by and keep an eagle eye on the mixture. Depending on your pan and burner, this shouldn't take more than 5-10 minutes. (I have an electric stove, so it takes a bit longer to heat things up. Meh.) 


White sugar layer in bottom of my large,heavy skillet
Pour sugar evenly in a heavy-bottomed saucepan or medium sized skillet and place over medium heat. (By the way, see the little ceramic handprint at the top of the photo? My son, who now towers over me, made me that when he was a tiny little thing. It makes a great spoon rest.) Leave the sugar alone until you see the edges start to brown and/or melt slightly. I find this step rather tough, because I tend to be impatient and standing over something without stirring, prodding, or otherwise meddling isn't in my nature. And you can't nip off real quick to do something else, either. You have to stay with it and watch, as caramel can go from white sugar to burned mess fairly rapidly. If you smell something funky happening, gently pull in with a spatula to see what's going on beneath that white layer of granules. If it's melting, proceed to the next step. Otherwise, smooth it out like nothing happened and leave it alone for a bit longer.
Transparent sugar at edge now...start pulling toward center

 When you see melted or browning sugar around the edge, begin pulling the sugar from the edges toward the center with a spatula or wooden spoon. (I love a sturdy rubber spatula for this.) Once the sugar has melted and has a lovely caramel color, add the butter (carefully) and whisk  in. 
This is my preferred color, which happens FAST once sugar starts melting
 How dark you want your caramel is up to you. I prefer the nice light caramel shown above. Once it goes dark, say around the copper of a penny and beyond, there's a bitter note in the aftertaste that some people enjoy. I'm not one of them. Plus it's barely a heartbeat from dark to burnt, and I'd rather not risk it.
Add the butter and stir quickly (carefully, to avoid spatter)

Once your butter is melted, remove pan from heat and let the bubbling slow down for a few seconds. Then add the cream. Watch out for splattering here while stirring it in. The volume will increase quite a bit during this stage, so just keep whisking to tame the beast (and hopefully you used a large enough pan, yes?)


Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble...beautiful cream-and-sugar trouble!!

Let your caramel cool a bit until it won't singe your taste buds off, if you can stand to wait that long. I can't, which is how I know caramel can and will singe taste buds. So patience! You can either serve individual slices of cheesecake with caramel drizzled on top and a pinch of coarse salt, or serve a small jug alongside your cheesecake and a small dish of salt for people to add as they wish. 


The finished caramel...silky, creamy and oh-so delicious.

Another way to serve: let's say your cheesecake got a bit too much color on top or you had some cracking. (The pan of water in the oven should have helped with that, but it still happens.)  Let the caramel cool enough to pour over the top of your cheesecake without melting it, and cover the whole thing. Sprinkle with salt. Voila, those imperfections are gone.

By the way, you can serve caramel sauce other ways--over ice ice cream, warm cake, apple pie, as a "fondue" dip for bananas/peaches/apples, etc. Yum!

Enjoy!
~~~

J. Rose Allister is the author of more than twenty-five books, primarily romance and erotic romance. A former editor and submissions director, she now works as a mild-mannered hospital secretary by day, naughty writer by night. Connect with her on Twitter or Goodreads. She loves talking to people!

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