For as much as I was ready to be done with the frigid weather, this heat is too much too fast. I need a few of those perfect spring days where it's sunny and warm but not so hot that you and your mom and both of your dogs drag on a walk around the lake, wishing you were home so you could lay down on the cool tile floor in the laundry room. (Yes, I do that.) These are the kind of days when it's painful to turn on the oven. These are the kind of days when I wish the April Daring Bakers challenge was, like, a nice cool bowl of strawberries.
But the April Daring Bakers challenge is a cheesecake. And though, in theory, one should never complain about cheesecake, here I sit in my sweltering kitchen, complaining. Feeding ice cubes to the dog. Waiting for the big hot roasting pan containing a boiling bain-marie and a cheesecake-filled springform pan to bake. Whining. I have a feeling, however, that I'll shut up when I eat a piece.
The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge. Though I am certain that Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake is totally delicious as is -- or else it would not be infamous -- I did take a few liberties with the recipe. Some dear friends from Australia will be arriving next week for a visit, stopping by my little town on their way from Vegas to NYC. And in late August, Mom and I will be traveling to Australia for a wonderful holiday that will include martinis on Greg and Kerrie's veranda and hike or two around Uluru. So, in honor of all this trans-Pacific motoring, I chose to flavor my cheesecake with one of Australia's finest biscuits: Arnott's Tim Tam.
Those of you who know the Tim Tam are no doubt smitten with it. Those of you who live in a country where you can't get Tim Tams are most likely even more obsessed with the chocolate treat: searching it out via online retailers, hoping that people bring you some when they visit from Australia, stalking Target when they carried a limited run of the biscuits awhile back. I have been meaning to incorporate the beloved Tim Tam into a cake for some time now; several months ago I scrawled Tim Tam cupcake??? in the margins of a notepad and have been contemplating it ever since. Given the fact that I do not wish for my hard-won Tim Tam stash to melt away in a kitchen whose ambient temperature currently approximates the surface of the sun*, today seems like the day.
*Yes yes I know I can turn on the air conditioning. But the air conditioner, for all its cooling power, ain't got nothin' on my range and her excessive BTUs.
TIM TAM CHEESECAKE
Cheesecake adapted from Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake
Chocolate crust made from Smitten Kitchen's chocolate wafers, themselves an Alice Medrich confection
If you can't find Tim Tams -- or you wish to savor the one package you might have brought back with you from Australia instead of cutting it up for a cake -- you can of course omit them. But then it is not a Tim Tam cheesecake; it is a chocolate cheesecake. Which is still pretty amazing.
You could also substitute any cookie or candy which suits your fancy. You could even grind up more of the chocolate wafers used for the crust and decorate the sides and top of the cheesecake with them. Or you can eat the cheesecake out of the pan, with a spoon. You can do whatever you want.
Please note: this cheesecake must chill overnight before serving, so plan accordingly.
For the chocolate wafers, to be used for the crust:
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 c. plus 2 T. sugar
1/4 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. baking soda
14 T. (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
3 T. whole milk
1 t. pure vanilla extract
Combine the flour, cocoa, sugar, salt and baking soda in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to mix thoroughly. Cut the butter into about 12 pieces and add them to the bowl. Pulse several times. Combine the milk and vanilla in a liquid measuring cup. With the processor running, add the milk mixture and continue to process until the mixture clumps around the blade or the side of the bowl. Transfer to the counter and knead a few times until the mixture comes together into a homogeneous dough.
Form the dough into a log about 14 inches long and 1 3/4 inches in diameter. Wrap the log in wax paper and refrigerate until firm, at least one hour or until needed.
Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the log of dough into slices a scant 1/4-inch thick and place them one inch apart on Silpat- or parchment-lined baking sheets.
Bake for 12 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking time. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheets for about 15 minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool completely.
This recipe makes about 65 cookies; you'll need a little over half of them to make the 2 c. of chocolate wafer crumbs needed for the cheesecake crust. (To prep them for use in the cheesecake recipe, grind the cookies in a food processor until fine.)
For the cheesecake:
2 c. chocolate wafer crumbs (see recipe above)
4 T. unsalted butter, melted
2 T. sugar
1 t. pure vanilla extract
4 oz. dark chocolate, melted and cooled
3 8-oz. packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
1 c. sugar
3 large eggs
1 c. heavy cream
1 T. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 T. pure vanilla extract (or the innards of one vanilla bean, which I used because I like the word "innards" when applied to cheesecake)
About half of a 7-oz. package of Tim Tams, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, for the water bath.
Melt the dark chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Set aside and let cool.
In a medium bowl, mix together the crust ingredients and press into the bottom of a springform pan. (I used a 9-inch pan but a smaller one would work as well.)
Wrap the bottom of the pan securely with aluminum foil to prevent the water bath from infiltrating the pan while the cheesecake bakes. Chances are you will have some seepage, but the aluminum foil should help keep most of the water out.
Combine the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Cream together until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, completely incorporating each egg before adding the next one. Scrape down the bowl in between each egg (or, if you have this awesome bowl-scraping paddle attachment, you don't have to worry about it). Add the heavy cream, lemon juice and vanilla and blend until smooth and creamy. Add the melted, cooled chocolate and mix to combine.
Pour the batter into the prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring the air bubbles to the surface. Place the cheesecake in a larger pan (I use my roaster) and fill the larger pan with the boiling water to half-way up the sides of the cheesecake pan. Bake 45-55 minutes, until the perimeter of the cakes holds together but the center is still jiggly. You don't want the cake to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn off the oven and let the cheesecake rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This allows the cake to finish cooking and cool down gently enough that the top won't crack.
After one hour, remove the cheesecake from the oven, then remove it from the water bath. Remove the aluminum foil from the bottom of the pan. Allow the cheesecake to cool on the counter to room temperature, then place in the refrigerator and chill overnight.
Before serving, decorate the cheesecake with Tim Tams. You can, of course, decorate however you like. I roughly chopped a few Tim Tams and scattered them on top of the cake. You can chop them finer and press them into the sides of the cake, or you can decorate with whole Tim Tams. Whatever is your pleasure; have at it! A note: I place the Tim Tams in the freezer for about 20 minutes before cutting them with a serrated knife. This makes the chopping much easier.