Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Snickers Cheesecake

Thursday night was my Father’s 35 to the 8th birthday and, since my family has a bi-weekly pizza extravaganza anyway and it just-so-happened-to-fall-almost-exactly on his birthday, we combined the two events in a show of gluttony previously unparalleled outside the confines of Thanksgiving dinner.

There is was a block of mozz the size of War and Peace, fresh basil from the garden, pepperoni imported by the local Italian deli otherwise known as The Happiest Place On Earth, Greek feta, Spanish olives, artichoke hearts, hot Italian sausage, phenomenal olive oil and homemade crust perfected over a decade of pizza nights. It started out as a once in a while thing when I was about 12 and has grown into a beast of a bi-weekly event with girlfriends and boyfriends…it’s the envy of my in-laws house and the bane of my dishwashers existence.

In the spirit of keeping candle wax off of the pizza stone, we kept the birthday festivities to a minimum but gifts were still a glorious requirement and I, in my well intentioned but poorly executed attempt, endeavored to get my Dad something he would really like this year. Every year for Father’s Day I renew his subscription to Cooks Illustrated but his birthday is somewhat of a trial for me. After all, when you’ve already bought the man the perfect gift, where do you go from there? So, I bought him a KitchenAid Immersion Blender. Why did I buy him the KitchenAid Immersion Blender? Because I have vivid memories of a sunny Saturday afternoon spent with the food processor in my parent’s avocado green sink trying to pour the most disgusting looking brown bean soup into the bowl a little bit at a time to puree, then trying to pour it into another pan without spilling. It took us two hours and the entire kitchen was covered in brown splatters for years. Still, we haven’t made the brown soup since and, even though I use mine on a near constant basis for everything from ice cream to pie filling to pasta sauce (gotta love that metal wand), I wanted to make sure he would use it before wasting a birthday gift on something useless. So, I did what any self-respecting birthday surprise ruiner would do - I asked.

The KitchenAid made the cut, but I still needed to make up for the surprise factor….and that is where the pie came in.

My father loves few things and a few of those things are cheesecake and snickers so, a few weeks ago, when I ran across a recipe for Snickers Pie I copied, pasted and made mental notes that this would be the dessert to end all desserts for my Dad’s big day and all was well. The part of me that has a love/hate relationship with her to-do lists pleasantly checked that off and started focusing on other things…

Until two days before the party, when I pulled up the recipe for said Snickers Pie and panicked. Aside from an echo of chocolate and caramel in sauce form, the only inclusion of anything Snickers-like were the actual snickers embedded in the cheesecake. Now, I don’t mean to slight the author of this recipe. They made the crust, the cake and the sauces from scratch but, still, I wasn’t looking for a cheesecake with Snickers in it, I was looking for a Snickers with cheesecake in it. So, I went back to the drawing board and with the help of two friends, I came out with something much more true to what I was looking for.

Snickers Cheesecake

This version is, for the most part, the recipe I made. However, I made some adjustments based on the end result. I dropped the butter entirely from the crust and went with peanut butter b/c I think the peanut-y taste got a little lost in the face of all of that chocolate and caramel.

2 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
1 ½ cups chopped peanuts (I used honey roasted)
8 ounces peanut butter

There are two things you should know about the crust to this cheesecake. The first is that I like a lot of crust. Not a crazy amount – but a lot more than those silly little already formed crusts offer. The second thing you should know about this crust is that peanut butter, much like chocolate, does not melt into a nice neat puddle in the microwave like butter does. Don’t over-do it.

To make the crust, chop the peanuts in your food processor until their less than chunky but slightly before “peanut powder.” Place in a small bowl. Grind graham crackers and combine with peanuts. Melt peanut butter and combine the ingredients.

Use your fingers to press the crust into the bottom of a springform pan. (If you’re really really insistent that it be perfect, you could use a smaller springform pan/cake pan to press down to get an even layer, but that’s a little anal.)

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
8 oz fine-quality semi-sweet chocolate, chopped**
1/2 cup sour cream
3 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, softened
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350

In a heavy sauce pan over medium heat (I used cast iron), stir the sugar slowly until it is melted and amber in color. Or, ignore my instructions and ask the ever present and incredibly brilliant David Lebovitz, because I used his directions anyway :P When the caramel is done, turn the temperature down and add in the heavy cream. Cry because your caramel looks like a disaster. Stir until it doesn’t anymore. Remove from heat and whisk in the chocolate until it’s smooth. Add sour cream.

In your mixer, beat the cream cheese until it’s fluffy and there are no more lumps. Scrape the sides of the bowl often. When you’re sufficiently satisfied, add chocolate mixture and beat on low speed until combined. Beat in eggs, one at a time and vanilla. Scrape the sides in between each addition and, remember to be gentle at this point - eggs hold air and when the cheesecake cools, it may crack if you over whip at this juncture.

Pour filling over crust and bake for 55 minutes or until cake is set 3 inches from the edge but still jiggles in the center. (If you’re curious about wet cooking methods, I see no reason this cheesecake would mind having it’s bottom wrapped in foil and being cooked in a water bath.)

Use a knife to loosen from pan edge and let cool completely. I made mine Thursday evening and served it Friday afternoon.

** the original recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate. I used two bars of 60% cacao and was disappointed with how sharp the chocolate was. Again, this is a Snicker’s Cheesecake, so I did want some of that cloyingly sweet Snicker-yness and I felt like the more bitter chocolate killed some of that…so I changed it. But, if you like Snicker’s Dark or you’re not trying to be as literal as I was, definitely use the bittersweet.

Caramel Sauce:
1 cup sugar
4 oz butter (salted or unsalted depending on your preference)
¼ cup heavy cream

Repeating the process used for the caramel in the cheesecake, evenly spread sugar on the bottom of a heavy pan and cook until melted, stir until amber in color and, when the caramel is done, lower the heat, add butter and heavy cream. Stir until incorporated/remelted. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Before serving cheesecake, pour caramel sauce over the top. (Yes, this is an excellent way to hide imperfections. :P) You might also consider sprinkling some chopped peanuts over the top.

And, I know, you're wondering "Where are the pictures??" Well, to be honest, I don't have a particularly good excuse. The cake had to be transported and I didn't want to put the caramel sauce on before we got there for fear that it might explode all over me, so it didn't get removed from the pan and assembled until we got there and I forgot the camera. Yes, that's right, I plain old forgot it. Deb, however, has some lovely pictures on the original recipe.

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