Thursday, December 29, 2016

Procrastination Recipe: Peppermint Cheesecake with Chocolate Ganache (Gluten-free)

I was asked to bring a dessert to Christmas lunch. Last year I made chocolate crinkle cookies which I don't think anyone ate but myself so this year I thought, okay, I need to up my game. So what to make? I thought about an ice cream cake, but the idea of traveling with that was enough of a deterrent. My go-to dessert? Cheesecake. And since it was Christmas... peppermint.


Ingredients:

Crust:
I used Glutino cookies (2 packages), but if gluten doesn't make you sick then a single container of Oreos will suffice.
1/2 stick butter, melted


I was at my dad's and he didn't have a food processor (well he did, but it was wrapped and under the tree and I didn't think it would be kosher to unwrap it, use it, re-wrap it and pretend it was brand new) so I used his mortar and pestle (Dad, I cleaned it really well afterward so it's totally fine). It worked perfectly. I like chunks so I didn't pound the cookies until they were dust, just smallish chunks. I added in the melted butter, stirred and with wet fingers pushed it around in the springform pan until it covered the bottom and came up just slightly on the sides. Then I set it aside.


Cheesecake:
2 packages cream cheese
4 oz. sour cream (half of a small container)
2 cups confectioner's sugar
small container sweetened condensed milk (14 oz.)
2 eggs
4 candy canes, crushed (my sister used the mortar and pestle and ground it into a fine dust)


I hardly ever use my KitchenAid, simply because I don't have the counter space, but with cheesecake you want a smooth, fully-blended filling, so I highly recommend using a mixer if you have one.
I combined the cream cheese, sour cream, and sweetened condensed milk and then gradually added the sugar while keeping the mixer on. I beat the two eggs lightly with a fork then added them into the mixer and lastly added the crushed candy canes. You could leave them in a chunkier form but I wanted the flavor without the crunch so I asked my sister to basically pulverize them.


Make sure you pause every once in a while and scrape the bowl with a spatula. Cream cheese will get stuck to the bowl and you won't even notice it until you're pouring your batter into the crust.


Once well-combined, pour into the springform pan and shake lightly to get bubbles to rise to the surface. I wrapped the pan in foil so I could do a water bath but that's not necessary. If you do a water bath, you want to wrap your pan so no water can leak in. Then place the pan inside a larger pan or deep tray and pour hot water around it, about an inch's worth. Supposedly a water bath keeps the cheesecake extra moist so that's why I did it.


I baked the cheesecake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes and then checked it. It wasn't ready (it was jiggly in the middle), so I kept a close eye on it and continued baking it until it no longer jiggled, another ten-fifteen minutes or so. I pulled it out and let it rest and cool for about 15 minutes and then I poured the ganache (recipe below) over top and stuck it in the fridge overnight. For garnish I crushed up another candy cane and sprinkled it on top.


Chocolate Ganache...

I think people hear the word ganache and get nervous, like it's some fancy thing, but it's not. It's chocolate chips (or, if you have a bar of really good chocolate, just chop that up) and hot cream poured over it and stirred. That's it.


I used a package of semi-sweet chocolate, standard baking fare, and heated up a cup of whole cream (go hard or go home) on the stove until hot (not boiling, just hot). Then I poured it over the chocolate and stirred.


It melts the chocolate almost instantly, but you have to stir for a while for the cream and chocolate to become one concise mixture. At first it might seem like it's not blending but just keep stirring and eventually it'll start to come together. Some people like to add a pat of butter "for shine" at this point but you don't need it. 


There was a teensy bit leftover after I covered the cheesecake, probably no more than an eighth of a cup. But I saved it and stirred in another cup of milk and heated it and made really delicious hot chocolate for my sister and I. It was rich so we really only needed a taste and it was perfect. 


Happy Eating!
~Stephanie


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