Recipe by Sarah Phillips; Food styling and photos by Kelly Hong © 12-20-2013 Sarah Phillips CraftyBaking.com
I turned classic cheesecake into a tempting tart! This fun version features a crisp cookie crust and creamy filling that is topped off with decadent chocolate ganache, then sprinkled with plenty of toasted almonds and toffee. It is sure to be the star whenever you serve it, especially during the Christmas holidays or New Year's Eve. Bake it in a 7- x 11-inch oblong tart pan with removable bottom.
CHEESECAKE RECIPE HELP
STEP I: MAKE THE COOKIE CRUST
COOKIE CRUST FOR CHEESECAKES OR TARTS
Makes one 7 x 11-inch oblong tart or an 9- to 11-inch tart crust
Good bye boring graham cracker crusts!
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons regular or gluten-free chocolate chip cookie or graham cracker crumbs, finely ground; about 3-4, 1-ounce cookies
1/4 cup fine ground nuts, preferably pecans or walnuts; grind and then, measure
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1. Position the oven rack to the middle and another shelf, one rung down. You will later place a pan with a water bath on the lower shelf.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Generously grease the bottom and side of an 11- x 7-inch rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom with vegetable oil spray. Optionally, put a disk or parchment paper in the bottom and grease that. (Place pan on paper and trace around, cut).
3. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, grind Chocolate Chip cookies into fine crumbs. Measure 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons into a medium bowl.
4. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse the machine and grind pecans until you get fine particles. Measure 1/4 cup.
5. Add the measured cookie crumbs, ground pecans and sugar back into the bowl of the food processor, fitted with the steel blade. Pulse to combine.
6. Add the vanilla extract and pulse the machine to mix. And, add the melted butter and pulse the machine until the mixture becomes a wet dough.
7. Press the crust mixture right into the prepared pan.
8. Set on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake crust for about 15 minutes or until the crust is just beginning to set and start to bubble a little. Take care not to let it burn. The crust may leak butter; it's ok.
SARAH SAYS: The butter in my crust started to bubble a little during baking. Note the tiny holes around the edges of the crust.
9. Cool crust slightly in its pan on a wire cake rack before using in a cheesecake recipe.
10. While the crust cools, put 1/3 cup of almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and toast them for about 10 minutes, or until fragrant.
When done, remove the nuts to a cutting board to cool. Chop into rough pieces. Set aside.
Cool completely. Store in the refrigerator or freezer until needed.
STEP II: MAKE THE CREAMY CHEESECAKE FILLING
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
16 ounces (two 8-ounce packages) cream cheese; preferably Philadelphia Brand
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1 large egg
1. Position the oven rack to the middle and another shelf, one rung down. Place a 9- x 13- inch pan on the shelf below the middle rack. (You will later fill it with boiling water to produce steam in the oven.)
Preheat the oven to 350 F (don't reduce by 25 degrees F if using a dark, nonstick pan. )
2. Blend sugar and cornstarch together in a small bowl.
3. Place one 8-ounce package of the cream cheese and half of the sugar/cornstarch mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer bowl. Beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until creamy, about 1 minute.
4. Beat in the remaining 1 package of cream cheese and the vanilla. Scrape down the side of the bowl.
5. With the mixer on low, beat in the remaining sugar / cornstarch mixture.
6. Add the heavy cream in a steady drizzle at the side of the bowl.
7. Blend in the egg, until completely mixed. Be careful not to overmix.
8. Stop the mixer and remove the bowl. Scrape and mix in any unblended ingredients. (If the batter has tiny lumps, it’s ok). Tap bowl’s bottom on the countertop about six times to get rid of air bubbles.
9. Gently scoop the filling into the cookie crust. Tap the pan on its side with the side of the handle of a wooden spoon about a dozen times to get rid of air bubbles. Smooth the top, otherwise it may crack along any overlapping batter.
10. Place the cheesecake on a foil lined baking sheet and put in oven. Immediately pour about an inch of boiling hot water in the heated pan below and shut the door.
After about 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 325 degrees F.
11. Bake the cheesecake an additional 18-20 minutes until the edges of the cake are lightly browned and top of the cake moves as one solid piece when tapped with the handle of a wooden spoon.
12. When the cake is done, remove it from the oven and place it on a wire rack for 1 – 2 hours to cool. The cake will come from the oven slightly puffed and will fall back down and flatten as it cools.
13. Remove the pan of water from the oven once the water has cooled.
14. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and chill it at least 12 hours, preferably for 24 hours.
Store the cheesecake in the refrigerator or freezer for 4 - 5 days tightly covered with plastic wrap. It can be frozen for 2 to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator in its wrappers.
Cut before almost thawed for clean and neat cuts.
CHOCOLATE GANACHE TOPPING
1 1/2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream, or more if needed
1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Nestle's or Ghirardeli's semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup Heath Bits ‘o Brickle toffee bits
1. Place chocolate chips in a medium-sized microwaveable bowl. Heat under 50% power for 30 seconds at a time in a microwave until SLIGHTLY melted.
2. Heat the cream in the microwave under 50% power for 30 seconds at a time until hot.
3. Pour over the warmed chocolate chips. Stir in one direction until the chocolate chips are fully melted. If the chips do not melt fully, microwave the chocolate / cream mixture on 50% power for a few seconds at a time until the mixture is warmed. Stir, again.
4. Add in butter and stir in one direction. Add in vanilla extract and stir in one direction. Let cool slightly.
5. Remove the cheesecake from the refrigerator and take off the plastic wrap.
If any moistness has gathered on the top of the cheesecake, blot it carefully with a paper towel.
Spread ganache onto top of chilled cheesecake still in its pan.
6. Before ganache sets, sprinkle with the chopped nuts and toffee bits.
Return to the refrigerator for an hour so the ganache sets.
4. To unmold, remove the side of the pan.
You can carefully remove the cake from the bottom of the pan with a large thin spatula, or, if you wish, simply leave the cake on the removable bottom of the pan and place it on a serving plate.
Store the cheesecake in the refrigerator or freezer for 4 - 5 days tightly covered with plastic wrap. It can be frozen for 2 to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator in its wrappers. Cut before almost thawed for clean and neat cuts.