Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Squares

When I started this blog it was so easy to keep up. I fell in love with baking instantly and the thought of baking just once a week seemed absurdly limiting. Yet here I am quite (well, incredibly) late for my update. It seems that I assumed that my personal matters wouldn't interfere with my baking but alas, they have.

At first I was sick four two weeks, and then after that it was dealing with the stress of finals and trying to keep up with my other work and the other things I needed to photograph. Honestly I've let things slow down here a bit more that I thought I ever would, but I have and I'm sorry.

With finals over and my life calming back down a bit, I'm ready to get back into the swing of things. Regular weekly posting and recipes, hopefully even a few pictures from my recent cake decorating class endeavors. Summer term starts for me but I don't expect that it will be too hectic.

Without further ado, I present to you one of my recent favorite recipes. Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Squares!

Individual square

Now I've never made cheesecake before so I was a little afraid of how I would do, but it ended up being surprisingly easy. Honestly my biggest problem was not letting the cream cheese come to room temperature which made it chunky and made for a lot of extra mixing time. I found the recipe at Smitten Kitchen, a site that I love and model my own layout after in some ways.

The recipe itself called to me instantly. I used Dulce de Leche  in some cookies I made previously and fell in love with the stuff from that point on. Plus the Cheesecake Factory has a Dulce de Leche cheesecake that I absolutely adore and order every time I am there. That, and I am always tantalized by chocolate on anything, and a whole layer of it on my cheesecake squares sounded delicious.

Sweetened Condensed Milk Dulce de Leche in the making
Chocolate chips and butter Melting

The only problem taste wise I had with the recipe at all was entirely my fault. As I said, I love chocolate, but sometimes I go a bit overboard. I added a bit more chips than the recipe called for which made the layer of chocolate a little thicker than I liked. At times it overpowered the Dulce de Leche taste which wasn't very strong to begin with, but it wasn't a horrible mistake since, heck, it's chocolate.

layering Hardened

I was very impressed with how simple and easy this recipe was despite how intimidated I had been feeling. It makes me want to try for other cheesecake varieties as well, maybe something fruity. It's nice to finally overcome a baking obstacle that I had been avoiding and I really think it's opened up new avenues in the dessert realm for me.

Individual square II

The original recipe is located here.

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Squares
Time: 9 3/4 hr (includes chilling) (45 minutes active time)
Makes 64 (1-inch) petits fours

For crust
3 1/2 oz graham crackers, crumbled (1cup)
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For filling
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (from a 1/4-oz envelope, will just about half of envelope)
1/4 cup whole milk
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
3/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup dulce de leche (12 1/2 oz) (recipe follows)

For glaze
3 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), coarsely chopped
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons light corn syrup

Make crust: Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with 2 sheets of foil (crisscrossed), leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides.

Finely grind crackers with sugar and a pinch of salt in a food processor. With motor running, add butter, blending until combined. Press mixture evenly onto bottom of baking pan. Bake 10 minutes, then cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes.

Make filling: Sprinkle gelatin over milk in a small bowl and let stand 2 minutes to soften. Beat together cream cheese, eggs, salt, and gelatin mixture in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until well combined, about 2 minutes, then stir in dulce de leche gently but thoroughly. Pour filling over crust, smoothing top, then bake in a hot water bath (I was able to fit mine in a 9×13-inch baking pan) in oven until center is just set, about 45 minutes. Cool cheesecake completely in pan on rack, about 2 hours. Chill, covered, at least 6 hours.

Glaze cake within 2 hours of serving: Heat all glaze ingredients in a double boiler or a small metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth, then pour over cheesecake, tilting baking pan to coat top evenly. Chill, uncovered, 30 minutes.

Lift cheesecake from pan using foil overhang and cut into 1-inch squares with a thin knife, wiping off knife after each cut. (Don’t skip this step! A clean knife is essential for uber-neat squares.)

Note: Cheesecake (without glaze) can be chilled up to 3 days.

Dulce de Leche (Milk Caramel)

Pour 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk into top of double-boiler pan; cover. Place over boiling water. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 40 to 50 minutes, or until thick and light caramel-colored.

Remove from heat. Whisk until smooth.