One of the things we love about having this blog is that it gives us a chance to share with you the recipes for some of our more popular dishes. By popular demand, we're starting with our renowned white chocolate cajeta cheesecake.
Cajeta is a Mexican caramel sauce. It is readily available in any of the Mexican grocery stores that have opened throughout the Delaware Valley. The best brand is Coronado, which comes in a plastic squeeze bottle. (Coronado makes several varieties of cajeta - any of them will work fine.) If you cannot find cajeta, you can use dulce de leche which comes in cans or bottles. We do NOT recommend substituting regular caramel syrup.
PALOMA'S WHITE CHOCOLATE-CAJETA CHEESECAKE
NOTE: I make this in a 12" pan with a removable bottom. A springform pan is fine. Your pan is likely to be much smaller. If so, you can either reduce the recipe or bake the extra in a soufflé dish for a separate snack.
This recipe makes a creamy, dense, rich cheesecake, not the poofy fluffy kind.
For the crust
In the Cuisinart, put
9 Tablespoons sugar
12 Tablespoons butter
2 cups flour
(for chocolate crust, instead of 2 cups flour, I use 1 1/2 cups flour and 1/2 cup good cocoa powder)
Blend until fully mixed. Spray springform pan with nonstick spray, then sprinkle crust mixture evenly over the bottom to a depth of about 1/4 inch, being sure it covers the seam where the base meets the ring. Pat down gently. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then remove. AS SOON AS YOU REMOVE the crust from the oven, sprinkle mini chocolate chips to cover the bottom in a single layer. This step is not necessary, but adds a nice crunch to the crust while creating a moisture barrier that will keep the crust from getting soggy. Set the crust aside to cool. DO NOT turn off the oven. Turn it down to 180 to 200 degrees.
TIP: I make a triple or quadruple batch of the crust mixture and store it in a ziplock bag in the freezer. Why clean the Cuisinart 3 or 4 times when you can do it once?
For the filling
Before you start, put 2 to 2.5 pounds of chopped white chocolate (or white chocolate chips) in a double boiler to melt. If you don't have a double boiler, you can put a large Pyrex measuring cup or stainless steel bowl into a pot of barely simmering water. Just take care that no water splashes into the chocolate. Check the chocolate frequently and stir when the sides and bottom start to melt. While the chocolate is melting, take a can or bottle of cajeta and immerse it in hot water to make the cajeta softer and more pourable. Let it sit and proceed with the batter:
In the bowl of an electric mixer (at least 4.5 quart), put six 8-oz. packages of cream cheese. Beat until softened. Add 1 cup sugar (if you are making a variation without the white chocolate, use 1 1/2 cups). Continue beating until fully incorporated and smooth. Add 6 large eggs, beating well after each addition. Add 1 1/2 cups sour cream, 3/8 tsp. salt, and 2 Tablespoons vanilla paste or vanilla extract. Beat well.
With the mixer running, add the melted white chocolate, little by little, to the batter. Beat until it's fully incorporated.
Place 2-3 cups of the batter (the amount is not critical - measure this by eye) into a bowl and add cajeta to taste, stirring vigorously with a spoon to blend it completely. Set aside.
Spoon half of the remaining batter into the springform pan. Smooth the top with the back of a spoon or a spatula. Spoon all of the batter/cajeta mixture evenly over the batter. Then carefully spoon the remaining half of the batter over the cajeta, covering the cajeta completely. (It's best to start with a thin layer to cover, then add the rest.)
Bake at 180 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 6 hours or so. Because the temperature is so low, there's a lot of wiggle room. You can put it in the oven before you go to bed and turn it off in the morning. This long slow baking prevents it from rising too fast and cracking. It also doesn't dry out. When it's finished baking, turn the oven off and leave the door closed, or open the door just a crack. Wait at least an hour before taking it out of the oven. Let it cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until the next day.
The ganache topping
In a large (4-cup) pyrex bowl or measuring cup, heat 1 1/2 to 2 cups of heavy cream in the microwave until it boils. Once it boils, remove it immediately. Wait about 30 seconds and then carefully add 12 to 16 ounces of good quality semisweet chocolate chunks or chips. (It may bubble violently when you add the first pieces - be careful.) Let stand for 10 minutes. Using a hand blender with ONE BEATER, blend until smooth and pour over the chilled cheesecake. (If you have too much, you can refrigerate the rest and roll the chilled ganache into balls, then roll in cocoa and serve like truffles ... yum.) Put the cheesecake in the refrigerator overnight to chill.
The ganache should set up in less than an hour. To cut the cheesecake, run a large sharp knife in very hot water. Slice the cheesecake, being sure to cut through the crunchy crust at the bottom. Run the knife in hot water after each cut. You may need to go over the cuts with a shorter, sharp knife to be sure the crust is cut cleanly. (At the restaurant, we get 16 slices from a 12" cheesecake.)
The cheesecake freezes well, and lasts a surprisingly long time in the refrigerator if wrapped tightly. If the plastic wrap mars the ganache, run the side of a hot knife over the ganache to smooth it before serving.
VARIATIONS: Instead of cajeta, you can mix in raspberry puree, blueberry puree, concentrated coffee, or whatever flavor strikes your fancy. As noted above, if you don't make the base with white chocolate, increase the sugar to 1 1/2 cups. You are limited only by your imagination! Have fun!