Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

Today is National Cheesecake Day... seriously, who can think of a better "holiday"? I love cheesecake! It's so versatile and can pretty much be made into any flavor. I brought this particular version to a one of my husband's family functions and it was a hit. My father-in-law said it was the best cheesecake he had ever had! I found this recipe here and knew I had to try it. Let me warn you.... this recipe takes some effort and time, but the end product is TOTALLY worth it. It's a monster (so is this post) with 4 layers of yummy goodness and the calories to match but SO GOOD. It's modeled off of The Cheesecake Factory so buying it there would cost about $50. You can make it yourself for about $10! This recipe is adapted from The Inner Gourmet.

This recipe uses 2 vanilla bean pods. If you buy these at Walmart, its $10 for only two of them, YIKES! I would not recommend this. I bought a package of 50 of them for about $25 on Amazon which is a much better price. Now you ask me, what am I going to use that many vanilla bean pods for? I agree, that's a lot of cheesecakes! I use them for much more than just the cheesecake, from making vanilla extract to ice cream. They are really awesome BUT if you don't want to have to go through using them, just increase your vanilla extract by 1/2 tsp. and leave the vanilla bean pods out.

-1 1/2 cup crushed graham crackers (This is about 1 package and can be crushed in a food processor or in a zip lock bag by hand)
-1/4 brown sugar
-1 stick of butter, softened
-1 egg yolk, slightly beaten (I sometimes omit this and it works out fine)
-1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
-16 ounces cream cheese (2 packages), softened
-1 cup sour cream
-2 Tbsp. corn starch
-1 cup sugar
-2 sticks of butter (I use 1 unsalted and 1 salted), softened
-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
-vanilla beans from one pod (or substitute 1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract)
White Chocolate Mousse:
-1 cup whipping cream
-3 Tbsp. powdered sugar
-4 ounces Neufchatel cheese, softened
-5 ounces White chocolate
Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream:
-1 cup whipping cream
-3 Tbsp. powdered sugar
-vanilla beans from one pod
Optional garnish:
-1-2 ounces milk or dark chocolate

To make the crust, crush up your graham crackers in mix them together with other ingredients. Next grab your pan, I always use a 10 inch spring form pan because I have found it to work the best. If you don't have one, I HIGHLY recommend them! Line your spring form pan with foil and then pour your crust mixture in the bottom. Spread it out so that it evenly covers the bottom. Bake at 375 for 6-8 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool while you are mixing up the cheesecake.

Now in a large bowl, combine your cream cheese and butter and mix until combined. Next add in your sour cream, corn starch, sugar, and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Finally, add in your vanilla bean. To remove the inside, slice the pod with a knife down the center and inside you will see the little vanilla beans. Scrap them out with either your knife or a spoon and add them into your cheesecake mixture. Mix until combined, you should be able to see the little black beans mixed throughout. See below for pictures (sorry they are dark!)!

Now pour your cheesecake onto your crust and bake at 325 for about 1 hour or until the top is light brown.

Once done, let it cool completely. If you don't, your mousse will deflate during the next step. I usually make the crust and cheesecake the night before and then make the last two layers (mousse and whipped cream) the next morning.

Once your ready to make your mousse, beat your whipping cream in a small/medium bowl until stiff peaks form. You will have stiff peaks when you can lift your mixer out of the bowl (turned off of course!) and the peaks it makes stay in place. Add in your powdered sugar and mix until combined. In a different bowl, melt your white chocolate in the microwave 30 seconds at a time until melted. Add you neufchatel cheese into your chocolate and beat until combined. This should do a lot to cool down you chocolate but if its still even the slightest bit warm, stick your chocolate mixture back in the fridge to cool. If it's even the slightest bit hot it will deflate your whipped cream! Once cool, combine your whipped cream and chocolate mixture together with a mixer and then pour over your cooled cheesecake. Stick this back in the fridge while you are making your garnish and whipped cream.

Now, it's time for the garnish! this part is optional but make your cheesecake look so much better. Seriously, the first time I made this, someone thought it was professional. :) Heat your milk or dark chocolate in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time until melted. Pour it into a zip lock bag and cut the tip of the end off. Squeeze your bag and make vertical and horizontal lines on top of the mousse. This part is hard to describe in words so just look at the pictures below!

Don't worry about messing this part up, just have fun with it! Now time to make the vanilla bean whipped cream (don't worry, you are almost done!). In a small/medium sized bowl, beat your whipping cream until stiff peaks form (same thing you did earlier). Then, add in your powdered sugar and your vanilla beans (same way you did earlier) and mix until combined. Grab a large (gallon sized) zip lock bag and pour your whipped cream in it. For tips on how to do this, see this post. Cut the tip off the corner of the bag and pipe your whipped cream around the edges of the cheesecake. This part is kind of like the chocolate, you can't mess is up so just have fun with it. I usually just pipe it on randomly until I run out of whipped cream. Check out the picture below!

Now, stick it in the fridge until you are ready to serve it. Once ready, serve right out of the pan or remove the edge of your spring form pan and foil.

Can you say YUM?!?!? I hope you enjoy this AMAZING dessert!


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