Monday, December 7, 2015

A rather epic (and indulgent) spiced Christmas cheesecake with brandy caramel

Cheesecake. Let’s think on that for a moment. Cheese + cake. In other words pure deliciousness. So when PHILLY asked if I would participate in a bloggers cheesecake challenge – to come up with a Christmas inspired cheesecake - you can imagine I couldn’t say yes fast enough*.

Any food obsessed Instagram follower would know there is a huge trend for layered cakes, their tops bursting with edible bits and bobs. They make for a great photo and an even greater eating opportunity but for some reason this hasn’t translated to the good ole cheesecake. So I made it my personal mission to layer up a no bake cheesecake. I thought about this cheesecake adventure long and hard, and here’s what I did. Can I introduce you to the spiced chocolate and hazelnut cheesecake with salted caramel popcorn and brandy caramel. It's delicious any way you slice it.

*In the interests of full disclosure this post isn’t sponsored but thanks to PHILIDELPHIA Australia for supplying me with the cream cheese to make this cake!

Spiced Christmas cheesecake with hazelnut, ginger and brandy caramel


250g gingersnap biscuits
150g butter, melted
1 ½ tbsp. mixed spice
750g PHILADELPHIA block cream cheese aroom temperature
1 cup caster sugar
450ml cream, whipped to soft peak
1 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
4 1/2 tsp gelatine powder
2 tbsp boiling water
10 hazelnut chocolates, roughly crumbled

Brown sugar meringue
40g light brown sugar
2 eggwhites
50g caster sugar

Brandy caramel
320g brown sugar
300ml pouring cream
80g coarsely chopped butter
40g golden syrup
40ml brandy

Caramelised popcorn
Christmas wafers
Gingersnap biscuits
Hazelnut chocolates
Extra dark chocolate, melted, for drizzling

Grease a high sided 25cm-round (base) spring form pan.
Place the biscuits in a food processor and blitz to a fine crumb. Add the melted butter and process until combined. Add the mixture to the tin and press over the base. Cover and refrigerate.
Add the PHILLY cream cheese, mixed spice, caster sugar and vanilla bean seeds to the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk until combined and the spices are fully incorporated. Separate a third of the mixture and place in the fridge for later use.
Place 3 teaspoons of the gelatine powder in a small bowl. Top with 1 ½ tablespoons of boiling water and using a fork, whisk briskly until the powder has melted. Working quickly pour this mixture into the cream cheese mixture and mix until combined. Gently fold through the whipped cream then pour the mixture into the tin over the biscuit base. Tap the bottom to release any air bubbles then level top with a spatula. Cover and place cheesecake in the fridge until set, preferably overnight. Remove the remaining cheesecake mixture from the fridge and bring to room temperature. Place in a mixing bowl. Place remaining gelatine powder in a small bowl and top with remaining amount of boiling water, whisking with a fork. Add to the cream cheese mixture and whisk until fully incorporated.
Top the set cheesecake section with the crumbled hazelnut chocolates. Scoop the cheesecake mixture over the top and return the cake to the fridge.

Preheat oven to 120C.
For the meringue, beat the eggwhites until soft peaks form. Add the caster sugar, gradually beating until the whites are glossy and the sugar has dissolved. With motor still running, slowly add the brown sugar. Line a biscuit tray with baking paper. Spoon a large blob onto the tray and using the back of a spoon smooth the meringue to create a flat layer. This makes more than you need for the cheesecake so with any remaining mixture, make normal meringues for later use. Bake meringue for about 50 minutes or until cooked and when tapped you get a nice hollow sound. Allow to cool before breaking into random sized shards and drizzling over the melted chocolate.

For brandy caramel, stir ingredients in a saucepan until sugar dissolves, bring to the boil and cook until thick and syrupy (5-10 minutes). Add a pinch of salt and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

Using a spoon, gently scoop the caramel over the top of the cold cheesecake, using your spoon to push it over the sides to create a drip effect. Immediately return to the fridge to lightly set. With the brandy in the caramel it won’t set as solidly as normal caramel but don’t worry, it layers and pools gloriously round the base of the cheesecake.

Top the cheesecake with the topping ingredients – as much or as little as you like. Best served on the day of making.
Here is the first layer topped with hazelnut chocolates

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