Raspberry-Swirl Cheesecake vs. Caramel Macchiato Cheesecake

It has been way too long since I’ve made cheesecake.  It’s probably my third favorite dessert (second being brownies, and first being whatever I haven’t tried on the menu yet).  After doing a brief search through my saved recipes and through some of my favorite sites for new recipes, I quickly narrowed it down to some ten candidates.  My head was whirling in cheesecake-baking excitement.  I gave word of my upcoming cheesecake expedition to my mother, who promptly replied “keep it to one pan”.  I was crushed; ten cheesecakes would not fit into one pan.  But, two could.  So, I chose raspberry and caramel-macchiato to be pan-mates (later, I discovered that they went rather well together, but that was a happy accident).

The raspberry cheesecake comes from the fabulous Ms. Stewart.  It is a tartly sweet, wonderfully summery dessert with a smooth and creamy texture.  The caramel macchiato cheesecake comes from AllRecipes and actually has a taste to match its title (I was surprised).  This cheesecake is a bit denser, with a rich texture and a smoky-sweet coffee flavor.  I topped it with a luxurious caramel sauce recipe from SavorySweetLife (I have included the recipe in this post)

RASPBERRY SWIRL CHEESECAKE:

(original yields one 9″ cake, but I halved this version)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cups + 5 tbs sugar
  • 4 oz raspberries
  • 16 oz (2 packages) cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (I used Slovakian rum since we ran out of vanilla)
  • 2 large eggs (room temperature)

Directions: 

  1. Toss your raspberries into a food processor for about 30 seconds till they’re smoothly pureed. Strain the raspberry puree through fine sieve into a small bowl and throw out what remains in the sieve.  Whisk in 2 tbs of your sugar.
  2. Into a medium sized bowl, beat your cream cheese until fluffy.  Reduce speed to low and add in your remaining 1/2 cup + 3 tbs sugar slowly and steadily.
  3. Mix in your salt and vanilla (or rum) and, when they’ve combined, mix in your eggs, one by one (careful no to over mix, only stir until just combined).
  4. Your batter is ready to be poured into your crust (directions for creating and baking a half-and-half cheesecake are listed after the Caramel Macchiato recipe)
  5. After pouring in the batter, drop tablespoons of the raspberry puree on top and swirl with a toothpick

CARAMEL MACCHIATO CHEESECAKE:

(original yields one 9″ cake, but I halved this version)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 eggs
  • 4 oz sour cream
  • 1/8 cup brewed espresso (strong coffee will work, too)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (I used rum in this one, as well)

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, beat your cream cheese until fluffy. Slowly add in your sugar and keep beating until well-blended.
  2. Mix in your eggs, one by one, and beat well after each one. Then, mix in your sour cream, espresso, and vanilla/rum.
  3. Your second batter is ready to be poured into your crust
  4. Before you serve your cheesecake, top it with caramel sauce (it is, after all, a caramel macchiato cheesecake)
Baking Your Half-and-Half Cheesecake:
  1. Bake/make your crust
  2. Preheat your oven to 325°F
  3. You’ll want to get a piece of sturdy paper material (I used a strip cut from a pastry box) that’s not too thick for your divider.  You can use something plastic, metal, etc. for it, just remember that whatever it is, it will be touching your cake so make sure it’s sanitary.
  4. Fit the divider into your pan (trim the divider if necessary) after you’ve baked your crust and secure it to make sure it stays put while you pour your batter (it’s easiest to have someone hold the divider while you pour).
  5. Carefully, steadily, pour the first batter into one half of the pan.  Then, do the same with the second batter.
  6. Pull the divider out and, voila, two cheesecakes in one pan.  Place the pan in the oven and bake for 50-65 minutes, until the cheesecake is set but still a little wobbly near the center.

CARAMEL SAUCE:

Yields 2 cups (and you’ll want all of it)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (heat for about 30 seconds in your microwave till lukewarm)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (heat for about 30 seconds in your microwave till lukewarm)
  • 2 tbs rum (use actual rum, not vanilla)

Directions:

  1. In a small or medium saucepan, cook your sugar and water over medium-high heat.  Monitor your syrup carefully until it changes colors around the edges to an amber-brown (350°F on a candy thermometer)
  2. When your syrup changes color, remove it from the heat and stir the mixture quickly with a wooden spoon or whisk (this keeps the syrup from burning).
  3. Continue stirring and carefully pour in 1/2 cup of warmed heavy cream and your butter (I just warmed my butter with/in the cream to make it easier).  This will make your mixture froth and spit, but stir on until everything is dissolved.
  4. Once the sugar’s completely dissolved, add in your 1/4 cup of warmed heavy cream and your rum, stirring until your caramel sauce is smooth.
  5. Once it’s cooled just a little bit, pour the sauce carefully into a heat proof jar and let it cool.
  6. Before topping the caramel macchiato cheesecake, warm the caramel in the microwave until pourable but not too hot.

Review:

Starting first with Ms. Stewart’s raspberry-swirl cheesecake, this fantastic dessert was top-notch.  Ms. Stewart has yet to disappoint, and this tart little treat was absolutely wonderful.  It had the perfect, sweet creaminess of a fine cheesecake with the playful tartness of raspberries.  The base was smooth, creamy, and indulgent, without being overly dense or heavy.  The flavor from the raspberry top came through the whole cake to give it a sweet, fresh flavor.   The recipe is simple, easy, and yields a stunningly gorgeous cheesecake just right for a summer treat.

The caramel macchiato cheesecake was luxuriously delicious and held its own against the fabulous raspberry-swirl.  The deep, smoky flavor from the coffee really comes through in this dessert.  I was a bit surprised at how much it tasted like a real caramel macchiato; the blend of sweet cream and dark coffee hit the perfect note.  The body of the cake was rich, dense, and utterly luscious.  It had the classic thickness of a cheesecake, but without feeling heavy.  This recipe was also simple and painless with an incredible result.  The caramel drizzled on top was perfect and neatly brought together this fantastic coffee-flavored indulgence.

The caramel sauce was sinful, dark, richly-flavored, and delicious.  I don’t think I’ll be using any other recipe from now on.  The caramel was rich, thick, and smooth with a deep and intense flavor.  There is a complexity and depth to this caramel that is truly extraordinary.  I will be topping everything I can with this from now on.

*Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten what exact recipe I used for the crust.  It was one of these two and it was absolutely fantastic:

CRUST 1:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup butter (melted)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
CRUST 2:
  • 1 1/2 cup crushed graham crackers
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons melted butter
Directions:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F
  2. Mix together all of your ingredients and press evenly into the bottom of a 9″ springform pan
  3. Bake your crust for 8 to 10 minutes.  Wait till cooled before pouring in batter.

Baking Science II – Flour

Courtesy of Google images
Flour is one of the pillars of classical baking.  As a kid, it was my least favorite ingredient.  Everything tasted so wonderful until my mother went and dumped in two cups of flour and the whole thing went to pieces.  The batter got all thick and tasted grainy, the eggs, butter, and sugar were so sadly overwhelmed, all my delicious batter was slowly losing its perfection and still, she kept on pouring in flour.  You can see I was staunchly pro-batter as a child (I still am); nothing ever tasted half as good baked as it did raw.

I still love batter and dough, but I’ve learned to appreciate the final, baked product a lot more, and I’ve come to terms with the necessary addition of flour.  There is a  reason, a very good, scientific reason, that none of my early experiments baked very well (despite tasting heavenly as batter).

I. The Anatomy:

Flour is made from finely ground cereal grains, most commonly from wheat.

It contains three key molecules that are essential to its role in baking: starch, glutenin, and gliadin.

Starch – is a large glucose (sugar) complex.  It’s a polysaccharide (a long carbohydrate molecule) also known as “amylum”.  Human digestive systems have a very difficult time processing and digesting starch unless it is cooked.  Starch is commonly found in plants and provides rigidity to plant cell structure; it does the same thing in baking, creating structure in pastries.

Glutenin – the major source of protein found in wheat flour.  It is a protein complex with high molecular weight and low molecular subunits.  It combines with gliadin to form gluten.

Gliadin – is a prolamin (a group of plant storage glycoproteins) found in wheat and other grasses.  It is only soluble in alcohol and can serve as a method for transporting fragile enzymes by protecting them from digestive acids.  It acts as a leavening agent and gives pastries their structure.

Gluten – a protein complex found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley.  It is formed when glutenin combines with gliadin and forms molecular sub-networks.  This combination happens when you knead flour into dough. When gluten is leavened with sugar, carbon dioxide forms bubbles, causing the dough to rise.

II. Baking:

Flour is a true multi-tasker.  It makes dough elastic, helps build structure, and acts as a leavening agent.

Kneading flour creates gluten, and the more the batter is mixed, the more the gluten builds up (thats why over mixing baked goods like cookies can lead to an overly-tough final product). Gluten adds chewiness and that’s why tougher baked goods (like bread) use flour with higher gluten content than more tender baked goods, like pastries.  Fats and sugars prevent gluten formation (thereby increasing tenderness and decreasing structure rigidity).

Flour is a toughener; the more flour, the more proteins, and the more proteins, the stronger the structure of the pastry becomes.  Baking hardens gluten, which forms the structure in pastries.  Flour is integral in the formation of structure (that’s why flour less cakes are often soft, ‘fallen’, and/or flatter) as well as in the leavening process.  Without flour, you can get your pastry to puff up, but you won’t be able to get it to stay up.

Carbon dioxide is released from several chemical reactions (sugars fermenting, catalysis of chemical reagents like baking soda, etc.) during the baking process.  The carbon dioxide bubbles are trapped by the starch and gluten in flour, making the batter/dough rise.  However, the networks created by this process absorb water, leading to a drier pastry.

Too much flour and your pastry will be too dry and crumble, however, not enough flour and your pastry will fall (or with cookies, they’ll spread uncontrollably).

III.  Tips:

All-purpose flours have varying protein content, which means that they will each affect your pastry differently.  The higher the protein content, the tougher the baked good, and the less protein, the more tender. To test the protein of your flour, scoop two cups of flour into one cup of water and stir.  Flour high in protein will absorb the water and become dough very quickly, flour with less protein won’t combine until you add more flour.

Cake flour is high in starch, low in protein, and is very finely milled.  It’s specially made to carry large amounts of sugar and fat without collapsing.  It’s also been heavily bleached to make it lighter in color and to break down the protein.  To make cake flour yourself, mix 3/4 cup of bleached all purpose flour with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.

To make your pastry lighter, you can sift your flour.  The idea is that during shipping and packing, flour compacts, which means that you might use too much on accident and that, if the flour is packed too dense, it won’t lift your pastry properly.  It’s also considered an important step for better dispersing your leavening agent (ie. baking soda).  However, some bakers maintain that sifting your flour doesn’t actually help distribute the leavener any better.Courtesy of Google images