Friday, August 19, 2016

Praline-Crusted Peach Cobbler Cheesecake

My dear friend Lacey is from Georgia, and when she went home recently, she brought me all kinds of goodies: fresh peaches, pecans and peach preserves. Before that trip, she and I had already brainstormed on a cheesecake idea that used both peaches and pecans.... and then it crossed my mind to add the pie crust crumb from the Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook, by the incredible Christina Tosi, as a cobbler-type topping to finish the concept. I had made the fantastic Apple Pie Layer Cake from that amazing cookbook a few months earlier, and we all agreed that the pie crust crumb was one of the best elements of it. So the pie crust crumb is taken directly from that, and the rest is from my imagination.

Pralines are candies made of pecans cooked in a heavenly mixture of butter, cream, vanilla, sugar and salt, and then allowed to dry, so I thought that flavor would do well for a cheesecake crust.

If you want to break this into two days, make the pie crust crumb and the crust the day before. The pie crust crumb will keep for several days in a plastic zip-top bag or other sealed container and the crust is fine to keep overnight. They bake at the same temperature and for the same time, making things easier.

Heat oven to 250.

Praline Crust: 

  • 8 ounces pecan halves or pieces
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs 
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 stick butter, melted 

Toast the pecans at 250 for 8 minutes. Remove and let cool. Once cool, grind into fine crumbs in the food processor. Add graham cracker crumbs, sugar, salt and vanilla. Pulse to combine. Stream in the melted butter, checking after half has been added, and add enough so that you have a fairly wet crumb mixture. Press into the bottom only of a 10 inch springform pan, and wrap the bottom of the pan in aluminum foil. Set aside while you make the pie crust crumb -- they will bake together -- and turn the oven up to 350.

Pie Crust Crumb: 

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt 
  • 8 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons water 

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a mixer or another large bowl. With the mixer running, stream in the butter and water. Pulse briefly until the mixture is a coarse, crumbly mixture -- do not overmix. Dump the bowl onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and spread out evenly, making sure the pieces are random sizes. Bake the pie crust crumb and the praline crust for 25 minutes and let cool. Cover the crust and bag the crumbs, if finishing the next day, or continue while the crust cools.

Cheesecake Filling: 

  • 4 8-ounce packages cream cheese (light is fine)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar 
  • 3 very ripe peaches, pitted, peeled and diced. 
  • 2 Tablespoons peach schnapps 
  • 2 Tablespoons corn starch 

If you're on day 2, heat the oven to 350. Fill a large roasting pan with hot water and set on the lowest possible rack of the oven. Set the other rack in the center.

Peel, pit and chop the peaches. Tip: to peel ripe peaches, cut an X in the bottom of each one and lower it into boiling water for 60 to 90 seconds. The skins will slip right off. If that doesn't work, your peaches aren't ripe enough for this recipe!

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar, adding 1/4 cup sugar after each package of cream cheese. Beat on high until light and fluffy, stopping to scrape the bowl occasionally. Reduce the mixer speed to medium, and beat in the eggs, one at a time, making sure each one is fully incorporated before adding the next. Mix in the peach schnapps. Turn the mixer off.

Puree the peaches in a food processor or blender until liquid. Mix into the cream cheese mixer until well-blended. Sprinkle the cornstarch over the top and stir in by hand, mixing gently.

Spray the ring of the cheesecake pan with non-stick spray or rub it with butter. Pour in the cheesecake batter and smooth the top. Tap the sides of the pan to eliminate air bubbles. Bake on the center rack for 65 minutes. Turn the oven off, open the door slightly and leave the cheesecake for at least two hours and up to six hours. Chill thoroughly, at least 12 hours.

Note: Cheesecakes crack -- it's a fact of life. This recipe is written with the tips and tricks that help stop that from happening: greasing the sides of the pan, adding cornstarch to stabilize the batter, not over-beating the eggs and adding a pan of water to the oven. If it still cracks, and it may, that's what topping is for! 

Peach Topping: 

  • 4 ripe peaches
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon 

Peel, pit and dice peaches as above. Toss with brown sugar and cinnamon. Refrigerate until serving time.

To Serve: 
Remove the ring from the springform pan. Spoon peaches over the cheesecake, sprinkle with pie crust crumbs and enjoy!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Chocoholic Cheesecake

For my wonderful friend Margot Winick, the biggest chocoholic I know, I take on the challenge of seeing how much chocolate I can shove into a single dessert for her birthday. Margot likes her chocolate with more chocolate, no mint, no liqueurs, no other flavors. This year, she has taken a new job that will take her to Gainesville, so she won't be here for her birthday in August -- I took the opportunity to make her a chocolate-loaded cheesecake for her last day at UM. A brownie crust, chocolate laden cheesecake studded with mini-Oreos, layers of fudge sauce, and of course, whipped cream!! A few people asked for the recipe, and were surprised when I told them I made it up, so here it is, in writing! Serve SMALL pieces, otherwise insulin shots may be required!


  • 1 box brownie mix, for an 8 inch pan 
  • 1 stick butter, melted and cooled slightly 
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso (I use Bustello, of course!) 


  • 4 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened 
  • 4 large eggs, at room temp 
  • 1 cup granulated sugar 
  • 24 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chips or bars, melted 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso 
  • 1 bag mini-Oreos 

Hot fudge sauce
Whipped cream

Heat oven to 350. In the oven, place a large roasting pan or two loaf pans filled with hot water. Spray a 10 inch springform pan with cooking spray.

Dissolve the espresso powder in the melted butter. Stir in the brownie mix and mix until combined. Press into the bottom of the springform pan and bake 10 minutes. Cool completely and then top with hot fudge sauce, spreading to the edges of the crust. Spray the ring of the springform ring again.

Melt the chocolate and cool slightly, using a double boiler or a glass bowl in the microwave in 30 second bursts, stirring after each one, until melted and smooth.

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, one package at a time, adding a quarter cup of sugar and one egg, once the cream cheese is fluffy.  Incorporate the vanilla and the espresso powder, beating thoroughly. With the mixer running, beat in the chocolate. Stir in the mini-Oreos. Pour the cheesecake batter into the pan and bake at 350 for 60 minutes. Turn the oven off, and open the door. Let the cheesecake sit in the open oven for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before chilling overnight. To serve, top with more hot fudge sauce and whipped cream.