Sunday, 17 February 2013

Smoked Sea Salt Whiskey Caramel Cheesecake Bars

Pinterest is great for so many reasons but one of my favourite is recipe inspiration.  This was one of the recipes I found there that I really wanted to try out.  Steve loves his whiskey so this version of a cheesecake was great to experiment with.  He had dress rehearsal today for the latest play that he is in so I made a batch of these last night for him to take with him...I haven't had the feedback yet so here's hoping they went down well!

The original recipe can be found here - I have converted it into UK measurements and adapted it slightly as some of the methods used in the original recipe were just not working for me.

Shopping list

Bag of pecans
Block of unsalted butter
Bag of plain flour
Bag of granulated sugar
Maldon sea salt flakes
3 large packets cream cheese
Box of 6 large eggs
Pure vanilla extract
Double Cream
Smoked Sea Salt

For the base

2/3 cup pecans, toasted
85g cold unsalted butter cut into small chunks
3/4 cup plain flour
1/3 cup sugar (ordinary granulated is fine)
1 teaspoon salt (I used Maldon sea salt flakes - don't use table salt)

For the cheesecake

900g cream cheese (I know this looks like a huge amount.  I had to go back to the supermarket as I stupidly did my conversions after I did my shopping)
1 cup sugar (granulated)
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 large egg yolk at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I used Madagascan vanilla extract)
Pinch of salt (Maldon again for me)

For the caramel

1 cup sugar (granulated)
2 tablespoons water (ish)
400 ml whiskey or bourbon (the smokier the better, I used Elijah Craig as I had a test tube of it lying around the house that Mr M wasn't going to drink but Irish or Scotch will do just as well as long as it is smokey).
28g unsalted butter
1/4 cup double cream

Smoked sea salt (for serving - I used Oak-Smoked Sea Salt that I found in Morrisons with the other salts, herbs and spices)
Pre-heat the oven to 180C (I have no idea what gas mark this is I'm afraid!).  Line a deep baking dish with baking parchment or tin foil with an overhang on all sides so you can easily lift out your cheesecake later.

Toast the pecans in a small frying pan until fragrant and then put the pecans, butter, flour, sugar and salt for the base in a food processor and blast until the mixture is well combined and it resembles coarse meal (took me about 20 seconds).  Press the mixture evenly (paying close attention to the corners) into the prepared dish and bake until golden brown on all edges (between 25 and 35 minutes - keep an eye on it)

Combine the cream cheese and sugar in a food processer and mix until smooth.  Add the eggs and the egg yolk one at a time, vanilla extract and salt and blend.

Pour the mixture over the base and bake until a skewer / cake tester / nail file / weapon of choice inserted into the centre comes out smooth - it will rise up in the centre and look like custard but this does subside so don't be alarmed!  It takes about 40 minutes to bake.

When cooked, turn the oven off  with the cheesecake left inside and leave the door jar for 15 minutes (if you have an oven like mine that is determined to close, a rolled up tea towel wedged into the corner does the trick). 

Remove the cheesecake from the oven to a wire rack (still in the baking dish).  Coat a butter knife with oil and run it carefully around the perimeter of the cake.  Leave to cool for at least an hour.

When the cheesecake has cooled carefully lift it from its baking dish using your convenient lining handles and place on a flat surface like a chopping board.  You can then peel the lining away from the edges and carefully slide it out from underneath. The middle of mine by now had subsided slightly, creating a ridge all around the edges.  This is ideal as it forms a well for the caramel to be poured into which can be trimmed away later.

Put the water and sugar together in a small saucepan and stir so that the sugar is completely moistened.  Brush the insides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush to remove any sugar granules then place the pan over a medium heat and bring to the boil.

Most recipes at this point tell you to swirl and not stir the caramel.  I really struggle with swirling so I always stir with a wooden spoon and have never had any problems.  The caramel will seize and the sugar will clump and go really grainy before it starts to melt into a dark amber thick swirling liquid.  Be careful - you do not want to get this on your skin!

When all the sugar has completely melted and you have no grains left, pour in the whiskey.  The mixture will immediately seize and bubble - don't worry.  Just keep stirring until it turns back into a caramel and the alcohol fumes no longer threaten to knock you off your feet.
When you can breathe clearly again add the butter and cream and keep stirring until the thick clump of caramel in the middle is completely combined - this can take a good few minutes so be patient.

When it has all completely combined, turn off the heat and keep stirring to cool it down a bit.  After about 5 minutes carefully pour it over the cheesecake.  You need to act fairly quickly as it hardens quite rapidly.  Scatter the smoked sea salt over the top and bung it in the fridge for at least a couple of hours to set.  Overnight is best.

When set, dip a large serrated knife in boiling water, wipe down the knife quickly to remove the water and trim off the edges to create neat lines - the addition of heat to the knife means you get cleanly through all the layers.  You will need to heat and wipe down the knife for every side.  Then cut into blocks using the same heated knife technique.  Make sure the cheesecake comes to room temperature before serving with some more sprinkles of sea salt on the top.

I did like it this way but I find the concept of baking cream cheese very alien - this is a New York cheesecake method.  Next time I make this I think I will try it the UK way with no baking involved!



  2. If you do, definitely change the cheesecake to a traditional English non-bake one as the texture was really strange if you aren't used to New York cheesecake, and up the whiskey a LOT! You got a smokiness from it, but could do with being a lot stronger, or use a much smokier whiskey!