There is something intensely comforting about baking the things I did in Boston right here, in Abu Dhabi. Sometimes finding all of the right ingredients poses a bit of a challenge (I have yet to find buttermilk, but Laban is a good substitute) however I let these challenges take my cooking and baking in a new and more exciting direction.
Several years ago around the time of the Kentucky Derby I baked a Bourbon Cheesecake with Bourbon Caramel for the top. I have not made a cheescake since then, but we recently had pounds of cream cheese left over from a red velvet wedding cake I made for friends, so I thought I would sieze the opportunity and try my hand at a cheesecake in Abu Dhabi. I also had several cups of salted caramel just waiting to be used for something extraordinary, and this was it – it needed to be poured on top of the cheesecake to turn what some might consider a relatively ho-hum dessert into something spectacular. I almost did not want to take it to our friends’ house for their dinner party, but instead stay home with Dr. H and 2 forks and eat the whole cake, just the two of us. No such luck, good sense prevailed, and we drove into the desert with our precious cargo.
To keep the cheesecake extra creamy, bake it in a water bath (a cooking pan with an inch or so of water) and wrap the springform pan in 2 layers of foil before baking to keep the moisture in.
Preheat oven to 325 F and grease a 9 inch springform pan – set aside.
1 1/2 cups of crushed in a food processor graham crackers (or Digestives if you do not have access to graham crackers, which is the case if, like me, you are living in Abu Dhabi!)
3 tbsp melted butter
Mix the cracker and butter mixture together with your hands, and press well it into the bottom of the pan. Set it aside.
2 lbs cream cheese softened at room temperature
1 C sour cream (light is fine if you really want to think it matters here… same goes for the cream cheese)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
2/3 C sugar
1 C salted caramel (recipe can be found here.. about halfway down the page, HOWEVER, do not add bourbon, and increase the salt to about 1 tbsp)
Place the cream cheese in a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer if that is your thing) mix until very smooth. Add in the sugar and then the sour cream. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as you mix. Once everything is combined, add in the vanilla and the salt. Finally, add in the eggs one at a time. Mix until well blended and make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl (again, I know…)
Pour the cheesecake mixture over the graham cracker (or digestives) and place into the water bath and put into the oven for about 50 minutes. After about 50 minutes, turn the oven off, but keep the cake in the oven for another 35-40 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and then from the water bath. Allow to cool for about an hour on a cooling rack, and then place the cheesecake into the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight. I like to loosly cover the top of my pan with plastic wrap before putting it into the fridge.
When the cheesecake is set make the salted caramel, and pour the caramel over the top. It should be easy to spread, but not too warm.