Occasionally, I run across a recipe that impels me. Something about it that looks so inviting, it practically begs for the ingredients to be gathered from all available sources and assembled into the food that promises to, and surely will, satisfy. Most of the time, those recipes are ones I’ve not been looking for, but, rather, have found me. In this case, I went looking for trouble. A midday beer tasting had given me the idea that I needed, nay, must create a cheesecake with a stout flavor, and I had just the one: Southern Tier’s Crème Brûlée Stout. While too dark and smokey sweet for me to want an entire pint of, the whiff of vanilla and caramelized sugar that rose from the glass insisted “bake me.” And what could I do but obey? A quick search of le google yielded several tasty looking results but the envy-inspiring photos of bakingdom’s raspberry stout cheesecake gave me all the certainty I needed that I, too, could create a cheesecake with beer.
But wait, says you. That’s all fine and good but I’m here because of the bizarre title of this post, not because you were boozing it up post-run on a North Carolina sunny afternoon.
You see, I’ve been having a problem with my oven. Since last year. After the house was hit by lightning. Many times. Why haven’t we fixed it yet? No, we’re not penniless. The truth is that the oven works, or used to, most of the time. It would occasionally act up and need an adjustment, but like with everything else, it just sort of fell by the wayside because it wasn’t critical. Until now. The oven worked just long enough for me to pre-bake the crust for the cheesecake, and then it quit. For real this time. I begged, pleaded, pulled up a chair and sat with it, asking it to hold on for the two or so hours I needed to finish my masterpiece. But it was gone. And I was left with an unbaked and rather costly cheesecake sitting in the fridge. All neighbors were out of town, but one kind soul agreed that I could use his oven in return for keeping the family cat company for a few hours. Seemed fair to me. And so this cheesecake is the product of two homes and two families. It takes a village, you know.
And so it begins…
Southern Tier’s Crème Brûlée Stout Cheesecake
with Chocolate-Pretzel Crust
Makes One 9-inch cheesecake
*Adapted from Bakingdom.com*
FOR THE CRUST
15 chocolate wafer cookies, finely crushed in food processor
2 ounces of pretzels, finely crushed in food processor
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon sugar
FOR THE FILLING
4 – 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened and cut into chunks
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 egg yolks
4 whole eggs
3/4 cup creme brulee stout (or any stout beer of your choice)
To make the crust: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9-inch springform pan very well, especially the sides.
In a small bowl, mix in the sugar, cookie crumbs, and pretzels, then use a fork to stir in the melted butter. The mixture should look like wet sand after it’s mixed. Press the pretzel mixture firmly across the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Allow to cool completely before adding the cake batter.
For the cake: Increase the oven temperature to 500 degrees. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the cream cheese for about a minute or so, until it’s smooth and creamy. Add the salt and continue mixing while you slowly add the sugar. Beat for another minute or so, then thoroughly scrape the bowl and beater. Add the sour cream and vanilla, and beat for another minute or so, until all of the ingredients are incorporated, then add the egg yolks and mix well for about a minute. Scrape everything down again and begin adding the eggs, one at a time, beating each one in for about 30 to 45 seconds before adding the next. Scrape the bowl and beater after every two eggs. Slowly add the beer, mixing until thoroughly incorporated. Scrape the bowl and give it a final hand stir to make sure everything is incorporated.
Pour in the cake batter and bake for 10 minutes. Place a rimmed baking sheet filled with water on the bottom rack to provide steam. Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees and continue baking for about an hour and a half. Don’t open the oven door until you have to check the temperature of the cake. The center of the cheesecake should be about 150 degrees. Place the cheesecake on a wire cooling rack and allow to cool for about three hours, then run a paring knife around the edge of the cake. Cover the cake (still in the pan) with plastic wrap and chill for at least three hours before serving.
To serve, remove the sides of the pan (transfer to a plate or serve from the bottom of the pan) and slice with a sharp knife.
What lengths have you gone to for the sake of finishing something you started? This was by no means my most herculean feat of cooking or baking, but there was no way I was going to let all those beautiful and rich elements of luxurious food go to waste. And I was rewarded for my efforts with an airy yet substantial slice of cake with just a hint of bold-flavored stout. Oh, and let me just say, I was out of town for a few days and had a slice of this for lunch today. Wow. Give the flavors some time to develop; you won’t be disappointed.