Tonawanda News

August 27, 2013

HAYNES: It may not be pretty, but turtle cheesecake is a hit

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Planning a baby shower from 1,400 miles away isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. 

It’s made even more difficult when the cousin for whom you’re planning said shower only offers up a couple suggestions of what she wants: chocolate cake, cheesecake and no silly games that involve guessing how big around her pregnant belly is.

I knew as soon as I heard that my cousin Ali was going to have a baby that I wanted to be involved in planning her shower. I may live in a completely different state, but we were going to make this happen with more than a little help from my mom and grandmother.

Ali’s a pretty laid back lady and didn’t seem to care much about fussing over her big day. She did, however, seem to feel deadly serious about what kind of desserts she wanted.

Chocolate cake, I could easily do, though I ultimately freelanced that out to a baker my family knows who could do some fancy icing work I’d fallen in love with on a cake I saw on Pinterest. What many have come to learn about me is that while many of the things I make — particularly baked goods — taste great, they don’t often look great.

And so it was with Ali’s cheesecake.

I’ve been dying to learn how to tackle this particular dessert. Cheesecake is one of my favorites, but it always seemed a little outside the realm of possibility. Tonawanda News writer and sometimes-food columnist Jill Keppeler makes a mean cheesecake, so I solicited some advice and recipes from her.

We ultimately settled on a turtle cheesecake she had made at Easter and I had the good fortune to taste.

She mentioned that all the cheesecakes she’s made have had the tendency to crack along the top, which is exactly what mine did. All I can say is throw some whipped cream or fresh fruit on top of that thing cause once you take a bite, you really won’t care what the heck it looks like.

The recipe, adapted from Taste of Home magazine, is relatively simple. The hardest part was crushing up all those vanilla wafers for the crust and opening up all the little caramels. Just make sure everything is as close to room temperature as possible beforeand you should be fine, Jill says.

Be sure to plan ahead because I made the unfortunate mistake of thinking I could make this thing just a few hours before the baby shower. No dice. It needs to cool in the refrigerator overnight. Luckily it can last a few hours in the freezer and set up just fine, so that’s an option if you really need to get this thing cooling quickly, but it still wasn’t quite as cool as it should’ve been.

As you can tell from the photograph, this wasn’t the prettiest-looking thing on the table that day in Texas, but it certainly got the most oohs and aahs — well, aside from the adorably pregnant guest of honor, of course.

Turtle cheesecake

2 cups crushed vanilla wafers (about 60 wafers)

1⁄2 cup butter, melted

1 package (14 ounces) caramels

1 5-ounce can evaporated milk

2 cups chopped pecans

4 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips, melted and lightly cooled

Whipped cream if you feel the need to hide any cracks that may form across the top

Mix vanilla wafer crumbs with butter and press into bottom and 2 inches up the sides of a 10-inch springform pan. Bake the crust at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until set. Cool crust on wire rack while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

Melt caramels with milk in saucepan or microwave and stir until smooth. Cool mixture for 5 minutes, then poor into crust and top with pecans.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth and add sugar and vanilla. Mix well. 

Add eggs to mixture and beat on low speed until combined. Add melted chocolate and mix until combined. Spread mixture over top of caramel and pecans.

Bake cheesecake at 350 degrees for about an hour or until center is almost set. Cool on wire rack for about 10 minutes.

Run a knife along outside edge of pan to loosen the cheesecake from the sides and continue to cool for another hour. Refrigerate overnight.

Contact Sunday Lifestyle editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116 or follow her on Twitter @DanielleHaynes1.