caramel peanut butter cheesecake

I mean, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to work my way into cheesecake. Words fail to completely convey my level of love for this delectable dessert. When you get that perfect mix of sweet, salty, creamy, and graham cracker-y, it’s nothing short of bliss.

With pure joy as my target, this week I’ll also accept “This looks sort of like cheesecake and I want more of it in my cakehole” or even “… it’s not a total failure” because cream cheese.

Nadia, bless her heart, bought me a springform baking pan as a gift as both congratulations and encouragement to continue exploring my creative side. I secretly think she just wanted cheesecake and is hoping luck is on her side.

Alas, we’ve arrived. A caramel peanut butter baked cheesecake sounds exciting and terrifying. I’m using Better Homes and Gardens’ recipe and to make the bake more challenging, I’m also going to make my own caramel sauce based on this seemingly easy recipe.

Crust
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
6 tsp butter melted

Caramel sauce
1 cup sugar
6 tbsp butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Filling
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup caramel sauce
1/3 cup peanut butter, stirred

1. For crust, mix together crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon; stir in butter.
Press firmly against bottom and all sides, half way up pan. Grease pan,
bake 10-12 minutes at 350°. Cool on wire rack, regrease sides of pan.

2. For caramel sauce, have everything at the ready, move quickly, and remove 
any/all potential hazards. This process happens quickly, shit gets hot, and safety 
fucking first.

3. Heat sugar on moderately high heat in a large sauce pan. As sugar
melts, stir with vigor. As soon as sugar boils, stop stirring.

4. Once all crystals have melted, immediately add butter. Whisk in until
melted.

5. Once butter has melted, remove from heat. Slowly begin to add cream
while simultaneously whisking.

6. Whisk until smooth, let cool in pan for a few minutes then move to a
mason jar.

7. For the pie filling, beat cream cheese with a mixer for 30 seconds,
add sugar and vanilla. Beat again until smooth and creamy. Beat in one
egg at a time. Pour into crust.

8. Mix together caramel and peanut butter filling with a pinch of salt.
Spoon pools of mixture over the top of the cheesecake filling. Jiggle pan 
to level everything. Marble batter.

9. Bake 40-45 minutes at 325°. Center should be moist and jiggly. Slide knife
around circumferance of pan, removing any stuck filling. Leave pan on, cool on
rack. Cover with a bowl to allow to cool slowly. Once cool, refridgerate
5-24 hours.

Phew! Ok, so, some preceding thoughts.

  • I’ve never made a caramel sauce before. This sounds hot and scary. Seems like shit can go south in a hurry and I can’t say I’m a huge fan of searing hot substances that can easily adhere to one’s flesh.
  • I want to jazz up the caramel sauce with actual vanilla bean to add some depth of flavor. I’ve also never used any vanilla flavoring other than vanilla extract for anything (read: Malt o’ Meal), so I assume viewing the YouTubes should yield some hints on how to incorporate the vanilla.
    … Vanilla.
  • Upon re-reading the cheesecake recipe, I’m actually displeased with the amount of cream cheese in this recipe. I really want to add more but assume disaster will strike by preventing the filling from holding firmly, like some sort of delicious molten cream cheese volcano. This sounds like a challenge.
  • Like a lover jilted, I’m now internet stalking no-bake cheesecake recipes that require 16-32 ounces of cream cheese. That’s 5-11 times as much pleasure than this recipe 😐 
  • I’m now regretting my life choices.

the bake

Today’s bake is brought to you by Vertigo Brewing’s Madagascar Vanilla Porter. With all the vanilla happening, it just made sense! Beer just tastes better at 10:00 Monday morning.

Ok crust. I need you to be tasty as fuck. Let’s crush you. After some quick mental calculus, I figured out 8 graham crackers yields 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs.math

While looking around for how to crush these crackers and not make a huge mess, I figure I’ll put them in a large baggie and crush them in it, transferring them to the measuring cup to then add to the sprin… OMG THEY ALREADY COME IN A SEALED BAGGIE WHICH MEANS

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I get my 1 1/2 cups of crushed graham crackers smashed into the pan but there’s definitely not enough to run up the pan sides “half way.” While eight graham crackers may yield 1 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs, it’s not enough to fill a 9″ springform pan’s bottom and sides. I quickly throw another mixture together and get it all pressed into the pan and up the sides. Sort of. It’s good enough.

The crust is now cooking for 11 minutes and start to tackle my sweet napalm sauce. I’m a bit nervous about it, so I re-read and memorize the recipe so I know what to do at any given moment.

I add the sugar, a touch of water, and a slivered vanilla bean. I may or may not yell “I’M SCARED” to Nadia, a room over, a time or two. I keep the heat moderately high and place a bowl over it as it cooks because this apparently helps prevent burning (perhaps some sort of internet myth or witch magic).

I become nervous as the cooking process takes longer than expected. There are several removals of the bowl, stirs, and paces back and forth.

Wow, once things start going, it happens fast. Surprisingly and impressively enough, there are no major muck-ups, no burning sugar, and everything comes together first try. I took a different route than the recipe here, though.

I end up cooking the sugar down with the vanilla bean and let it turn amber. Once amber, I remove it from the heat and add a bit more than a 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream. The addition of the cream makes the sauce blow up a bit and I get somewhat startled, thinking the cream would curdle or do something else awful. Lo and behold, I stir until smooth, add chunks of butter one at a time and presto! Sweet caramel and no third-degree burns. The truest win-win situation.

The caramel sauce looks a touch runny for typical caramel, but I’m going with it, under the assumption it will thicken as it cools. Besides, I don’t want to risk a burned batch and/or house fire. Although, this guy came prepared- I bought two eight-ounce containers of cream. I could have sworn I was going to massively fail a batch or two.

Onto the filling!

3 ounces cream cheese, beat with mixer

I grumble and very overtly disregard the amount. I add probably five ounces total. On one hand, two more ounces shouldn’t make a difference, right? On another, an additional 67% is probably pretty shortsighted. I also don’t have a mixer, or at least one that I would recognize and/or know how to utilize. So I do what I did as a kid when I had no help- Beat it myself.

Once the cream cheese is vigorously beaten, I come to a stark realization- there is NOT much filling here. Like, at all. While I added additional cream cheese for the flavor, the extra is indeed useful for volume, too. Still, it can’t be enough. I know I have two eggs to throw in yet, along with the caramel and peanut butter, but that’s topping, not filler.

FullSizeRender.jpg-5

I suppose I’m forgetting that the two eggs will do egg things and puff up the filling a bit. Still, it doesn’t seem enough to fill the pan properly.

🤔

It sounds like it’s improvisation time. Anytime you combine “improvisation” and “baking,” nothing truly comes out successfully unless you’re a professional. And even then, I feel like odds are pretty great. Against all better judgment, I add the remaining three ounces of cream cheese and another 1/4 cup sugar. TO VICTORY.

Goddamn it.

I’m now faced with these incorrigible cream cheese floaties. I feverously beat them with a fork and am gifted only a slight reduction in floaties. It is what it is at this point. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I mix the caramel and peanut butter and attempt to “pool” it over the filling. Nooooope. Not happening. It’s just sort of sinking. I make five or so more pools and attempt to run the spoon through the filling to marble it. Needless to say, I largely sunk most of the pools and did a less than marginal job marbling.

marbled

Honestly, I’m 50/50 on if this cheesecake actually comes out. I’m not necessarily concerned with the flavor since I used ingredients that are almost 100% unfuckupable. It’s more the texture and/or if the cake will actually hold together. In fact, I’m less than 50/50 on this holding together. Maybe 30/70. Time will tell.

[40 minutes elapse]

Hmm.. I check on the cake and pull the sheet out so I can view its progress. There’s some sort of liquid seeping out from the bottom. (I think it’s butter?) It spills on the oven door’s window. I return the cake from whence it came and pretend I didn’t see whatever it was that just happened.

[5 minutes elapse]

Ah, this is more what the recipe informed to expect, assuming the recipe was followed, of course. I remove the cake and place it upon its wire perch. I give it a good shake and this little fuck jiggles most enthusiastically. I’m amazed, it appears to be holding together!

Now to let it cool for a day 😦

lookatme


lessons learned

  1. The caramel process move super quickly, so it’s vital to have all things at the ready
  2. Creating that silky smooth texture in a baked cheesecake is harder than non-bake. Granted, I did totally botch the mixing process
  3. Confirmed: Going off the beaten path, as a novice baker, is usually a poor idea

cakies earned

Appearance: 4/10 Cakies- “It’s not bad but this doesn’t look like a cheesecake. You can see the cream cheese curdles.”

thinking

Serious business

Appeal: 5/10 Cakies- “It’s not an appetizing looking cheesecake.”

Taste: 6/10 Cakies- “The cheesecake part is more like a custard, so the texture is way off. “It’s a good thing you added a caramel peanut butter sauce.”

feels bad man

feels bad man

Overall: 5/10 Cakies- “I’m going to eat more.”

Best part: Caramel peanut butter sauce.

Worst part: Texture and/or appearance. The more-custard-than-cheesecake parts are on the edge of rubbery.


final thoughts

This bake was a good experience overall, even if it wasn’t the best. Having never created a caramel sauce or a baked cheesecake, I’d say both weren’t too bad. I think the lack of tools, or knowledge of said tools, definitely played a role in how this turned out. 

Additionally, I’m still shocked by how little cream cheese the recipe originally called for. I think re-doing this with more cream cheese from the start and properly mixing all the ingredients at the same time will result in a far superior cake.

ps- I’m incredibly happy to have not endured any injuries at all. #caramelnapalm

fancy

😀

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