Friday, December 17, 2010

A gift from my kitchen

Today I"m taking a break from cookie-baking to prepare a gift for my next-door neighbors. Donn and Trish have been dear friends for two decades. Both in their 80's, Donn is an artist and retired private school teacher. Trish is an avid gardener and has taught me so very much over the years. They built their Cape Cod style home some 50 years ago; over the years they have filled it with antique furniture from their many trips to the British Isles.

Their home is always warm and inviting--especially during the holidays--in part due to the massive fireplace in their dining room, but mostly because of the warmth and love they show to everyone they know. To help with their entertaining this Christmas season, I've decided to bake an English toffee cheesecake for them.

The recipe I selected is from the website but I've made a few adjustments:

Christmas Cheesecake with English Toffee Filling
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 5 ounces graham crackers)
1/2 cup toasted almonds, finely chopped
1/2 cup English toffee bits (such as Skor)
2 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

     NOTE: In lieu of toasted almonds and toffee bits, I omitted the 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, increased the amount of graham cracker crumbs to 2 cups, and added 1/2 cup granola, whirled in the blender to pulverize.

4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
8 ounces chocolate-covered English toffee (such as Skor or Heath bars), cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 16-ounce container sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Assorted candies (such as gumdrops and holiday M&M’s)

For crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix dry ingredients in medium bowl. Add butter; stir until moist clumps form. Press mixture over bottom and 1 inch up sides of 10-inch-diameter springform pan. Bake crust until just set, about 5 minutes. Set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

For filling:
Beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until blended. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, blending well after each addition. Beat in both extracts. Pour half of mixture into prepared crust; sprinkle with toffee pieces. Pour remaining mixture over. Bake until edges are puffed but center is barely set, about 55 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare topping:
Mix sour cream, sugar and vanilla in medium bowl until smooth. Pour topping over hot cheesecake. Bake cake until topping is just set, about 5 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool 10 minutes. Run knife between cake and pan sides. Chill cake uncovered overnight.

Remove pan sides and place cake on platter. Garnish top with candies.
     NOTE: I didn't decorate the top with red and green Christmas candies. I thought their presence would detract from the toffee flavor. I also feared that the red and green artificial color would bleed onto the top of the cheesecake. Instead, I placed candied pecan halves on the top of the cheesecake, encircling the outside edge, and then drizzled dark chocolate and carmel sauce decoratively over the top. Bon App├ętit
December 2000

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