Fact: I had braces on my bottom teeth this whole offseason. I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful it is to go wedding dress shopping or do anything regarding a wedding when you have braces on your teeth. Or how depressing it is to celebrate Halloween and not be able to eat anything sticky without having a mouth full of it hours later. Not exactly how I imagined spending the winter. After 3 months of self-conscious dialogue, I was practically jumping for joy when I got them removed last week. I was so excited that I celebrated by making Salted Caramel Cheesecake. And now begins my rant about salted caramel, which as you know is featured on nearly every menu across the country.
Caramel is fine… quite honestly it’s not my favorite. I think it’s so sweet that overpowers everything it accompanies. Salted caramel, however, is a totally different story. Salted caramel is exactly what its name implies: homemade caramel sauce that is dusted with a pinch of sea salt. It’s nothing mind blowing in theory but boy oh boy is it pretty amazing when it hits your taste buds. Sweet and chewy caramel that becomes almost creme brulee like when combined with sea salt. The sweetness is dulled so that it combines well with nearly everything. Brownies? Definitely. Bread pudding? Yes please with some butter pecan ice cream. And cheesecake? Well, why yes, it’s quite fabulous. Old fashioned cheesecake is blown out of the water when it’s
drowned lightly drizzled with decadent salted caramel. The cream cheese becomes creamier. The buttery gingerbread crust becomes sweeter. The vanilla bean becomes nearly irresistible. The salt explodes on your taste buds and screams “this is the way cheesecake was always meant to be eaten!” Make it soon before gingerbread cookies are out of season, and keep it a secret because your fiance friends will sneak it out of the kitchen when they think you aren’t looking.
Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine
Makes: 8-10 servings
Baking Time: 65 minutes Cooling Time: 2 hours Total Time: 4 hours
1 1/2 cups ground gingerbread cookies*
1 tbs vegetable oil
1 tbs melted butter
12 oz 1/3 less-fat cream cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
2/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup fat-free sour cream
2 eggs, room temperature
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean
For Salted Caramel:
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbs water
4 tbs heavy cream
sea salt (I used pink Himalayan sea salt so that it stood out on the top)
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Mix the gingerbread crumbs, vegetable oil, and melted butter together with a spatula in a medium mixing bowl.
- Spray a 9 inch springform pan well and lay the gingerbread crumbs in the bottom in an even layer. Use your fingers to gently press down to make a firm crust, moving the crumbs up along the sides as well. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
- Beat the cream cheese, yogurt, brown sugar, and sour cream together in a mixing bowl until everything is well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, waiting until the first is combined before adding the second. Use a paring knife to cut the vanilla bean down the center. Use the back of the knife to scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean away from the outer skin. Put the seeds in the cream cheese mixture and save the skin. You can use it to flavor liquor (like vodka) or a bowl of sugar. Do something with it! It’s very expensive!
- Gently mix the vanilla bean seeds and the salt into the cream cheese mix.
- Pour the cream cheese mix into the gingerbread crust. Place the springform pan into a large baking dish. Pour hot water into the baking dish so that it reaches 1 inch high on the chesecake. If you are even remotely unsure if your springform pan has a leak, put a layer of foil around the springform before placing it in the baking dish. This will prevent water from leaking into the pan. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes, or until the center is stable in the center. Turn the oven off and leave in the oven for another 30 minutes.
- Remove the springform pan from the baking dish and run a knife around the edge of the cheesecake. Chill in the oven for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
- To make the salted caramel, put the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat over medium-high heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves, stirring as necessary. Cook for another 10 minutes or so without stirring, until the sugar becomes medium to dark brown. Remove from the heat and stir in the heavy cream with a rubber spatula. BE CAREFUL! The sugar is extremely hot and may bubble when you add the cream. Place the pan back on the heat and cook for 1 minutes, until the caramel starts to boil. Remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
- When the cheesecake is chilled, remove the sides of the springform. You can place the bottom of the springform directly on a serving platter or gently remove it with two spatulas.
- Drizzle the caramel over the cheesecake (I used a spoon to create a swirl design, but you do whatever you want). Sprinkle just a pinch of sea salt over the top. Serve at room temperature.
* You can always use graham crackers if gingerbread cookies are no longer available.
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