Maybe you have an upcoming special event. Try a Creme Brulee Cheesecake, a truly special dessert.
Two favorite desserts in one package
We recently had a big birthday to celebrate in my family. I'm all about making the perfect cake for birthdays in my family. I am known to go a little overboard.
But I had a challenge with this cake. My son is not the biggest fan of anything sweet. Given the choice, he would always opt for a salty bag of chips instead of a slice of cake or pie.
When my son turned one, we took him to the neighborhood ice cream shop, eager to watch him discover and devour a vanilla ice cream cone. Wordlessly, he held the cone in his hand, the ice cream melting and dripping down to his elbow. He had absolutely no interest.
But eventually, we did discover his sweet spot. Out at a favorite restaurant, my mother-in-law ordered creme brulee for dessert and lured my son with a tiny taste. He licked up the custard, grabbed the spoon in his tiny hands, and commandeered the dessert as his own. Nana gladly gave up the creme brulee, laughing at his enthusiasm. Since then, creme brulee is his favorite.
Eventually, as my son has grown up and his palette has improved, cheesecake has been added to his small list of preferred desserts. I think it is the tangy sweetness of cheesecake that appeals to him.
So for this big birthday, I decided to combine his two favorite desserts into a Creme Brulee Cheesecake!
Start at the bottom
One of my favorite parts of a cheesecake is the crust. This is where you can impart flavor and texture as a contrast to the creamy filling. For this recipe, I used Biscoff cookies also known as speculoos cookies. These Belgium cookies are one of my favorites with the warm cinnamon and cardamom flavors. A little sugar and melted butter added to cookie crumbs make a flavorful crust.
While this dessert is decidedly vanilla-flavored it is the rich and creamy texture that has a special appeal.
The secret to baking a smooth cheesecake is to have the cream cheese at room temperature and to only mix the ingredients until they are fully incorporated. Mixing too long adds air to the batter which in turn causes the cheesecake to split as it bakes.
The first step in assembling the cheesecake is preparing the pan. It is important to line the outside of the pan with three layers of aluminum foil. I know this sounds excessive, but I have had leakage with I only used two layers. I like to use a measuring cup or a potato masher to press the crust into the pan for a nice flat surface. Bake the crust for 8 minutes and allow it to cool while you are preparing the filling.
Add the softened cream cheese to a bowl and mix for a few minutes. Add the sugar and the cornstarch. The cream cheese will start to look smoother with fewer lumps once the sugar is added. The eggs are added one at a time, making sure to scrap the bowl in between each addition. Finally, add the vanilla extract and the heavy cream. Only mix until the batter until everything is smoothly incorporated. Then stop. Add the batter to the prepared pan.
Cheesecakes are baked in a water bath or bain-marie to help regulate the temperature in the oven. Have some hot water ready before putting the pan in the oven.
It is helpful to have the cheesecake in a sheet pan or roasting pan, place it on the oven rack, and then add the water. That way you are not trying to carry a pan with sloshing water to the oven rack. It should surround the cheesecake up to about an inch.
While the cheesecake is baking, make the creme brulee. This step does not take too long because you are not making a large amount.
Have a bowl with three egg yolks mixed with the sugar and a clean bowl with a strainer, sitting off to the side. The cream is scalded until it starts to rise in the pan. Once the cream is hot, it is added a little at a time to temper the eggs. I have a small ladle that I use to add about 2 ounces of hot cream at a time, whisking the eggs to mix the cream. After about 6 ounces of hot cream has been added to the eggs, the mixture is added back to the pan to continue cooking and thickening.
It is at this point you need to keep an eye on the brulee mix. Only have it on the heat until it starts to thicken. If it heated too long, the eggs will start to scramble. Pour the mix through the strainer over the clean bowl. Any little bits of overcooked egg will be contained by the strainer.
Bake the cheesecake for 50 minutes. Now it is time to add the brulee mix. Carefully pull the oven rack out enough that you can pour the mix on top of the cheesecake. It will smooth itself as you pour it.
Bake the cheesecake for another 30 minutes. Turn off the oven, and prop open the door with a wooden spoon. Let the cheesecake cool in the oven for another hour. The slow cooling down in the oven helps to eliminate the possibility of cracking.
The final step is when you get to use a flame! Sprinkle granulated sugar on top. Using a torch, caramelize the sugar until hardened and browned.
One of the best parts of eating creme brulee is cracking the hard sugar shell and scooping the creamy interior with your spoon. One of the best parts of eating a cheesecake is using your fork to get both the crust and tangy cream filling in one bite. The beauty of this cheesecake is that you get to enjoy both experiences. Do you have a special occasion coming up? I highly recommend a Creme Brulee Cheesecake!
Creme Brulee Cheesecake
- springform pan
- sheet pan or roasting pan
- 2 cups Biscoff cookie crumbs 9 ounces
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 ½ ounces, melted
- ¼ cup sugar 1.75 ounces
- 24 ounces cream cheese 3 8-oz. packages, room temperature
- 1 ⅛ cup granulated sugar 8.63 ounces
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch .9 ounce
- ½ cup heavy cream 4.25 ounces
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 egg yolks
- ⅓ cup sugar 2.625 ounce
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream 12 ounces
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Combine cookie crumbs and sugar. Add the melted butter and stir until the cookie crumbs are completely moistened.
- Wrap the bottom and sides of a springform pan in aluminum foil, 3 times. This prevents water from seeping into the pan. You may think 3 times is excessive, but I have found leakage even when the pan is wrapped twice. Nothing worse than soggy crust!
- Add the crust to the prepared pan. Press into the bottom of the pan as well as up the sides. I use a potato masher to press everything together. You could also use the bottom of a measuring cup or a glass
- Bake in the oven for 8 minutes until the top is golden brown and feels dry. Set aside to cool while the filling is prepared.
- One of the keys to making a cheesecake that does not crack on the top is to watch how long you mix the ingredients. The longer you use a mixer, the more air is added to the batter. Only mix the ingredients until they are incorporated.
- The cream cheese should be at room temperature. This is important so that the cheesecake batter is smooth. Also, you will not have to mix the batter as much to incorporate all the ingredients.
- Add the cream cheese to a mixing bowl. At medium speed, mix the cream cheese while adding the sugar and cornstarch. The batter will start to get smoother with the addition of the sugar.
- The eggs are added one at a time. Make sure to mix the batter completely before adding the second egg.
- Add the vanilla extract to the mixing bowl.
- Lastly pour in the cream and stir until the filling is very smooth. Add to the prepared springform pan.
- Have some boiling water ready to use as a water bath. Place the filled springform pan on a sheet pan or in a roasting pan on the center rack in the oven. Pour the water into the pan (roasting pan or sheet pan) until the water is at least an inch. The water bath will help to regulate the temperature at which the cheesecake bakes.
- While the cheesecake is baking, prepare the creme brulee. In a medium-sized bowl, add the 3 egg yolks and sugar. Whisk together completely
- In a small saucepan, add the 1 ½ cups of heavy cream. With medium-high heat, scald the cream. The cream is scalded when there are small bubbles along the side of the pan and the cream starts to rise. Be careful - the cream rises quickly and will boil over.
- When the cream is scalded, add about ¼ cup to the eggs while continually whisking. This is tempering the eggs - slowly raising the temperature of the eggs while gradually adding small amounts of hot cream. Once half of the cream is added to the eggs, pour everything back into the pan with the remaining cream. Have a clean bowl off to the side with a strainer on top.
- Heat the egg/cream mixture until it starts to thicken. Continually stir with a spatula, making sure the mix is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. The key to good creme brulee is taking it off the heat before the eggs start to overcook and scramble. Pour the brulee mix through the strainer into the clean bowl. Add the ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract.
Finishing the cheesecake
- Once the cheesecake has baked for 50 minutes, the top should be somewhat set.
- Slowly, pour the creme brulee mix on top of the cheesecake. Bake for 30 more minutes.
- Shut off the oven, leaving the cheesecake on the rack. Prop open the door to the oven with a wooden spoon. Leave the cheesecake to cool for one hour. This helps to prevent cracking on the top. It will be room temperature at the end of the hour.
- Remove the cheesecake from the oven and remove the foil from the bottom. Place in the refrigerator and chill for three hours.
Finishing the top of the cheesecake
- To finish the cheesecake, sprinkle granulated sugar over the top surface. With a torch, melt the sugar until it is caramel-colored and hardened.