Monday, April 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: The Cheesecake Challenge

I have been following a group called the Daring Bakers for several months now on various food blogs that I read weekly. I enjoyed reading about them so much, that I thought "hey, I should join this and be part of this great group"--so I did. This month is the first challenge I've participated in and going forward, I will be sharing each monthly challenge here at Jillicious Discoveries.

Here's the information about how they started; and they just recently renamed the main group The Daring Kitchen, as now there are two groups--The Daring Bakers and The Daring Cooks.

The Daring Bakers: A History

"In November 2006, Lisa of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice decided to challenge themselves to bake pretzels for the very first time using the same recipe. They each went ahead and posted about it on November 18, 2006.

Having enjoyed that experience tremendously, they decided to try it again the next month, this time choosing to bake biscotti. And to make matters even better, they were joined by a few more food bloggers.

As the months went by, their baking group continued to grow, until it was finally decided that this "little baking group" had to have a name and The Daring Bakers were born!
Today, The Daring Bakers span the world as bakers of all nationalities come together once a month to try something new in the kitchen!"

(Click here to read more information on this fabulous group)

From the day that the challenge information was posted, I knew that I wanted to do something with mangoes. There was no hesitation, no wondering what flavor to go with--the decision was quick and solid and so I began the creative process. The main reasons I wanted to make a mango cheesecake, is because I don't currently have anything mango on my menu and also the fact that I love most all tropical fruits and here in Oregon, you just don't see enough of them in desserts. I used to live in Hawaii and I was very spoiled with the availability of fresh mangoes and I guess you could say that this challenge grew from sentimental reasons as well. I've documented the entire baking process with pictures (something I'm trying to be better at) because usually I take a picture of the completed dessert and that's it.

This recipe was a good one to really be creative. I found that the flavors you could make with this one recipe are endless, but I had to stay with the Mango Tropical Delight Cheesecake I had envisioned, since I read the word "cheesecake".

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

*Jill's Baking Notes: I used a Coconut-Macadamia Nut Crumb Crust, instead of the graham cracker crust. Also, I baked the cheesecake at a lower temperature in a convection oven for a bit longer and used a 10-inch cake pan, rather than a 8 or 9-inch springform pan.

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake

2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.
2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.
3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.
4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.
5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil "casserole" shaped pans from the grocery store. They're 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.

Prep notes: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for almost an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Please plan accordingly!

*Jillicious Variations:

I really wanted to use fresh mango in this recipe, rather than just a mango flavoring. I made a mango fruit puree following these directions:
  • 3 ripe mangoes (peeled and cut into small pieces)
  • lemon juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup of sugar (add to taste)
  • fresh ground nutmeg (just a dash)
  • cinnamon (just a pinch)
Put all ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

When the fruit mixture is soft, remove from heat and transfer mixture to a food processor.

Remove from food processor when smooth and transfer to a bowl and refrigerate till chilled before using. This step can be done a day ahead of time, which is helpful and then you have less to do prepare when making the cheesecake.

*Jillicious Tip:

Next time I make this cheesecake I would add another step before putting it into the refrigerator. I would suggest pressing the mango mixture through a sieve to really get the puree as smooth as possible. I noticed that there were some "mango fibers" that were in the texture of the cheesecake, which really didn't bother me, but if you didn't know what they were, it might cause you to wonder about that little bit of extra texture.

I made the above cheesecake recipe and after mixing the last ingredients, I folded in the mango puree' and spread it in a 10-inch cake pan. I still had some of the mango mixture left over and so I carefully swirled some on the top, for extra flavor.

As I noted above, I did bake this cheesecake in a convection oven (if you ever get the chance to have a convection oven, I highly recommend it--baking is wonderful in these ovens), at 300 degrees f. for over an hour in a water bath. A water bath allows the cheesecake to bake uniformly and remain at a low-even heat and this prevents the cheesecake from cracking. I turned off the oven and left the cheesecake in the oven for another 30 minutes, then transferred it to a rack to finish cooling. After it had completely cooled, I placed it in the freezer till I needed it a few days later. I find that freezing a cheesecake really helps it set up nicely and it tastes even better when served.

To get the cheesecake out of the pan, after being frozen, is actually easier than it sounds. I warm up the bottom of the cheesecake pan on a stove top burner and after a few seconds I remove it from the heat and take a knife and carefully move it around the sides of the cake to loosen it. Then I flip the pan upside down onto a cutting board and then use my cake board on the bottom (after removing the parchment paper) and flip it back right side up like this:

I finished the cheesecake with a sweetened whipped cream and fresh fruits (strawberries, mango, kiwi, starfruit, raspberries, grapes, blueberries and blackberries).

When I served the cheesecake I drizzled some of the fresh mango puree' sauce on the cheesecake plate for that little zing of mango flavor. We had a small gathering of ten friends and family and everyone agreed it was a winner!


  1. This looks really good. I love mango. I may have to order one in the future.

  2. Me again. I'm really tempted to try and make this, but I am afraid of failure. And i don't think that Noel's kitchen is properly equipped. Maybe I'll give it a whirl when I'm back in Quincy.

  3. You can totally do this; it's really not hard at all. Give me a call and I can give you "Jillicious Baking Support" if you need it.

  4. I can already tell I'm gonna love this blog. I think that putting the puree through a strainer is an excellent idea. I really like mangos but not the fibers so much.

    Your kitchen is gorgeous and I am UBER jealous (i like uber, its my newfound vocab word of the week). I have NO counter space and I HATE IT!!!! I need to move, just for more work area in my kitchen!

  5. Congrats on your first challenge and welcome to the Daring Bakers! :)

  6. This cake is magnificent!

    Thank you for the tip of freezing the cake when using a normal pan, it helped me a lot!

  7. Welcome to the DB's! Love the fruit set-up on your cheesecake. Congrats on finishing your first challenge! Hopefully many more to come!

  8. Wow this cheesecake is beautiful, I love all the fresh fruit. Welcome to the DB'ers.

  9. awesome! congratulations on a fantastic first DB challenge! great job!!!

  10. Mmmm, a mango cheesecake sounds divine! Gorgeous decorations too--a real showstopper! :)

  11. What an elegant presentation, mouthwatering!

    Happy Baking!

  12. OH! I am in LOVE with this cheesecake. It looks so fresh and yummy. Great job on it all...the swirling of flavors, presentation, etc!

  13. Great way to top the cheesecake. The starfruit is so interesting. I don't think I've ever had that.

  14. You are so creative! Great job on this month's challenge.

  15. Jill, your cheesecake is like a picture of art! It is gorgeous!!! Congratulations on your challenge :D Excellent job!!!

  16. This is one of the most professional fruit toppings ever! What a gorgeous cheesecake.

  17. I almost think that I could make this. I like to be daring, so maybe....

  18. I love the fruit decoration!

    Welcome to the Daring Bakers!

  19. Congrats on an amazing first challenge! Truly a gorgeous concoction!

  20. Oh my that is so elegant, what a beautiful job. I can't believe this was your first DB challenge too! Welcome to the group.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog btw :)

  21. BEE-YOO-TEE-FOOL! looks like a a fruit bouquet. Stunning, absolutely stunning.

  22. Fabulous effort and I just love the topping you did. And your first challenge I'm impressed. Thanks for the nice comments on my blog. Cheeers from Audax in Australia

  23. Welcome to Daring Bakers, and congrats on a beautifully executed first challenge! Not only does your cheesecake sound delicious, but the way you arranged the fruit is stunning! I also love the coating of whipped cream. It's a real beauty of a cheesecake!

  24. Welcome to DB and your cake looks beautiful. Lisamichele has said what I wanted to. :-)

  25. Wow, such a beautiful presentation! Although, to be honest, the cake looked good without the topping, too: love the swirls!

    Congrats on your first challenge!

  26. What a beautiful job you did on your first challenge! And your kitchen it perfectly huge!

  27. I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVVVVEEE your topping! all that delicious fruit, mmmm mmmm mmmm!

  28. That cheesecake looks great.

  29. I'm really glad you've joined the Daring Bakers, because your hint about using a normal pan was really helpful to many of our members. I love the mango idea. I grew up in Oregon and would find the best mangos at the various Mexican grocery stories (groceria, of course). I once bought a box of 16 for $5!

    Your cheesecake is a stunning centerpiece, and I'm excited to see what you come up with next. Thanks for being a part of the challenge!

    Jenny of JennyBakes

  30. I just wanted to say a BIG THANK YOU to all of you who left me such nice comments and for welcoming me into the Daring Bakers group!! I'm so excited to continue and learn from such a great group of amazing people!! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  31. your cheesecake has some great swirls too! Mango was my second choice after lemon but the fruit on top looks great and a one of a kind

  32. Oh my goodness, that looks so fabulous! You really did this challenge proud.


  33. That is a gorgeous cheesecake!!! I love the way you arranged the fruit on top. :)