The next few days in the Kennedy house will officially be spent turning this pile of lovely possibility:
into seven cheesecakes (some drenched in homemade caramel and/or dark chocolate ganache) and at least five batches of the most scrumptious chocolate chip cookies in the universe, to be given as gifts to friends and family.
As my children have gotten older, baking has become our unexpected holiday tradition–unexpected because for years I wasn’t very good at it. Once, I set our oven on fire while baking Pilsbury slice and bake sugar cookies, which take a stupendous lack of talent to ruin, let me tell you. Our children, however, all have a knack for baking, so we spend hours on end, for at least two days leading up to Christmas Eve, cooking our little hearts out and delivering joy to those who have brought us joy throughout the year. Even though it is work (hard work–have you ever made a cheese cake), it is easily my favorite part of the holidays.
Since I can’t give all of you a slice of cheesecake, I thought I would share the recipes we use so you can try your hand at making your own and impressing your own friends and family–my gift you you! These are not our recipes, though I couldn’t tell you who they belong to, but they have seen us through many Christmases and school projects, birthday parties and team dinners, some have requested we make them as gifts for them to give to others and we get special requests throughout the year. And of course we love them enough to eat them as well, even after we have stood for two days straight slaving over them for others, so they are proven recipes. We hope you enjoy!
Note: All ingredients should be room temperature.
5 packages of cream cheese (8 oz)
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
5 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy cream
• Preheat oven to 325°, position rack in the middle of the oven. Meanwhile, set a pot of water to boil on the stove.
• In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, flour and salt until smooth. Set mixer to low, and add yolks and eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Finally, add vanilla and cream.
• Grease a 9 inch cake pan or spring form pan and line bottom with parchment paper. Pour batter into pan. Place cake pan into large roasting or broiling pan. Fill the roasting pan with boiling water to halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Our recipe calls for 35 to 45 minutes in the oven, but we always end up baking them 1 hour, which is a testament to each oven being different. Start checking every 5-10 minutes at 35 minutes and bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on the top.
• Remove cheesecake from water bath and cool to room temperature. Add crust (see below), turn onto plate, if adding chocolate or caramel (see below) now is the time, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Make sure to use plenty of wrap, as cheesecake tend to take on refrigerator smells.
1/2 cup real salted butter
1 package graham crackers (not the whole box!)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
• In a plastic bag, crush graham crackers to smithereens (this part’s fun).
• Melt butter and brown sugar in a heavy sauce pan, just until sugar is melted.
• Add the crushed graham crackers to the butter and sugar mixture, stirring.
• Allow to cool to the touch before adding in an even layer to the top of the cheesecake, pressing in gently.
8 oz semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1/8th tsp coarse salt
• Place chopped chocolate in heat-proof bowl.
• In a sauce pan, bring cream just to a boil over medium-high heat.
• Pour heated cream over the chocolate, adding coarse salt and making certain all of the chocolate is submerged–do not stir.
• Allow to stand for ten minutes before whisking smooth. Allow to cool before adding to cheesecake.
2 cups sugar
12 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
Salt to taste
• In a heavy saucepan, heat sugar over medium-high heat, whisking as it melts. Stop whisking when melted.
• Cook sugar to a deep amber color (reddish brown with a slightly toasted aroma and just a tiny bit of smoke) to 350°.
• Add butter all at once BUT CAREFULLY, whisking until melted.
• Remove from heat and slowly pour in cream (again carefully). Whisk until all of the cream is incorporated and sauce is smooth, then add salt as desired.
• Allow to cool before adding to cheesecake. Remainder may be refrigerated for up to two weeks and reheated prior to use–we recommend caramel sundaes!
May you be blessed with Peace, Love and Joy this holiday season!