A friend of mine was celebrating his birthday yesterday and asked that I make a Dulce de Leche Cheesecake for his party. Cheesecake?! Ugh. I had been dreading making this since he asked for it earlier in the week. Cheesecake is one of my least favorite sweets to bake. Getting it just right is a hassle and there’s a meticulous science that goes into the baking. The tiniest diversion to the required steps can be disastrous. I’m all about EASY recipes. But it was a special occasion, so I couldn’t say no.
In the end, it was a hit (and inhaled by guests) at the party — so that alone made it all worth it! This dessert is so rich and decadent I think you gain a pound or two just by saying the name. It’s creamy and velvety and the Dulce de Leche gives it a wonderful caramel tone. As if the filing isn’t indulgent enough, I like to top the cheesecake off with a Dulce de Leche glaze and finish it with a sprinkle of Fleur de Sel. The Fleur de Sel makes it just a tad bit sweet and salty with every bite. The crust is your traditional graham cracker crust, which I love and is the easiest part of the cheesecake to make.
As a side note and completely unrelated to the cheesecake, the main course at the dinner party (in case you’re wondering) was a Korean inspired Bo Ssam (pork butt) from one of our favorite places in the city – Momofuku Ssam Bar. This spectacular recipe consists of a crunchy and salty caramel crust covering an incredibly fragrant and moist pile of meat underneath. It’s served with a ginger scallion sauce, kimchi and leafy greens, but we omit both the kimchi and greens for our rendition. The pork is so tender after slow-roasting for an entire day that all you need to pull it from the bone is a pair of chopsticks. My hubby happened to be responsible for this portion of the meal, so I decided to take a picture of it while it was simmering in the oven and getting basted with juicy goodness. It’s a thing of beauty and a must share.
But I digress. Back to the main subject. A few pointers on how to prevent your cheesecake from cracking. This one cracked by the way, it’s just semi-covered by the glaze and powdered sugar =). It still tastes yummy, but not the perfectly smooth cheesecake you’re going for. Truth be told, I was pressed for time so my mistake was rushing to get this out of the oven and into the fridge ASAP – a big NO, NO!
First, avoid over-beating the filling once the eggs are added. Over beating incorporates air into the batter, causing the cheesecake to puff up and then collapse. Second, avoid over baking. A cheesecake is cooked when the edges are slightly puffed and the center is slightly soft and custard like. Third, avoid opening the oven door during cooking. If you must open the door, open it towards the end of the baking time and shut quickly but gently. And finally, when done baking, turn your oven off and leave the cheesecake sitting inside for another 30-45 minutes, until cool to the touch, to gradually cool off (a step I completely ignored this time). The center will set and your cheesecake will begin to cool without a drastic change in temperature, minimizing your chances of a cracked top.
Follow these steps and you should be good to go with a beautifully yummy dessert. Who knows, maybe you’ll even enjoy making cheesecake more than I do. One thing’s for sure, your guests will love you forever after taking their first bite! =)
~ 8 oz. graham crackers, finely crushed (2 cups of crumbs)
~ 3 Tbs. granulated sugar
~ 7 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
~ 3 8-oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature
~ 3/4 cup dulce de leche
~ 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
~ Table salt
~ 1 cup granulated sugar
~ 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
~ 4 large eggs, at room temperature
~ 2/3 cup dulce de leche
~ 2 tablespoons (or more) heavy whipping cream
~ Fleur de sel
In a food processor, grind the graham crackers until you have very fine crumbs. Add the 3 Tbs. granulated sugar and continue to pulse until well mixed. Incorporate the melted butter until the crumbs are evenly moist and clumped together slightly. Transfer the mixture to the 9-inch springform pan and press evenly onto the bottom of the pan (you can press with your fingers or use a flat-bottom measuring cup). Bake until the crust is fragrant and slightly darkened, 10 to 12 minutes. Let the pan cool on a rack. Lower the oven temperature to 300°F.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, dulce de leche, flour, and a pinch of table salt on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl and the paddle frequently, until very smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Make sure the cheese has no lumps. Add the 1 cup granulated sugar and continue beating until well blended and smooth.
Add the 2 teaspoons vanilla and beat until blended, about 30 seconds. Add the eggs one at a time, beating just until blended. (Don’t over-beat or the cheesecake will puff too much and crack as it cools.) Pour the filling into the cooled crust and smooth the top.
Bake at 300°F until the center wobbles just slightly when nudged, 60 to 65 minutes. The cake will be slightly puffed around the edges, and the center will still look moist. Turn the oven off and cool with the door closed for another 30-45 minutes until pan is cool to the touch. Transfer to a rack and cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 8 hours and up to 3 days. (The cake can also be frozen for up to 1 month.)
To make the glaze, heat dulce de leche and 3 tablespoons cream in microwave-safe bowl in 10-second intervals until melted. Stir to blend, adding more cream by teaspoonfuls if too thick to pour (amount of cream needed will depend on brand of dulce de leche). Pour glaze over cooled cheesecake; spread evenly. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour (glaze will not harden, but should be slightly firmer). Once glaze has been spread, sprinkle the cheesecake with fleur de sel. Glaze can be made up to two days ahead of time. Cover and chill to store.