Sunday, April 27, 2008

Daring Baker Challenge: Cheesecake Balls. . .YUM!

Elle from Feeding My Enthusiam and Deborah from Taste and Tell picked our Daring Baker Challenge for the month of April: Cheesecake Pops! Cheesecake is one of those showstoppers that is easy to make AND gives that WOW! factor. This Daring Baker Challenge definitely added several extra layers to the WOW! The batter itself was delicious. The leftover batter in the mixer bowl had finger marks from licking the bowl clean. I had already bought 10-inch cake pans for my 4-layer carrot cake so I was set for baking. When the cake came out of the oven, I was shocked that there was not even a HINT of a crack in the top. The one time that it doesn't matter if I had a crater in the top and the cheesecake comes out perfect. I started this project 2 days in advance so I just took my time and had fun. The problem was with everyone else trying to take (little) tastes out of my cheesecake. . .before I could get the balls made and into the freezer. I was scared about the tempering of chocolate so I wanted to get everything else done right away. That way I could take my time with the melting and decorating. Previously, I had these grand ideas of learning to temper chocolate and bought 10 pound slabs of callebaut chocolate in different flavors out of the Chocolatier Magazine. The sheer size of the slab intimidated the hell out of me! So there it sat, air sealed in plastic, waiting for me to get my nerve up. The funny part is that my hands were shaking when I started melting the chocolate over simmering water. I had no idea how long it would take the chocolate to start to harden on the cheesecake balls before I could put sprinkles on the outside without them falling off. I knew with the balls of cheesecake being frozen that my window would probably be small. It was! At first, my sprinkles either fell off in clumps of melted chocolate or I had beautiful sprinkles on one side and hard, cold chocolate coating on the other with me individually pressing sprinkles softly into the side, hoping they would stay. My other problem is that after I had finished about 10 cheesecake balls, my melted chocolate started looking grainy. Several Daring Bakers suggested that I was keeping my chocolate to warm. I think they were right because I didn't think to take the chocolate off the simmering water after it was melted. I thought the chocolate would harden again. I'm still not quite sure how I should be handling this melted chocolate. Any input would really be appreciated =).

Because this cheesecake recipe makes so many cute little balls, my daughter and I decided to share some of them with our Bethel Animal Hospital. Our family took in this cute little kitten, now called Fluffy, and the wonderful people at this vet wouldn't let us pay for Fluffy staying the night when she was getting spayed and her return visits were the cost of the shots only. The atmosphere at this vetinarian place is so warm and caring that all I have been think ing about lately is taking them something baked out of our kitchen to show how much we appreciate their concern. When we took Fluffy in, she was abandoned and starving. Just a baby. Now, she has the cutest, roly pink tummy. These little cheesecake balls were the perfect way of saying thank you!

Deb and Elle, thank you both, too! You widened my horizons in the kitchen and now I can't wait to start on my next new project that involves melted chocolate. I actually thought that this might be something out of my league, and I learned that cooking is all a state of mind. . .a "can do" state of mind. Huge hugs to both of you and what a fantastic challenge! =D

Cheesecake Pops
Makes 30 – 40 Pops
5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ cup heavy cream
Boiling water as needed
Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks
1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)
Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) - Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.
In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.
Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.
Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.
When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.
When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.
Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.
Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.
Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.
Elle – Feeding my Enthusiams– and Deborah at Taste and Tell

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