I had all these lovely blog entries to post, and then our hard drive (our secondary hard drive, for storage only) went kaput. This is relevant, because without it my pictures don’t upload properly–this could be fixed, but my husband would have to do it, and he is overworked enough as it is, and the computer shop says it will be fixed in a day or 2. In the meantime I have (temporarily) lost the photos of the blueberry crisp I was going to share. Stay tuned for that one. But we Daring Bakers like to share our creations on the same day, so I am posting the entry now with promises of pictures to be uploaded later, hopefully by the end of Tuesday.
This month’s Daring Bakers Challenge was Cheesecake Pops from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Conor. For me it was really 2 challenges in 1: cheesecake, which I had never made successfully, and the more hands-oriented challenge of creating attractive chocolate-dipped confections.
Some of you may know that I stink with my hands.
Anyhoo, the idea, brought to us by Elle of Feeding My Enthusiasms and Deborah of Taste and Tell, is to make a plain cheesecake that is then scooped into balls on lollipop sticks and dipped in chocolate. The kind of challenge that I both revel in, because it really is a challenge and outside the box for me, and am a little dismayed at, because, well, I just invested a lot of time and money in all these gorgeous Cheesecake Pops–which are now headed off to John’s workplace. I must have commented while making these about a million times that I wished it was someone’s birthday! Or that we were having a party. But that’s ok–because now, when I do have a party, I know I can make these.
They came out fabulously–the kind of dessert that looks harder than it is and tastes awesome. I am no longer afraid of cheesecake (my one and only previous attempt leaked gooey stuff out of the bottom and scarred me forever!), as that part was quite easy. In recent years I have grown a little bored of plain cheesecake, but plain cheesecake dipped in a good quality chocolate (I used a mix of semi and bitter sweet Scharffen Berger) is just the opposite. The only instructions I would change in the recipe (other than to bake the cheesecake longer, which I think many of my fellow Daring Bakers found to be true too) would be to make smaller pops and melt more chocolate to start with (I needed a lot). They called for a 2 oz pop–at 1.5 oz my pops were huge and a little too heavy for the lollipop stick while dipping them in the chocolate. I might aim for a 1 oz pop–and play around with it.
Because the point of the Daring Bakers is to make the recipe as written, I am going to copy and paste the entire recipe below, with some comments from me in italics.
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 (I needed about 1 2/3 lbs) 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 (I used some because it made Alex happy, but I prefered the plain chocolate.)
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 (I used a 9 inch square pan–this was too small by one cup but because the recipe does not rise much it was fine.) . 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 (Like many others reported, mine took much longer–about 75 minutes, some of which may be attributed to the different pan size).
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 (I would do 1 oz balls next time) 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 (I would only remove half of the balls to work with at a time, because I found towards the end the balls were not as firm and were falling off the sticks–this only happened for the last 4 or so, so keeping half in the freezer should fix it).
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. (My experience: Be sure that the chocolate coats the entire ball, onto some of the stick–this will help the lollipops hold.) 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 Enthusiasms
Deborah – Taste and Tell
Answers to Questions Asked:
Q – Do you have to add shortening? Can I just use straight chocolate?
A – You can use tempered chocolate without shortening or your own bonbon candy coating. We are not promising it will work, though. In Elle’s words – “the shortening is added to help the chocolate coating firm up quickly. It didn’t make the coating taste bad at all and helped with that nice ‘snap’ quality when bitten into”
Q – Can you use a springform pan if you want to? What if I don’t have a 10-inch pan?
A – A springform pan should work if it is properly lined with foil. The important thing with the pan is to make sure the cheesecake is deep enough to scoop out the balls. As long as the pan is the right size to make the mixture deep enough, you can use it. Make sure if you use a different sized pan to keep an eye on your cheesecake – the baking time will probably be different.
Q – Can I dip the balls in something before dipping them in the chocolate?
A – We mentioned in the post that graham cracker crumbs are acceptable. If there is something else you would like to try you can, but we aren’t guaranteeing that it will work. Some things might make it so the chocolate doesn’t have anything it will adhere to. Also, in Elle’s words – “Personally, I found the combo of the creamy cheesecake and deep dark chocolate so wonderful that, perhaps except for the graham crackers on the bottom for that cheesecake taste, it would be a shame to monkey with it too much. There are lots of avenues for self-expression with the toppings and it’s OK to change the flavoring (lemon, peppermint, almond for example) via the extract so that gives lots of leeway for difference.”
Q – I have a ton of popsicle sticks in the cupboard. Can we substitute them for the sucker sticks?
A – The popsicle sticks are probably too big. The balls are only about the size of a walnut, no bigger than a golf ball.
Q – How about halving the recipe?
A – The volume of a 10 inch by 2 inch standard cake pan is 10 3/4 cups. I measured 5.5 cups of water and then tried out pans until I found one where the water came up in the pan to 1 1/4 inches. That worked perfectly for a half batch. The measurement came from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s “The Cake Bible.”[/b]
Elle also mentions that these freeze well. So if you are worried about having too many, they should hold in the freezer for a few days. I’m sure they won’t last that long around my house!!