Roasted Cashew Caramel Cheesecake
Heather Baird of Sprinklebakes.com has come out with a new book, Sea Salt Sweet, in which she explores that wonderful combo of salty and sweet, showcased so nicely in this Roasted Cashew Caramel Cheesecake. When it comes to cheesecake, I always think more is better – think over-the-top creations – and this certainly satisfies. A little slice will do you with the creamy cheesecake lightened with ricotta topped with salted roasted cashews and homemade caramel. For a slightly more savory take on salty/sweet, check out her Apple-Stuffed Cheddar Puffs.
Reprinted with permission from Sea Salt Sweet© 2015 by Heather Baird, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.
WHENEVER I SERVE SLICES OF THIS cheesecake to family and friends, I wait for the question that never, ever gets asked. I anticipate “Where’s the crust?” but nary a word uttered. No one notices, and I sup- pose it’s because there’s too much crunchy cashew goodness going on up top.
The batter for this cheesecake will fill a 9 x 3-inch/23 x 6 cm round springform pan clear to the top, but do not distress. I’ve never had one overflow during baking. It will puff up quite a bit above the top of the pan, but after it is removed from the oven it will deflate back down to pan height. I understand the need to feel secure, especially when a pristine oven floor is at stake, so you can put a baking sheet underneath the springform pan during baking if it makes you feel better.
Once this cheesecake is well chilled, I usually level the top. This means cutting off the tall outer edge of the cheesecake with a serrated knife. This step is not necessary, but I like the way the cake looks when the cashews are piled around the outer edge of the cake (I also don’t mind the leftover cheesecake scraps on an ice-cream sundae). If you’d rather pile the cashews in the center of the cake, that’s fine, too. Plan ahead because this cheesecake needs to chill for several hours, and preferably overnight.
- White vegetable shortening, for pan
- 32 ounces/900 g cream cheese, softened
- 3 cups/690 g ricotta cheese
- 4 ounces (1 stick)/110 g unsalted butter, softened
- 11/2 cups/300 g granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 vanilla bean
- ½ cup/100 g granulated sugar
- ½ cup/120 ml heavy whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup/190 g salted cashew pieces
- MAKE THE CHEESECAKE: Preheat the oven to 325°F/165°C. Grease a 9 x 3-inch/23 x 8 cm round springform pan with white vegetable shortening. Line the sides of the pan with a length of parchment paper that extends 4 inches/10 cm above the top of the pan (this will help hold the cheesecake batter when it puffs up over the pan’s edge).
- In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the cream cheese, ricotta cheese and butter on medium-low speed until creamy and well combined. Beat in the sugar, flour, and cornstarch. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the eggs, one at a time, beating until well incorporated after each addition. Mix in the lemon juice. Split the vanilla bean pod and scrape out the seeds; add the seeds to the mixture and blend well.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. This cheesecake will puff during baking, but it will not overflow. Bake for 1 hour 20 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned and top is dry to the touch (the center 5 inches/12.5 cm of cheesecake will not be set). Allow to cool on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around the edge of pan to loosen; allow to cool on the cooling rack for 1 hour longer. Refrigerate the cheesecake in the pan overnight. Remove the cheesecake from the springform pan and place on a serving platter. Level the puffed top edge of the cheesecake with a serrated knife, if desired.
- MAKE THE ROASTED CARAMEL CASHEW TOPPING: Combine the sugar and ¼ cup/60 ml of water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until the mixture caramelizes and turns a deep amber color, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat source and gradually whisk in the heavy whipping cream. The mixture may bubble and sputter with this addition, so be careful! Whisk in the vanilla. Let the mixture cool until barely warm but still pourable, about 15 minutes. Stir the cashews into the caramel mixture. Spoon the caramel-covered cashews around the top edge of the cheesecake, and then drizzle the remaining caramel over the entire cheesecake. Serve chilled. Store leftovers, loosely covered in plastic wrap, in the refrigerator.