Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sweet Potato Cheesecake with Meringue Topping

This pie is a sure crowd pleaser. The cheesecake is creamy and subtly sweet with the same great flavors of the sweet potato pie that we all know and love. The meringue topping tastes much like a lightly toasted marshmallow. As you bury your spoon into the cloud-like meringue topping, your spoon will smothly glide into the creamy center of this cheesecake-what a dream! This cheesecake literally melts in your mouth! Prepare yourself for the oohs and aahs as you present this dessert to company this holiday season as it is not only beautiful to look at, but tastes devine! Ditch the ordinary sweet potato pie and go for something with a little more pizazz. Here's what you need...

Serving size: 6-8 servings
-Roasting Pan.
-9-inch springform pan.
-Hand or stand mixer.
-Kitchen torch (optional. See video).
-1 medium saucepan.
-2 large mixing bowl.
Ingredients for the crust:
-2 cups graham cracker crumbs or digestive biscuits that have been crushed down to crumbs equaling 2 cups.
-1 stick unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled.
-2 tablespoons granulated sugar.
Ingredients for the filling:
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
-1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg.
-1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder.
-1/4 tsp. salt
-2  8lb. packs of cream cheese, at room temperature.
-1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar.
-1 cup roasted and pureed sweet potatoes (1 medium sweet potato will do).
-1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract.
-4 large eggs, whisked.

Ingredients for the Meringue:
-4 egg whites (at room temperature).
-6 tablespoons granulated sugar
-1/2 teaspoon meringue powder OR  cornstarch (corn flour). This will help stabilize your meringue.
-1/4 teaspoon salt.
-1/4 cup pure honey (I used clover honey).
-1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.

Instructions for making the crust:
**Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.**
-In a medium bowl, combine the Graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Mix well.
-Slowly poor in the melted butter and combine with a fork until the mixture resembles wet sand and there are no dry crumbs in the bowl.
-Place the buttered crumbs in the bottom of your springform pan and press lightly into an even layer with your fingers or the flat bottom of a glass. Make sure to press some crumbs up the sides of the springform pan.
-Chill your crust in the fridge for 40 minutes-1 hour. This will help prevent your crust from crumbling as you slice into the finished cheesecake
-Bake the crust in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes until the edges of the crust in the pan are lightly browned.
-remove the crust from the oven and cool for 8-10 minutes on a cooling rack. Set aside.
-Once it cools down, double or triple wrap the baked crust with heavy- duty aluminum foil. This will help prevent the water from the water bath seeping into your cheesecake as you bake.                                                                                
**Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celcius).***
For the meringue topping:
-4 egg whites.
-1/2 teaspoon meringue powder or cornstarch (to stabilize your whipping cream).
-1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar.
-1/4 cup pure honey OR light agave nectar.
-Seeds of 1 vanilla bean.
-1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.

Instructions for making the meringue topping:
-In a medium saucepan, bring about 2 inches of water to a simmer on medium heat. Place a large bowl that is very clean and grease-free over the saucepan containing the water (if your bowl is greasy, your egg whites will not beat up with a lot of volume). Make sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water in the saucepan.
-Place the egg whites, sugar, honey and vanilla extract in the bowl and set over the simmering water. Whisk constantly until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is hot and frothy. Take a drop of the egg mixture and place it on your inner wrist. The mixture is ready for the next step when the it feels warm/hot on your inner wrist.
-Using a mixer set on high speed and fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg mixture until the meringue cools at room temperature, stiff peaks form and the meringue gets a glossy appearance, as shown in the video (when the meringue is at the right consistency, you should be able to turn the bowl upside-down without the meringue falling out of the bowl). This beating process should take 5-6 minutes.
Instructions for making the filling:
-Combine the cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and salt.
-In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the cream cheese and brown sugar on medium speed until creamy (1 to 2 minutes).
-Add the sweet potato puree, vanilla extract and spice mixture and beat until smooth (about 1 minute).
-Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
-Add the filling into the prepared crust and smooth the top using a spatula.
-Place the pan in the center of a roasting pan that has  about 4 inches of hot water. The hot water should reach halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm but jiggles slightly in the center (45 minutes to 1 hour. Check for doneness). Let the cheesecake cool in the water bath before topping with the meringue. The cheesecake can be refrigerated overnight.
-Unmould your cheesecake and place it on your cake pedestal. If your cheesecake appears to have some moisture ontop of it, lightly pat the top with a paper towel to remove the moisture.
-While the cheesecake is still warm, mound the meringue on top, using a pastry spatula to spread it to the edges.
-Using the back of a spoon, create mountains/ whisps of meringue around the surface (see video).
-Lightly brown the meringue with a hand-held kitchen torch until you see the meringue starting to brown. (see video). Do this until the whole surface of the meringue is beautifully browned.  If you hold the torch in one spot for too long, the meringue will burn. If you do not have a kitchen torch, turn your oven to the broiler setting and place your cheesecake on the shelf closest to the top of the oven. Be careful not to flatten the pretty designs you have made. Leave the oven door slightly cracked and broil the cheesecake until the whisps are lightly browned (30 seconds to 1 minute). Stay next to the oven the whole time to observe the browning process. Remove the cheesecake from the oven once you feel it has browed to your liking.
-Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 6 hours. Serves 8 to 12.