Few things make my mouth water. That’s a bold-face lie. Lots of things make my mouth water. None like coffee- espresso to be precise- and Biscoff. I have a habit (whether it’s good or bad is undecided) of seeing just how far I can push the recipe envelope. If espresso and Biscoff are served together all across Europe, why not here in the U.S.? Why not in a cheesecake? Why not now? So, I set out to see how well a dessert comprised of the duo would fare. Fare well, it did, and this Espresso Cheesecake with Biscoff Crust was born.
Have you ever tasted a Biscoff cookie? My first taste of this brand of speculaas cookie was on a flight to Germany. I was more than hooked. It’s best described as a milder gingerbread. The cookie has a more cinnamony-buttery taste than gingerbread, however. I’ve been known to eat an entire package of the things. Glass houses, my friend. Glass houses.
On transatlantic flights you’re, more often than not, going to be handed a packet of the cookies. Recently, to my very great delight, I’ve been the recipient of a pack on my flights in, and out of, New York! Pathetic though it may be, the year was made when I found out my local grocery store started selling Biscoff. Now my afternoon espressos will be complete.
The first step in making a cheesecake is to prepare the pan that will hold the crust. I’m a cheesecake aficionado. Meaning: I don’t play when it comes to making them. I always use my springform pan because it gives the finished cheesecake a nice dark top, but leaves the sides a light color. In other words, it produces that classic cheesecake appearance. Before I do anything, I wrap the bottom of the pan in TWO layers of heavy duty aluminum foil. Why? Because unlike most people who use springform pans to bake their cheesecakes, I use a water-bath (or bain-maire) to bake mine.
Typically, the springform pan is meant to be used sans water. Using water with this pan will result in a soggy cheesecake, as the seams of the pan will allow the water to leak in. That’s if you don’t wrap it in heavy duty foil. Do you have to use a springform? No. You can use a standard cake pan and the bain-marie. Do you have to use water? No, again. You can use your springform pan, sans foil and bain-marie, and bake as you would a regular cake. The results of both? Well, with the cake pan you’ll have a bear of time trying to dislodge it from the pan. Not a deal-breaker, but something to be mindful of. And with the springform pan alone (no water bath), your cheesecake won’t be as creamy as it would be with one.
All this is why I choose to use a bain-marie. Set a pot of water on the stove to boil. In order to pull off an effective bain-marie, you’ll need your water to be boiling. Boiling water will always be 212°F. Always. Well, always at sea level. Obviously, the higher in altitude you go the lower the temperature required to reaching boiling point. Regardless, boiling water will remain a constant temperature. This is what you want when baking cheesecakes or custards. Fluctuating temperatures create splits, uneven interiors, or scorched tops. Once the water is boiling, pour it into a cake pan, or casserole dish, that has a circumference at least two times as wide as the springform pan. You need to be able to put the cheesecake pan into this larger, water-filled pan without burning the crap out of yourself.
Making the Biscoff crust for our espresso cheesecake is as simple as pulsing a package and a half of Biscoff cookies to a fine crumb. A food processor is the best way to accomplish this, but you can also place the cookies into a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin. Once your cookies are ground to a fine powder, add the melted, unsalted butter to bind it together. You should be able to squeeze a handful of the crumbs and have it hold together.
Press this into an even layer in your foil-wrapped pan and bake for ten minutes to crisp up the crust. Once it’s finished baking, pull it from the oven and let it cool while you prepare the cheesecake. Don’t turn off the oven, though, you’ll need it to be hot for this next step. Carefully, place that hot-water filled pan into the oven. This will keep it at a constant temperature while you mix the cheesecake. Alternatively, you can keep the water hot on the stove, then place the larger pan on the oven rack and fill it up with the hot water then.
Cheesecakes are only as good as the ingredients that go into them. I know the crust is going to be on point, but the bulk of a cheesecake is the cake. Challenge Dairy cream cheese is what I have been using forever. This, too, I discovered while living abroad. It seems that this was one of the few, high-quality dairy brands our military commissary kept in stock. I started using it because I had no choice, but realized it made a huge difference in my baking. Between their butter and their cream cheese, they get a lot of my money (and no, they’re not paying me to say this). I highly recommend trying them out, at least.
Whatever cream cheese you do end up using, make sure it is room temperature and soft. If you make your cheesecake with cold, or even slightly colder than room temp, cream cheese; you’ll end up with lumps of solid cream cheese in your cheesecake. It not only looks unappetizing, it also tastes quite odd. Imagine fawning over a bite of creamy espresso goodness and then getting walloped in the tastebuds by a hunk of tart cream cheese. Eso no funciona, Socia. That’s good Nuyorican Spanish for, “That don’t work.” Let your cream cheese sit out for no less than eight hours. Or, better yet, leave it out for twenty-four. When it’s nice and soft, use your stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, to beat it until it’s smooth.
A cheesecake is a pretty simple mix of cream cheese, sugar, flavorings, eggs, and cornstarch (to add a bit of body). Always add a pinch of salt to balance the flavors and make them pop. I start with the sugar so I can get it blended in well. Undissolved sugar has a tendency to want to rise to the top of the cake and caramelize. Sometimes caramelization is a good thing, in this case, however, it ain’t. This is the same time you want to add the salt and get that dissolved, as well.
Let’s establish a rule from here on out: scrape down your bowl every time you add something to it, ‘mmkay? I mean every time. You add sugar? Mix for a minute and scrape down your bowl. You add an egg? Mix for a few seconds and scrape down your bowl. Did you add three eggs? Scrape down your bowl three times. Why is it so important to scrape down the bowl after each addition?
Well, think of the ingredients that are being added to your mixer in terms of people being sacrificed in fire to Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec sun god. These people, most likely, weren’t cool with being burned alive and having their beating heart ripped out just before they burned to death. I’m pretty sure they tried to stay away from the fire. This, on a much smaller and less disturbing scale, is what the ingredients in your mixer wrestle with when you add them to the bowl. They want to hang out on the fringes of that mixing bowl to avoid being enveloped in the sacrificial batter. It’s your job to appease the stomach god by scraping them to the bottom of the bowl, and thus, to their demise.
It’s a good deed, really.
Instant espresso powder is what we’re going to use to flavor our cheesecake. Specifically, espresso powder that has been dissolved in hot water and allowed to cool to room temperature. And, let’s get something straight- it is ES-presso, not EX-presso. Let’s make an honest effort to avoid further ridicule from the Italians, capice? To make sure my espresso flavoring is cool by the time I mix it in, I make it before I begin the crust. By the time I get to this stage it’s stone cold, which is what I want. I also add the small amount of vanilla extract, once the espresso is dissolved, so that I don’t have to fiddle with it later on. After you beat the sugar and salt into the cream cheese, turn your mixer’s speed to low and add the espresso syrup to the whipped cream cheese.
Mix for a few seconds and scrape down your bowl.
Lower the speed of your mixer once again, and add your eggs to the bowl, one at a time. Mix the batter for one minute after the addition of each egg. Scrape down the bowl, as well, after each egg. Add the cornstarch once all of your eggs have been added. Mix for one minute and scrape down, then mix again for thirty seconds.
Pour the batter into your Biscoff-lined pan, then place the cheesecake into your bain-marie, carefully. Bake for one hour. After the baking time is complete, turn off your oven and crack the oven door open (prop it open with a wooden spoon if necessary). This allows the cheesecake to cool very slowly, which is what prevents that ugly crack some cheesecakes develop after baking. After an hour, remove the cheesecake from the oven, then from the bain-marie. Remove the foil wrapping, as well. Place it in the fridge and allow it to cool completely- about three to four hours.
While it’s chillin’, make your whipped cream. To do that, just whip a cup of heavy whipping cream mixed with a tablespoon of granulated sugar. Use a whisk or an electric hand mixer to do this. Whip until the cream holds stiff peaks, or until the cream stands to a point when the whisk (beaters) are pulled out of it.
Once your cheesecake has cooled completely, remove the springform collar. Use a piping bag, or the corner of a plastic food storage bag with the end snipped off, to pipe dollops of whipped cream. You could also just plop the entire bowl of whipped cream on top- I ain’t judgin’! Sprinkle with a small amount of ground cinnamon if desired and enjoy! Pin this recipe so you don’t lose it and share, share, share with your friends and family.
Espresso Cheesecake with Biscoff Crust
Yield 8 servings
Coffee and dessert in one!
2 tbsp instant espresso powder
2 tsp hot water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
13 oz Lotus Biscoff cookies (about 1 1/2 pkgs)
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
4- 8 oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch of kosher salt
4 large eggs
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp granulated sugar
ground cinnamon, if desired
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, pour it into a cake pan that has a larger circumference than the springform pan you will bake the cheesecake in. Wrap the bottom of the pan in TWO layers of heavy duty aluminum foil. Alternatively, use a regular cake pan and omit the foil wrapping.
- Combine the espresso powder, hot water, and vanilla extract in a small bowl. Stir to dissolve the powder and set aside to cool.
Use a food processor to pulse the Biscoff cookies to a fine crumb. With the processor running, slowly add the melted unsalted butter to bind it together. You should be able to squeeze a handful of the crumbs and have it hold together. If it doesn't hold together add a little more butter. Press this into an even layer in your foil-wrapped pan and bake for ten minutes. Once finished, remove from the oven and let it cool. Don't turn off the oven. Carefully place the larger, water-filled pan into the oven.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese it until it's smooth. Add the sugar and salt and mix on medium speed for three minutes, scraping down after a minute and a half.
Turn your mixer's speed to low and add the espresso syrup to the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and mix for a few seconds; then scrape down the bowl once more.
Lower the mixing speed again, and add your eggs to the bowl, one at a time. Mix the batter for one minute after the addition of each egg, then scrape down the bowl. Add the cornstarch once all of your eggs have been added. Mix for one minute, scrape down, then mix again for thirty seconds.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and carefully place this pan into your bain-marie. Bake for one hour.
Turn off your oven and crack the oven door open (prop it open with a wooden spoon, if necessary). After an hour, remove the cheesecake from the oven, then from the bain-marie, and remove the foil wrapping. Place it in the fridge and allow it to cool completely- about three to four hours. Once the cheesecake has cooled completely, remove the springform collar.
Prepare the whipped cream:
- Combine the whipping cream and sugar in a mixing bowl. Using a whisk or an electric hand mixer, whip until the cream holds stiff peaks.
- Use a piping bag, or the corner of a plastic bag with the end snipped off, to pipe dollops of whipped cream.
- Sprinkle with a small amount of ground cinnamon if desired and enjoy!
If you're using a standard cake pan, you'll have to loosen the cheesecake from the side of the pan before de-panning. Use a thin, sharp knife to run around the cheesecake between it and the pan. Flip the cheesecake over onto a clean plate to remove it from the pan. If it sticks, you'll need to flip it bake over and warm the bottom in a hot water bath. Once it flips out easily, flip it right side up by inverting a plate onto the bottom and turning over.
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