Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cinnamon Chips Cheesecake

Oh my. Have I ever mentioned on here just how much I love cheesecake? No? Well, I do. A lot. And I love cinnamon. So when Jennifer gave me a bag of cinnamon chips and I went searching for a recipe to use them in... I knew as soon as I saw this cheesecake on the Hershey's website that I had to make it. Plus, it required the purchase of a springform pan, and I will take any excuse to add a new dish or gadget to my kitchen collection. :)

Overall, the making of my very first cheesecake took a good chunk of my Sunday afternoon last week because I was absolutely insistent about making it as perfect as possible. I was terrified at the possibility of wasting the cinnamon chips, seeing as I have been looking around in the grocery stores I go to and have yet to find them in existence anywhere else. Considering I am deathly allergic to chocolate, it may be true self-inflicted torture if I set foot in the Chicago Hershey's store... but I'm thinking I just might have to trek over there during lunch someday and see if I can't find them there.

Either way, Jennifer just happened to give me EXACTLY the right amount of chips for this cheesecake (ok, I lied - she gave me a little bit more but I ate them all during the week and a half I mulled over what recipe to make with them). Armed with a ridiculous amount of cream cheese and sour cream, and my super-power $10 hand mixer (that I have yet to replace with one that doesn't leave sprays of whatever I'm mixing across the wall of my kitchen), I tackled this cheesecake like it was the last dessert on earth. I'm going to post the recipe even though I have no idea where the heck to find the crucial cinnamon chips... because I'm honestly quite proud of the fact that I made it and it turned out so well. And, because I'm confident this could be made as a regular old cheesecake minus the chips without much difference in the final product.

Look, I'm even posting my own picture of my completed cheesecake, so you know I'm serious about this one -

One of these days I'll get a decent camera, and some better light in my dining room so these shots look more appealing. But check out my favorite blue plate holding that gorgeous cheesecake. And puh-lease ooh and aah over my farmer's market peonies... those babies bloomed for nearly 2 weeks!

Creamy Cinnamon Chips Cheesecake
Recipe from Hershey's Kitchens
1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons plus 1 cup sugar, divided
5 tablespoons butter, melted
2 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 containers (8 oz. each) dairy sour cream
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1-2/3 cup (10-oz. pkg.) Cinnamon Chips, divided
1 teaspoon shortening (do not use butter, margarine, spread or oil)

1. For the crust: Heat oven to 325°F. Combine graham cracker crumbs, 2 tablespoons sugar and melted butter in medium bowl. Press crumb mixture evenly onto bottom and about 1-1/2 inches up side of 9-inch springform pan. Bake 8 minutes. Remove from oven.
2. Increase oven temperature to 350°F. Beat cream cheese, remaining 1 cup sugar and vanilla on medium speed of mixer until well blended. Add sour cream; beat on low speed until blended. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until blended. Do not overbeat.
3. Pour half of filling into prepared crust. Reserve 1/3 cup cinnamon chips for drizzle. Sprinkle remaining 1-1/3 cups chips evenly over filling in pan. Carefully spoon remaining filling over chips. Place on shallow baking pan.
4. Bake about 1 hour or until center is almost set. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes on wire rack. Using knife or narrow metal spatula, loosen cheesecake from side of pan. Cool on wire rack additional 30 minutes. Remove side of pan; cool 1 hour.
5. Combine shortening and reserved 1/3 cup chips in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at MEDIUM (50%) 30 seconds; stir until chips are melted. Drizzle over cheesecake; cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours.

A few things I learned while making this recipe:
1. If you shove half a stick of butter in a tiny little coffee cup and stick it in the microwave to melt, it WILL boil over. Lesson learned - use a bigger bowl.
2. Cross your fingers if you're going to guess. Since half of my melted butter ended up on my microwave tray, I just melted a couple more tablespoons to get the graham cracker crumbs moist enough to form the crust. My mom loved it, but I thought it ended up being a little too buttery.
3. Shortening will light on fire in the microwave. Thankfully, I did NOT learn this the hard way, but I definitely did not listen to the warning in CAPITAL LETTERS in the recipe to use MEDIUM heat on the shortening with the cinnamon chips. So, while my bowl o'grease melted away on full power, I stood there reading the recipe card from the package, which has a nice little "this is flammable - do not use full microwave power" warning on it. Wide-eyed, I stopped the microwave and started it back up at medium power as instructed. What a story that could have been, huh?
4. Cinnamon chips don't melt like chocolate chips. Even after baking for an hour, the chips layer of the cheesecake was not completely melted, and the "drizzle" topping (which did not drizzle at all and just looked like a big mess) took 3 times the amount of microwaving the above recipe calls for. (Due to #3, I would still suggest stopping the microwave every 30 seconds or so to be safe).
5. A full cheesecake is a LOT of cheesecake for our little 2-person household. Even after my dad, Manda, and Jeff played taste-tester and had some for dessert, I ended up passing on about 1/3 of the cheesecake to my mom and STILL had a ton left for Dan and I.

Another big thanks to Jennifer for the cinnamon chips!!

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