You’ve heard me say many a time that I am not a baker . . . meaning I can follow a recipe and bake cookies, cakes and pies but understanding the science of baking or understanding the math of ratios . . . well, that isn’t my forte’ . . . in fact . . .
To say that I am ‘math-impaired’ is an understatement . . . several years ago I took an Accounting 101 class and the instructor was so frustrated, he threw an eraser across the room at me . . . so let’s just say that I have a serious case of ‘math-anxiety’ . . .
Fast-forward a few more years following the eraser-tossing incident; I’ve moved to the Midwest and returned to college even though I knew math was going to be part of the curriculum. The Professor and I had met and ‘weren’t dating’ but he came over to my apartment every afternoon to help get me through Algebra . . . it wasn’t pretty . . . I swear, the man should be nominated for Sainthood because seriously? My eyes glaze over, my heart starts racing and all I hear is Greek . . . which I don’t speak.
I barely passed the class and during Spring Break, we got married; I finished out the semester but once Algebra was out of the way, I had one more math component to complete in order to graduate . . . soooooo . . . we looked at all the options: Calculus was out of the question as was Trigonometry, Algebra II, Computer Science and a multitude of other offerings. The only class that looked like a remote possibility was Finite Math and everyone who had taken it previously, said was easy; I registered and hit the bookstore to pick up the required book.
Once home, The Professor began flipping through the pages . . . back and forth, back and forth . . . moving from one chapter to the next . . . looking at the index . . . reviewing some of the test material . . . and finally . . . big sigh . . . he snapped the book shut and said, ‘You’re gonna flunk!’
And with that I burst into tears at which time he said, ‘You don’t have to go back – you can quit’ . . . and that, was the end of my college career . . . sigh . . . a real baker I will never be but it doesn’t stop me from making delicious goodies like this oh-so-light-and-creamy vanilla cheesecake . . . with a tangy sour cream topping . . . drizzled with gooey homemade caramel sauce . . . and sprinkled with glistening flakes of sea salt . . .
You’re welcome . . .
SMITH BITES NOTES: This rivals any cheesecake I’ve ever eaten – rich yet light and silky, buttery balanced with the tang of sour cream . . . and salted caramel . . . swoon! Yes, this takes some time – this is not a ‘quick’ recipe but I broke it down into segments throughout my day and once it was baked and cooled, tucked it away in my refrigerator before going to bed, ensuring a lovely meld of flavors the next day. It is heavenly and sooooo worth the extra time!
SALTED CARAMEL VANILLA CHEESECAKE
Adapted from Donna Hay
- 3-1/2 cups finely ground ginger cookies
- ½ cup ground almonds
- 2/3 cups butter, melted
- 1-1/2 cups whole milk ricotta
- 2 packages cream cheese (8 ounce packages)
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 tablespoons Karo syrup
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla, divided
- Maldon salt for sprinkling
FOR THE TOPPING:
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 Tablespoon Confectioner’s sugar
FOR THE CARAMEL SAUCE:
- 1 cup half & half
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup butter, cut into pieces
TO MAKE THE CARAMEL SAUCE:
- Place the half & half, butter and sugar into a saucepan over low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
- Increase heat to high, bring to a boil and cook for 5-7 minutes or until thickened. Do not stir the caramel while boiling, but keep an eye on it so the caramel doesn’t scorch.
- Once thickened, set aside to cool.
TO MAKE THE CHEESECAKE:
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch springform pan, then line with parchment paper. Wrap the outside of the pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil, making sure the entire bottom and sides are covered; set aside.
- Place ground ginger cookies and ground almonds into a food processor and pulse a couple of times until they are incorporated. Add butter and process to combine. Press mixture into prepared springform pan and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Place ricotta and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat for 5-6 minutes or until smooth. Add the sugar and beat for another 3-4 minutes until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the Karo syrup, salt and 1 teaspoon of vanilla and beat until well combined.
- Pour the cheesecake mixture into the prepared pan.
- Place the filled pan in a larger baking dish and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake for 1 hour, 30 minutes or until firm to the touch. (Mine took 1 hour, 50 minutes).
- Remove cheesecake from the larger baking dish and allow to cool in the springform pan. Once completely cooled, refrigerate for 3 hours or until set.
TO MAKE THE SOUR CREAM TOPPING:
- Place the whipping cream, sour cream, confectioner’s sugar and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla in a bowl and whisk until soft peaks form.
- Top the cheesecake and the cream, drizzle with the caramel sauce and sprinkle with sea salt flakes to serve.