Monday, June 28, 2010

Cinnfully Delicious

Recipe below: Tipsy de Leche Cheesecake Squares

The last P is here! Were you dying in anticipation? I know you were. Even though I already told you it was practicality, and even though that’s pretty darn self explanatory. That said, let me explain to you all about it!

All those instances in the two previous posts where I mentioned being reasonable? That’s where the practicality comes in. Use your judgement! Whatever I tell you, whatever anyone else tells you, it should make sense. Starving Cleansing myself with some nasty lemonade pepper mixture for a week obviously isn’t healthy. Reverting to our hunter/gatherer roots and cutting out all foods that depend on “modern” agriculture is...well probably fine, but weird, and must be a total pain. No wheat! And cutting out entire food groups (i.e. super low-fat, super low-carb), or depending on outside companies to feed you is not a realistic long term solution. What happens when you’re fed up with your diet? You haven’t built any new habits, so you’ll go right back to your old ones. If it doesn’t sound healthy, don’t do it. If it’s a temporary solution, it won’t be a permanent solution, so why do it?

I also thought of some more Ps that have been important to my weight loss.  It's a coincidence, I swear. Patience and persistence. If you’re being healthy, it’s not going to be fast. You’re going to have good days and bad days. It’s all about sticking with it. It’s not about making numbers move on a scale, it’s about feeling good! Change is hard, in any aspect of life. Have the patience to learn what works for you, and have the persistence to see it through.

Being mindful of portion, proportion, practicality, patience, and persistence, these guidelines have really helped when relearning how to feed myself. And it was a learning process. But at the same time, it was actually kind of fun! Every week was a new experiment. I found some recipes that sounded delicious, tried them out, had some hits, had some misses, and then tried a new experiment the next week. I figured out what I was comfortable with, what I enjoyed, and as I cooked more recipes, it got easier and it ended up being a lot of fun! I didn’t set out to develop a serious cooking and baking hobby. It just happened! I just wanted to learn how to cook well enough to feed myself in a healthy way. You don't have to get as involved as I did.  Healthy options can be fast and easy, and even inexpensive!  Give change a chance.

I've always loved cheesecake, but I’ve never owned a springform pan, which kept me from attempting my own all this time. Then I saw this recipe for cheesecake squares, and the heavens parted. Why didn’t I think of this sooner?

I love the combination of graham crackers and cinnamon, so I thought infusing it with a little Goldschlager, which is a cinnamon liquor, would go nicely. And it was awesome! Don’t have Goldschlager on hand? Well I highly recommend it for your liquor cabinet. Ever had a gingerbread martini? It's 2 parts Bailey’s, 1 part butterscotch schnapps, 1 part Goldschlager, shaken over ice. It will change your life. My favorite cocktail to drink around Christmas.

I love the deep, rich sweetness from the dulce de leche, and the Kahlua complimented the flavor subtly, but deliciously. Next time I want to try it with rum just to see if it holds up a bit stronger, but I definitely liked the Kahlua. Do I even need to go on about the flavor of these little gems? The cinnamon graham crust, the creamy, caramel cheesecake, the silky chocolate... They are divine. Heaven in your mouth. Ecstasy!  All the flavors and textures were wonderfully balanced in a perfect bite.

I cut these up super small so I could have just a bite of deliciousness. They are rich and the flavors are bold, so a bite was really a satisfying treat.  Feel free to cut yours a wee bit bigger.

The original recipe called for a 8 inch square baking pan, which I don’t have, and I didn’t modify the recipe to account for that when I made it. I think overall it was fine, but the crust layer was a bit too thin.  I had to really stretch out the crust layer to cover to whole pan. So I tweaked a few of the ingredients in my recipe to account for it.

This recipe, I would guess like many cheesecake recipes, is a bit of a process.  It involves lots of time in the refrigerator to chill and set, so make sure you read through the entire recipe before planning to bake it up an hour before company comes over.  I'm notoriously forgetful of that kind of thing when I bake.

A special thanks to my friend Geri for helping me come up with the name of these beauties!  You gotta have fun with it, right?

Tipsy de Leche Cheesecake Squares
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 81 1-inch squares

For the crust:
4oz graham crackers, or enough for 1 1/4 cups of crumbs
2 TB sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter (4 TB), melted
2 TB Goldschlager (cinnamon liquor)

For the cake:
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk (for the dulce de leche)*
1 tsp unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup milk (I used 1%, but whole is probably preferred)
1 8oz package cream cheese, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup Kahlua (or rum)

For the glaze:
3.5 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup unsalted butter (4 TB)
2 tsp light corn syrup

For the crust:
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9 inch square baking pan with a sheet of aluminum foil, leaving a few inches of overhang on the two opposite sides. Lay another sheet of aluminum foil similarly, covering the other two sides. Spray the pan with baking spray for good measure.
  2. In a food processor, break up the graham crackers and pulse until you have crumbs. Measure out 1 1/4 cups of the crumbs, remove any leftover (and munch while you bake!), and put the measured crumbs back in the bowl of the food processor.
  3. Add the sugar and salt, and with the mixer running, drizzle in the melted butter and then the Goldschlager and blend until it is fully combined.
  4. Press the mixture into the prepared baking pan in an even layer. Bake 10 minutes, then cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes.

For the cake:
  1. To convert the sweetened condensed milk to delicious dulce de leche, pour the can of milk into a bowl (or small pot) set over simmering water. Cover bowl and cook, stirring occasionally, for 40-50 minutes until the milk is thickened and a light caramel color.*
  2. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the milk, and let stand for 2 minutes.
  3. In a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese, eggs, salt, Kahlua, and milk mixture at medium speed for a few minutes until fully combined. Add 1 cup of the dulce de leche and mix at low speed until just combined.
  4. Pour the batter over the crust and smooth into an even layer. You're going to bake this in a hot water bath.  To do this, place the baking pan in a larger oven-proof container (I used a large roasting pan), and pour in boiling water until it reaches about halfway up the pan. Carefully move this to the oven and bake at 325 degrees until the center of the cake is set, about 40-45 minutes.
  5. Chill the cake completely in the pan for a few hours, then chill in the refrigerator, covered, for several hours or overnight.

For the glaze:
  1. In a bowl set over a pot of simmering water, combine all the ingredients. Stir until the chocolate is melted, and everything is incorporated and smooth.
  2. Pour mixture over the cheesecake and spread in an even layer. Chill, uncovered until the glaze is set, about 30-40 minutes. Make sure it's not too hard or it will be difficult to cut your squares.

To serve:
  1. Using the overhanging foil, gently pull the cheesecake from the pan and place on a cutting board. Using a thin knife, cut cake into 1 inch squares. To make sure you don’t make a total mess of your beautiful squares, wipe off the knife after each cut.
  2. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
*Note: You can also buy dulce de leche, but I figure why bother?  It costs twice as much, and it's not hard to make.  But if you prefer to save a step over a penny, just measure out 1 cup of the store-bought stuff. 


  1. OMG the Gingerbread martini sounds awesome. It is on my list of things to drink ;)

    I've also seen dulce de leche made by just putting the entire can in a crock pot w/water around it. I haven't done it before, but it sounds pretty dang easy!

    Anyways, I have to make these sometime!! Is there any way to get around using gelatin though? It kind of scare me :)

  2. Let me know what you think of the drink, Kelly! It was kind of a revelation for me. Hehe.

    I've heard you can do it in the can, but I decided to try Deb's method, and it worked fine. I'm sure whatever method you use will be good and easy. :)

    The gelatin is necessary to get it to set up into squares. I think if you left it out, it would slip and slid all over the place. But if you could figure another way to stiffen the cake, that would work. I know some people have issues with gelatin...I don't exactly know why, and I kind of don't want to know. Hehe. Ignorance is bliss!

  3. haha, I guess I'll just have to suck it up then! :)

  4. As a kid my mom used to make dulce de leche by boiling the unopened can of condensed milk for a couple of hours. Just put the closed can in a heavy pot, cover with enough water to cover everything and boil for a couple of hours. The longer you boil the harder the consistency will be. Just make sure that the can is covered with water at all times. You may have to add a little more water as it cooks. Then wait a couple more hours until the can is cool enough to handle. It goes great on crackers, bread and with a nice chunk of cheese.

  5. These look fantastic! I have become a fan of making cheesecake squares - seems far less daunting than a full cake. Great idea to make them "tipsy".

    I love Annie's tips on making dulce de leche.

  6. These look so good! I was looking for a dulce cheesecake recipe (I'm OBSESSED with the caramel cheesecake at Cheesecake factory) and this looks like a delicious spin on it!

  7. These look soooooo delicious!