Daring Bakers: Cheesecake Pops
Lessoned learned during this month's Daring Bakers Challenge: you can't hurry cheesecake pops (noooo you just have to wait .... pops don't come easy .... it's a game of ... sorry, got carried away).
The challenge, from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O'Connor, looked like a fun and relatively easy challenge. Bake cheesecake - I can do that. Roll it into balls - not too tough. Plop in a stick, dip it all in melted chocolate, and roll in toppings - no problem.
But I ended up doing it all in the span of one morning and afternoon, which was folly. I meant to make everything well in advance, but with a week filled with one son's Little League practices, another son's play rehearsals, plus helping Wickham Farms prepare for their seasonal opening (May 1!), it just didn't happen.
The cheesecake batter seemed to have just the right consistency. The recipe called for a 10-inch pan (not springform). I don't have such a pan so I pulled out my 9-inch pan. When I realized that pan would overflow with all of the batter, I put the remainder of the batter in a small loaf pan. I put them all in a large roasting pan, and added the boiling water for a water bath. I didn't have enough water for it to come halfway up the pans but I figured it was close enough.
This recipe calls for the cheesecake to be baked 35-45 minutes, which is very short for baking a 10-inch cheesecake. Many Daring Bakers baked theirs for well over an hour. Figuring out when a cheesecake is done is tricky. Usually the center jiggles a bit when it's done. I deemed this one done when it one formed a crust on top, there was no jiggling, and was slightly golden -- 55 minutes in my convection oven (I pulled the smaller loaf pan out of the oven earlier).
Your best bet is to let cheesecakes refrigerate overnight before serving, but this was time for shortcuts. When they came out of the oven, I popped them right into our outdoor "beer fridge" until they were about room temperature, then into the freezer to get them good and cold.
I don't think I misjudged the baking time. When I started scooping truffle balls, the cheesecake wasn't runny at all, but it was very soft, like a truffle filling.
I admit I unintentionally broke one of the rules of the challenge (I didn't read the rules closely enough.) The recipe called for the balls to be 2 ounces. When I weighed a 2-ounce blob of cheesecake, it was about the size of a golf ball. I wanted mine to be bite size, so I made mine 1/2 ounce.
Although the recipe says to form the balls, impale them with a stick, then freeze then, I tried to skip the freezing step. I rolled some, inserted the stick, dipping them, and then rolling them in jimmies. I figured that if you could do it with truffle filling, you should be able to do it with this stuff.
The soft balls of cheesecake wouldn't stay on the stick and kept falling into the white coating (I used candy making wafers, which, although they contain evil trans fats, are the easiest to work with). So I did it like truffles, dipping it into the white substance with a fork, rolling it in the toppings, and then adding the stick. That's how I did the ones with the colorful jimmies in the first photo. It worked fairly well. The disadvantage was that some cheesecake was left behind in the white stuff each time. I knew this wasn't going to work for a large quantity of pops.
Then, I decided that I'd do all of the scooping first and put trays of the balls in the freezer to firm up a bit in order to roll them and insert the sticks.
Here's the thing about freezing 1/2 inch blobs of cheesecake. They freeze pretty damn quickly. When I got them out of the freezer to form them into balls, they were too hard to roll into nice balls. I stuck some in the fridge to soften up a bit. Others firmly rolled into something resembling balls.
I dipped the frozen balls on a stick into melted chocolate. But here's the thing with dipping frozen balls into chocolate: by the time you drip off the excess chocolate, it's too firm to roll in other toppings, like nuts or jimmies. But if you let them soften too much, the cheesecake balls won't stay on the sticks.
Also, I noticed when you eat the things (hey, I had to taste test!) that when the cheesecake thawed, it too soft to stay on the stick. I thought blobs of cheesecakes dropping off of sticks wouldn't make for an elegant end to my friend's dinner.
I found two solutions that were easy to do, looked good, and tasted great.
The one I liked the best (left): Dip the bottoms into a mixture of finely chopped nuts and crushed graham cracker crumbs to imitate a nutty crust. Then drizzle the top with melted chocolate. Make sure the chocolate hits the stick, because that's the glue that keeps everything on the stick. It all resembles a tiny piece of cheesecake.
Solution number two (right) was dipping the whole ball into one kind of chocolate, letting it firm up briefly, then drizzling it with a second topping. Again, make sure some of that chocolate hits the stick.
This whole process made quite the mess. This photo, with some of the pops ready to go to the dinner party, gives you an idea of the fraction of the mess that was left to clean up.
But I have to say, they were a hit with both the kids and the adults! And they are addictive. I have to keep myself from opening the fridge to pop another one in my mouth. The rest are going to band practice tonight.
If I decide to make these again, I'll probably stick with my tried-and-true cheesecake recipe, and I'd stick with the 1/2 ounce balls.
Thanks to Deborah from Taste and Tell and Elle from Feeding My Enthusiasms for another unexpectedly challenging challenge! If you want the full recipe, it's posted on Deborah's blog.