Crustless Caramel Flan Cheesecake   Recipe
Crustless Caramel Flan Cheesecake

By Wolfgang Puck

Two Classic Desserts in One

Cheesecake's power never ceases to amaze me. Ask someone if they'd like dessert and they might say "No" or "Yes." Tell them that it's cheesecake, though, and any negative responses usually become positives.

Cheesecake is an all-American favorite, not to mention a classic in Italy and other countries where mild, creamy cheeses are mixed with eggs, sugar, and flavorings, then baked. Nowhere else but here in the U.S., however, does cheesecake continue to be adapted into a multitude of different creative treats.

I marvel at the cheesecake creativity of my executive pastry chef at Spago Beverly Hills, the brilliant Sherry Yard (check out her dessert cookbook, "Desserts by the Yard"). A few years ago, Sherry came up with a brilliant version that combines classic cheesecake with another popular dessert, caramel flan. The result is a crustless cheesecake that, containing no flour, is ideal to serve during the current Jewish holiday of Passover. It's also ideal at any other time of year for anyone trying to cut back on those wicked carbohydrates or simply looking for an easy dessert with a difference.

To me, a regular plain cheesecake tastes one-dimensional. Adding a flan-style caramel coating to the pan transforms the cheesecake into something extra elegant and satisfyingly complex in flavor.

The most challenging part of this simple recipe comes at the beginning, when you make the caramel. To prevent the sugar syrup from crystallizing, start out with a spotlessly clean saucepan. I find heavy-bottomed stainless-steel pans are ideal, not only because they conduct heat evenly but also because their shiny surfaces make it easier to judge the caramel's color. Keep a close eye on the syrup, watching for the moment when it darkens to a deep golden hue; then, remove it from the stove and pour it into your baking pan, as directed in the recipe. The residual heat will cause it to continue darkening slightly to the ideal mahogany brown shade.

Of course, when working with hot syrups, be extra cautious to avoid splashes or spills that could cause burns. Keep children and pets well clear of the kitchen while you're working.

Then, pretty much all that's left to do is mix the batter and bake it. For the fastest, most efficient job, I use a stand mixer, although a hand-held electric mixer does fine, too.

Finally, after the baked cheesecake has thoroughly chilled, comes the unmolding, another simple process. I find it works all the more successfully if you've made the cheesecake a day ahead, which allows the cheesecake's moisture to melt all the caramel perfectly. Add some fresh seasonal berries, if you like, and you'll have a dessert no one at your table will want to resist.

Crustless Caramel Flan Cheesecake Dessert Recipe

Serves 10 to 12

Recipe Ingredients

Caramel

1-1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Cheesecake

1-1/2 pounds block (not whipped) cream cheese, at room temperature

1-1/4 cups sugar

1 whole vanilla bean

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

6 eggs

1 cup heavy cream

For Serving

Fresh seasonal berries

Recipe Preparation

First, prepare the Caramel

In a clean heavy metal saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and lemon juice. Cook over high heat until the mixture turns a deep caramel color, 12 to 15 minutes, keeping a close eye on it to avoid burning. Immediately pour the caramel into a 9-inch cake pan and rotate the pan to coat the bottom and sides completely with the caramel. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. and bring a kettle of hot water to a boil.

Meanwhile, prepare the Cheesecake

Put the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on low speed until the cream cheese is smooth. Stop the machine. With a small, sharp knife, split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. With the knife tip, scrape the tiny vanilla seeds from inside each half into the mixer bowl. Add the sugar and orange zest. Continue mixing at low speed until smoothly blended, 2 minutes more. One at a time, add the eggs, beating until each is fully blended in and stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl after each egg. Still beating at low speed, slowly pour in the cream until fully incorporated, stopping every 30 seconds or so to scrape down the bowl. Pour the mixture into the prepared caramel-coated pan.

Place the filled cake pan inside a larger baking or roasting pan. Open the preheated oven, pull out a shelf, and place the pan on the shelf. Carefully pour boiling water into the larger pan to come halfway up the side of the cake pan. Then, carefully slide the shelf into the oven and close the oven door. Bake the cheesecake until it is slightly firm to the touch and a wooden toothpick inserted into its center comes out clean, about 1 hour, adding a little more boiling water to the surrounding pan if necessary during baking.

Carefully remove the pan from the oven and take the cake pan out of the larger pan. Leave the cake pan on a wire rack to cool for about 30 minutes, then transfer to the refrigerator to chill completely, at least 4 hours.

To unmold the cheesecake, invert a 12-inch serving plate on top of it. Then, securely hold the pan and plate together with both hands and flip them over. Wait a few seconds, and then carefully lift off the cake pan. Cut into wedges for serving, spooning extra caramel from the bottom of the serving plate onto each wedge. Garnish with seasonal berries and serve immediately

Available at Amazon.com:

Desserts by the Yard

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Recipes: "Crustless Caramel Flan Cheesecake "

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