Sunday, October 10, 2010

Coconut Explosion Cheesecake

Finally! The finale of Coconut week...even though it's more like coconut milk week. I hope that you are excited about this recipe as I was - because it is beyond fantastic! I present...Coconut Cheesecake with Coconut Caramel mousse and toasted coconut. Every component of this dessert - whether small or large - has something to do with coconut.

This recipe is a combination of a ton of ideas that I have been wanting to do as well as have done for a few years, so I think they bear explanation. The first time I went to Hawaii, I had this amazing coconut pie - a coconut cookie crust, sliced bananas dipped in chocolate in the middle, and toasted coconut sprinkled on the whipped cream on top.

Ever since then, my family has had a Coconut Banana pie for Thanksgiving. For me, it reminds me of a great vacation, and allows me to tinker with the recipe. I've tried a sugar crust, a standard crust, but came up with this crust a few years ago - and it's quite simple, compared to other things I've tried. It's simply Mother's Coconut Cookies reduced to crumbs in a food processor. As long as my real Mother doesn't eat the cookies, this crust is great.

The rest, I have been thinking of for a while. I thought the creaminess of coconut would be perfect in a cheesecake, and I was right. Since I have been playing around with Coconut Milk Dulce de Leche, I added some to some whipped cream, and it turned out just great, and was a perfect compliment to the cheesecake. It adds a caramel flavor that makes the cheesecake better.

I was also lucky enough to find large unsweetened coconut flakes that I toasted in the oven for a nice crunch on top. I was very happy with the result of this, and if you like coconut at all, give this a try. I ended up giving most of this cake to my brother Matt and Fawn. Fawn gave some of it to their neighbors, and they thought it was the best cheesecake ever. So, I guess they liked it too!

Oh yes, my tip! My tip today is all about buying cream cheese. As anyone who has made a cheesecake knows, it can get expensive. Well, this tip can save you about 50% on the cream cheese, so it's a good one. And, it's simple! When you are buying any amount of cream cheese, buy it from either a warehouse store like Costco, or a kitchen supply store like Smart and Final or Cash Plus. No, I am not getting paid anything for obvious name dropping...but...on the off chance anyone of them is listening (really lol at that one), I'm open to getting a gift certificate...

Anyway, back to the topic of saving money. Most of the cream cheese at the local grocery store doesn't get under $1.50/8ounces. At Cash Plus, I can get 3 lbs for under $6. Yes, 3lbs is a lloootttt of cream cheese, BUT if you think about it, it's 2 cheesecakes. And, it freezes great! Thaws well too...

Don't be intimidated by the number of things you have to do, all of them are very easy, and it comes together quickly!

Coconut Explosion Cheesecake

For the coconut dulce de leche mousse:

1 cup coconut dulce de leche, cooled (recipe here)
1 cup chilled whipped cream
1 t. vanilla extract

In a large bowl, whip cream until medium peaks. Stir a small amount of the fully whipped cream into the dulce de leche to lighten it up. Fold the dulce de leche into the whipped cream, being very careful to not deflate the whipped cream too much. Chill until ready to serve cheesecake.

Coconut Cheesecake

For the toasted coconut:

2 cups unsweetened coconut

Spread coconut on a cookie sheet in a thin even layer and bake at 350 for 10-20 minutes, checking often to make sure it doesn't burn. Stir every 5 minutes so it will toast evenly.

For the crust:

2 cups coconut cookie crumbs, I use Mothers, and it uses about 2/3 of the package
6 T. melted butter

Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, combine cookie crumbs and melted butter until all crumbs are mixed with the butter. Pat into a 9" springform pan, patting crumbs up the sides of the pan as well. The best way to do this is with clean hands and a flat measuring cup so the edge of the pan is the same width of crumbs as the bottom and sides.

Bake your empty crust in the preheated oven for 10-15minutes, or until you can see it lightly browning around the edges. Let cool while you make the cheesecake. But, keep the oven on. If you are frugal about your oven as I am, you can toast your coconut at the same time you are mixing the cheesecake.

For the cheesecake

1.5 lbs cream cheese, at room temperature
3 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1 16 oz can coconut milk
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 t. salt
1 t. lemon zest
1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. almond extract

In a large bowl, mix the cream cheese with a mixer for 2-3minutes until very creamy. Add sugar, and mix for 5minutes until very well incorporated. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Scrape down bottom of bowl to make sure your mixture is the same texture.

Add coconut milk, lemon zest, vanilla, salt, flour, and almond extract, and blend for an additional 2-3 minutes, until batter is smooth with no lumps. Pour over the slightly cooled coconut crust. Place filled pan on a cookie sheet, then into the oven. Bake for 50-75 minutes, until center is set and just slightly jiggles when you jar the cookie sheet.

Cool for 20-30 minutes at room temperature, then put in the refrigerator and cool for 4 hours or overnight.

Before serving, top with coconut dulce de leche mousse and toasted coconut.

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