White Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake with Macadamia Nuts
White Chocolate Ganache
1 C. white chocolate chips
2 T. unsalted butter
1 1/2 C. cream
1/3 C. sugar
15 double graham crackers
1/3 C. dark brown sugar
4 T. unsalted butter
1 C. sugar
1/2 C. water
few drops vinegar or lemon juice
1 1/2 T. cornstarch
1/2 C. cream
1 T. unsalted butter
2 1/2 lbs. cream cheese, very soft
2 1/2 C. sugar
2 t. pure vanilla extract
1 C. whole macadamia nuts
For ganache: Place white chocolate chips and butter in medium bowl. Boil cream and sugar and pour over chips. Stir then cover immediately with plastic wrap for 3-5 minutes to let chocolate melt. Remove wrap, stir again to smooth, and chill till ready to use – but not longer than 1 hour or mixture may set too much.
For crust: Preheat oven to 350° F. Double wrap outside of 10 or 12 inch springform pan with heavy duty aluminum foil, covering bottom and up sides to catch any batter leakage. In food processor, process graham crackers to fine crumbs. Pour crumbs into springform pan. With hands, mix in melted butter and brown sugar until crumbs hold together; use your knuckles to press crumb mixture up sides and over bottom of pan. Bake 10 minutes. Cool.
For caramel: In heavy saucepan, bring sugar, water, and vinegar to boil over medium high heat. If crystals form on sides of pan, cover pan for 30 seconds or as long as 5 minutes so steam rinses off sides. When caramel darkens you may swirl pan to even color. Take caramel to an amber gold color. Meanwhile dissolve cornstarch in cream. When caramel is desired color, remove from heat and quickly add cornstarch cram mixture. Caramel will bubble up. When foaming subsides, stir in butter. Reheat a minute to even out mixture to smooth, thick texture. Cool by setting saucepan in bowl of cool water; caramel will thicken even more.
For cheesecake batter: Set oven rack in lower third of oven and reduce temperature to 325° F. With mixer, beat cream cheese for 2-3 minutes on medium speed. Scrape down when necessary. Still on medium speed, gradually add sugar. Add eggs one by one, mixing each only until absorbed. Don’t over mix during these intervals or batter could “break”. On slow speed, add vanilla and mix a few turns.
To assemble: Set aside 1 cup cheesecake batter in measuring cup. In addition, set aside 1/2 cup caramel for top of cake. Mix 2/3 of remaining cheesecake batter with all of the ganache. Pour into baked crust. Mix larger amount of caramel with remaining 1/3 of cheesecake batter. Pour over ganache, to within ½ inch of sides. Top caramel layer with 1 cup reserved cheesecake batter, smoothing to edge of pan. Set cake in shallow roasting pan and place in oven. Carefully pour hot tap water into roasting pan so it comes to within an inch of top of cheesecake. Bake 1 hour, 45 minutes. The top will still jiggle slightly, but knife should come out clean. Take cake from water. If necessary, use a bulb baster to remove some of the hot water. Cool in pan on rack.
For topping: Toast macadamia nuts on baking sheet at 350° F. for 5-8 minutes, tossing a little. Pour onto cutting board and chop to size of corn kernels. Heat and stir the reserved ½ cup caramel on low heat, just to make it pourable. Stir in macadamias and spread over top of cooled cheesecake. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill overnight. Cut with knife dipped in tall glass of hot water, then wiped dry. Before serving, set cake out at room temperature for 45 minutes.