Photo by Chia Chong
“Hipster” spiced nuts and “sweet and showy” caramel turn this New York cheesecake into Bridge and Tunnel Cheesecake, a dessert with a definite attitude. The photo and recipe are from “Sweet & Vicious: Baking With Attitude” by Libbie Summers.
There’s cheesecake, and then there’s New York cheesecake. And now, there’s Bridge and Tunnel Cheesecake, which co-opts a phrase used to denote people from the outer boroughs and New Jersey who visit New York City on weekends.
Bridge and Tunnel Cheesecake is a New York-style cheesecake topped with caramel and spiced nuts. The caramel represents Manhattan; it’s “rich and showy.” The sweet and spicy nuts represent a “hipster ingredient” a la Brooklyn. At least, that’s how Libbie Summers describes it in her new book, “Sweet & Vicious: Baking With Attitude.”
There’s a lot that’s sweet and little that’s vicious in Summers’ new book, although there’s a bit of naughty business that seems unnecessary. (She tosses off lines like “I threw away my virginity long before I threw away a cake scrap.”)
But when it comes to attitude, Summers delivers. She offers recipes for a cake with blue cotton candy “frosting,” biscotti the size of baguettes, cinnamon rolls with cayenne. Working your way through this book is a bit like an extended trip through a funhouse: exciting, colorful and a little scary.
Take the Bridge and Tunnel Cheesecake. You may be tempted to reduce the chipotle in the nuts; don’t. You may be tempted just to make the caramel and nuts and put it on a store-bought cheesecake. Not a bad idea, really. Attitude rules.
Bridge and Tunnel Cheesecake
Yield: At least 10 servings
For the spiced nuts:
1 cup raw unsalted almonds, roughly chopped
1 cup unsalted cashews, roughly chopped
½ cup pecan halves, roughly chopped
2 large egg whites, lightly frothed with a fork
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground chipotle powder
¼ teaspoon salt
For the crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
½ cup spiced nuts (from above)
5 tablespoons butter
For the cheesecake:
7 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature (56 ounces total)
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup sour cream
For the caramel sauce:
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1¼ cups packed dark brown sugar
½ cup heavy cream
Make the nuts: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. In a bowl, stir all the ingredients together until the nuts are well-coated. Spoon the mixture onto the baking sheet in an even layer. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring often, until the nuts are golden. Let cool. Set aside ½ cup for the crust and keep the rest in an airtight container.
Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees. Bring several quarts of water to a near boil. While water is heating, spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray and wrap the outside of the pan tightly with foil (to prevent any water from seeping in during baking). Have ready a roasting pan that is wider and deeper than the springform pan.
Make the crust: Put all crust ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is finely ground. Press into the bottom of the springform pan. Set the pan in the center of the roasting pan.
Make the cake: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until just smooth; do not overbeat. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until each is just incorporated and scraping down the bowl as you work. Using a spoon, fold in the sour cream.
Spoon batter over the crust. Place roasting pan holding the filled springform pan in the oven on the center rack. Pour near-boiling water into roasting pan 1½ inches deep.
Bake for 2 to 2¼ hours, until top is golden and cake is still a little wobbly in the center. Carefully remove roasting pan from the oven. Carefully remove cake pan from roasting pan and transfer to a cooling rack. Run a knife around sides of the pan to loosen cake; let it cool to room temperature. Before removing cake from the pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Several hours before serving, make the caramel sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the butter and the brown sugar until the butter has melted. Whisk in the cream and continue to stir for 5 minutes, until sugar is dissolved and mixture is smooth and creamy. Allow sauce to cool completely.
Serve: Spread a thin layer of sauce over top of the cheesecake. Pile high with remaining nuts and drizzle with remaining sauce.
(Recipe from “Sweet & Vicious: Baking With Attitude” by Libbie Summers; Rizzoli, 2014)
Marialisa Calta is a syndicated food writer who lives in Calais.
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