week 52: hannah and stephanie’s pick – New York Cheesecake with Chocolate Ganache and Chocolate Crumb Topping

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bear with us, this is going to be a lot of text, but please read until the end! or if you’re impatient, just skip all of the middle and scroll down to the end.this last week isn’t anything super extravagant or impressive but it’s a combination of everything we love. this cheesecake is the first recipe stephanie bookmarked when this project started and since we both love chocolate, we dressed it up a bit in our own way. enjoy the last recipe of 2012!

here are a few closing thoughts:

things we learned:

hannah:
1. don’t cry over spilt milk. life goes on, mistakes happen, and at the end of the day, we’re all still human.
2. people>baked goods. this is absolute truth and as delicious as a cupcake might be, the person you baked it with is still more important than that cupcake.
3. if you’re going to commit to something, really commit to it. i said I was going to do this project for 52 weeks, and somehow I did.
stephanie:
1. food photography is hard. natural light is a beautiful thing. morning baking sessions are wonderful.
2. be patient and gentle. it’s not always about the end result.
3. sometimes things just don’t go the way we expect or plan, but we’ve just got to dust ourselves off (literally) and start over again.

our favorite baked goods from this project:

stephanie: Overnight Chocolate Chip-Toffee Monkey Bread (and because I’m indecisive, it’s a tie with the Four-Layer Red Velvet Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting)
hannah: Homemade Samoas Cookies

thanks to:
-the people who are the backbone of this project, our parents. there have been multiple panic moments late at night where one of them would run out to the supermarket to get us a stick of butter or a cup of heavy cream. i know that mom is pretty relieved to see the project come to completion because she’s had to intervene more than a few times to settle heated tempers or fill in as a sous chef. mom and dad pretty much financed the entire project and have helped tremendously with the baking and eating. they’ve washed too many dishes to count and we really couldn’t have done it without them.
-everyone who ate our baked goods! thanks for always being excited about our food and for your welcoming stomachs.
-all of you who have been following us through this journey. thank you for your likes, comments, and kind words that kept us going. we wish that we could bake for each and every one of you!

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reflections on this project:

stephanie: alas we’ve finally reached the 52nd week of this baking endeavor and it’s been one long year measured in flour, butter, and sugar. i’m not exactly sure why i had the idea to start this back in january, but my crazy idea grew into something i’m really proud of. hannah and i have spent countless hours in the kitchen, and it’s been a rewarding experience to produce photos of our culinary creations week after week. of course, you guys only see the pretty pictures on Facebook, but there have been tears shed, heated arguments, recipe disasters, and times that we felt like giving up. i’m extremely thankful for hannah, who has incredible amounts of patience and grace with me during my many moments of weakness. i’m really proud of the two of us for pulling through and becoming better bakers and better sisters in the end.

hannah: well 52 weeks have come and gone, and i can’t truthfully say that i’m completely sad to see this project end. what you, the Facebook friend, saw online was the end product of a lot of butter, sugar and flour. what you didn’t see, though, was the behind-the-scenes struggle just to create something to post up every week. these past 52 weeks have been full of fights, tears, and the constant back and forth debate about whether or not we should continue the project. we very strongly considered stopping the project many times, but each time we somehow pulled through another week, and did this 52 times until we came to the picture you see today. it was hard, but i can truthfully say that i am so very blessed to have completed this project with my sister. the project did make me a better baker, but more importantly, it made me a better person. i learned more from this project than from anything else life has thrown at me in the past 5 years. i’m so excited to be sharing this last photo with you, and i hope you all enjoyed coming on this journey with me and steph 🙂 we’re not perfect, and neither are our baked goods, but if i could go back in time to Week 1, i would’ve still gone through the whole 52 weeks. happy holidays everyone ♥ thank you for everything 🙂

so what’s next?:
unfortunately the baking project ends here. i think that hannah would chop my head off if we continued this for another 52 weeks. of course we’ll continue to bake, but without all the pressure of having to post every week. i’ve got list of a few things that i hope to make in 2013!

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For the Crust:
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 additional tbsp., melted for greasing the pan
4 oz. (approx. 8 whole) graham crackers, broken into rough pieces and processed into fine, even crumbs*
1 tbsp. sugar

For the Cheesecake:
2 1/2 lb. (5 8-oz. pkgs.) cream cheese, cut into rough 1-inch chunks, at room temperature
1/8 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks plus 6 large eggs, at room temperature

For the Topping:
Crushed chocolate bars
Graham cracker crumbs

Directions:
To make the crust, adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Brush the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with 1/2 tablespoon of the melted butter. In a medium bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs, 5 tablespoons melted butter, and sugar. Toss with a fork until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Transfer the crumbs to the springform pan and use the bottom of a ramekin to firmly press the crumbs evenly into the pan bottom. (Note: this is a fabulous technique! I have used it several times since, and it does a great job.) Bake until fragrant and beginning to brown around the edges, about 13 minutes. Cool on a wire rack while preparing the filling.Increase the oven temperature to 500 degrees F. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium-low speed to break up and soften it slightly, about 1 minute. Scrape the beater and the bottom and sides of the bowl well with a rubber spatula; add the salt and about half of the sugar and beat at medium-low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl; beat in the remaining sugar until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl; add the sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla. Beat at low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl; add the egg yolks and beat at medium-low speed until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl; add the remaining eggs 2 at a time, beating until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute, scraping the bowl between additions. (Note: with all this scraping of the sides, a side swipe beater blade is incredibly helpful. I still used a spatula just to be extra careful, but the side swipe was a big help.)

Brush the sides of the springform pan with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon melted butter. Set the pan on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any spills in case the pan leaks. Pour the filling into the cooled crust and bake 10 minutes; without opening the oven door, reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees and continue to bake until the cheesecake reads about 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer the cake to a wire rack and cool until barely warm, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Run a paring knife between the cake and the springform pan sides. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours.

To unmold the cheesecake, removed the sides of the pan. Slide a thin metal spatula between the crust and the bottom of the pan to loosen, then slide the cake onto a serving plate. Let the cheesecake stand at room temperature about 30 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve. (Use a long, thin, sharp knife that has been run under hot water and then dried for slicing. Wipe the blade clean and rewarm between slices.)

To decorate, sprinkle chocolate and graham crackers on top of the cheesecake. Enjoy!

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source: adapted from Annie’s Eats and Back to Her Roots
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