They're popping, they're popping!
(Let me preface by saying that I'm a raging nerd for just linking to this song. What it's doing on my ipod is a mystery. I was trying to come up with a title to this entry, and I couldn't shake the lyrics. Hey, it's catchy!)
Welcome to the April Daring Bakers Challenge - Cheesecake Pops! Elle and Deborah are our hostesses, and I could reach through the computer and hug them! I was so excited about this challenge that I got to planning my pop flavorings out right away. This is a vast departure for me, because I almost always wait until the last minute to complete my challenge (and thusly, because I am in a frenzied panic, I am rarely creative.) Cheesecake and graham crackers are friends, but I wanted to pop it in less traditional ways. I split the cheesecake batter into three different 9-inch round cake pans and flavored each differently.
I will lead with my favorite. Of this pop, there was only one. It was something spontaneous and interesting, but turned out to rather tricky. What you see to the left is a vanilla cheesecake pop, dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with a crushed Honey Drop. I processed the drop in my mini-chopper and sprinkled the bits onto the pop. I had hoped that the drop crumbles would be something I could dip into, but they were too busy sticking to each other to latch on to the chocolate. I had a tray of pops before me, so I moved on to the peanut butter pops. I wish had persevered, because the honey/chocolate/cheesecake combination was so, so amazing. Honibe's Honey Drops have such a delicate honey flavor, and the sprinkles imparted a soft sweetness to the lush creaminess of the cheesecake and chocolate.
For my second pop, my goal was chocolate banana pudding on a stick. I flavored the cheesecake itself with banana essence. Once dipped, I placed each pop on a nilla wafer and called it a day! Dave thinks I'm nuts, but they remind me of a little French girl once picked up. (Yanno, with the jaunty beret!)
You see it, too, don't you?
The flavoring I am most proud of, and the one that caused me the most anxiety, is the strawberry balsamic pop. I knew I could do it, but would it be as delicious as I'd hoped? I flavored the chocolate with 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Once dipped, each vanilla pop went into a bowl of crushed freeze-dried strawberries (Yeah, astronaut food!) These inside-out chocolate-dipped strawberries exceeded my expectations. The sweetness of the balsamic vinegar paired perfectly with the strawberries.
Last but not least, and Dave's favorite, are the peanut-dipped pops. I tried to flavor the cheesecake with peanut butter essence, but it didn't seem to take. I couldn't tell the difference between it and the plain vanilla cheesecake. I tried to make up for that by adding some peanut butter to the melted chocolate, which seemed to do the trick. Rolled in peanuts, these little beauties had the right balance of creamy AND crunchy. They were by far the easiest to make and the most universally approved of. I think these would have been great with almonds or pistachios, too.
For 1000 other pops, click over to the Daring Bakers Blogroll!
from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor
Makes 30 – 40 Pops
5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ cup heavy cream
Boiling water as needed
Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks
1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)
Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) - Optional
Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.
In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.
Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.
Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.
When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.
When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.
Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.
Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.
Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.