Welcome to the final TWD installment of 2008.  I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season; I know I am!  I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to participate this week since I am still out of town visiting family, but my mother graciously permitted me to take over her kitchen long enough to make Anne’s  (of AnneStrawberry) choice of Tall and Creamy Cheesecake (found on pages 235-237 of Dorie’s Baking: From My Home to Yours).

Since I’m sitting in my mother’s kitchen on a laptop essentially ignoring my family long enough to write this, I’m going to do my best to keep it short.

Cheesecake is definitely rated among my favorite desserts so I was excited to make this one.  For the most part I followed the recipe as it was written, but I couldn’t resist making a few changes…

This may look like a normal graham cracker crust, but the changes started here.  Instead of all butter in the crust I substituted some peanut butter.  I originally started with half butter and half peanut butter, but found the crust too dry to press into the pan so I continued to add more butter until it was the proper consistency (about 4 more tablespoons).

I didn’t make any changes to the batter itself – like most cheesecake recipes I’ve followed this one came together very easily.

Before I poured the batter in the crust I made this lovely concoction; peanut butter caramel!  Don’t worry, you’ll see why in a moment.

I poured about half the batter in the prepared crust then piped on a ribbon of my peanut butter caramel.

Then I carefully poured the remainder of the batter in the pan and piped on more of the peanut butter caramel.

Then I gently swirled the batter with a butter knife before putting it in the oven.

This cake baked exactly as Dorie said it would; it rose slightly above the top of the pan, browned on top and had slight cracks – although in my case the cracks may have been a result of the peanut butter caramel swirled in it.

My mother can’t abide a naked cheesecake so, since she and my father will end up with any leftovers, I decided to make sure it was decently robed.  I used the remainder of the peanut butter caramel, some cream and some semi-sweet chocolate to make a ganache for the top of the cheesecake.

I wish I could tell you how this cake tastes, but we are planning on serving it as one of the desserts for our New Year’s Eve party tomorrow night (I might find it difficult to explain a missing piece to the guests).  For now, I can tell you it was a snap to put together and certainly looks pretty on the platter.  I will try to update this post with a picture of an individual piece and a comment or two on taste and texture if I get the chance.

In the mean time, head over to Anne’s site to get the recipe to try for yourself and visit the rest of the TWD member sites to see how everyone else is making this cheesecake their own.  Happy New Year everyone!

**01/01/2009 Update**

Thank you to everyone that took the time to stop in so close to the New Year holiday.  The cheesecake went over very well – it was definitely creamy, we all loved the texture.  The peanut butter caramel ended up as random pockets more than a true swirl, but mom rather liked the effect.  The ganache on top probably needed just a touch more cream to counter the stickiness of the caramel – at the very least to make it a little easier to cut so it wouldn’t drag on the knife as much.  The flavor was perfect though! The peanut butter in the crust was just right; it gave a hint of peanut butter without being overwhelming.

My only complaint is that the crust ended up being a little soggy from the water bath, I think I would remove the sides of the spring form pan a little earlier in the future and double or triple check my wrapping job before putting it in the water bath in the first place.  Over all this recipe – and my variations – were a rousing success.