Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Cheesecake in your slow cooker? Yes, you can!

A slow cooker is a pretty nifty place to cook a cheesecake. It stays at a controlled temperature, and you don't have to tie up the oven for a long time and you don't need to worry about a waterbath in the oven.

The tricky thing about cooking a cheesecake in a slow cooker is that slow cookers are not all the same. Newer slow cookers tend to cook hotter than really old ones. Some are insulated more than others, which matters during the resting stage.

I baked this in the Hamilton Beach 6-Quart Set & Forget Programmable Slow Cooker, so if you're using something that's significantly different, you might need to adjust the recipe.

The good news is that this makes a small cheesecake, so it's not a huge investment in ingredients. And it's a nice size for serving a small family - you don't need to commit to eating cheesecake every day for a week.

You're going to need a six-inch springform pan for this recipe, which is smaller that standard springform pans for normal-sized cheesecakes. A 6-inch springform pan fits perfectly in my slow cooker, with space around it for air circulation. If you're using a different slow cooker, test the size of your springform pan first, before you fill it, to make sure it fits.

Slow Cooker Cheesecake

This cheesecake is so good, you'll want to put it on a pedestal.
For the crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream

Wrap the bottom and sides of a 6-inch springform pan with aluminum foil. Since the pan doesn't actually sit IN the water, you might not need to do this, but I never trust a springform pan around water - I always wrap, for insurance.

In a medium bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs with sugar and salt. Or, save a bowl and do the mixing in the same plastic bag where you crushed the crackers. Add the melted butter and stir to combine. Press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. If you want a little less crust, you don't need to use it all - it's up to you.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, sugar and salt; beat until combined and the cream cheese is smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until well blended. Add the sour cream and beat until smooth.

Note: you can do this beating with an electric mixer, but beat slowly - electric mixers tend to beat air into the product, and that's not what you want here.

Pour the cream cheese mixture into the prepared springform pan. This filled my springform pan almost exactly to the top - if your pan is slightly taller or shorter, yours might not fill quite as full, or you might have a little excess.

Put a metal rack in the bottom of the slow cooker and add water just to the bottom of the rack. Place the cheesecake on the rack.

Cover the top of the slow cooker with a clean kitchen towel or a cloth napkin. This will collect the condensation so it doesn't drip onto the top of the cheesecake. Put the lid on top of the towels.

Turn the slow cooker to low and set for 2 hours. DON'T PEEK. When two hours are up, turn the slow cooker off and turn the lid crosswise on top of the slow cooker. Leave the towel in place, just turn the lid so the cheesecake can slowly begin to cool. Since the Hamilton Beach slow cooker is so well insulated, it holds the heat really well, so if you leave the lid on, the cheesecake won't cool off much at all.

 Let the slow cooker cool for one hour with the cheesecake resting inside.

Remove the lid, remove the towel, and remove the cheesecake. Refrigerate until well-chilled, about four hours. Or until tomorrow.

Run a thin-bladed knife between the cheesecake and pan, then release the spring and remove the cheesecake. Note: slicing is cleaner if you run the knife blade under hot water then wipe it off after each cut. If it matters. Or not.

Serve. Devour. Yum.

This recipe was developed using the Hamilton Beach slow cooker which was provided by the manufacturer through the blog group 37 Cooks.