One of the best things about a party is that it gives an excuse to cook things that aren’t part of one’s normal routine. The fancy food, the fattening food, the recipe that’s great but serves 12 and can’t easily be downsized–a party is a great reason for all those things. Some friends of ours have an annual beach party and this year, I searched for something new to bring.
I ended up making this cheesecake, causing a giggle from Joe because he knows that for years I really loathed coconut. I’ve changed my tune, though, and it happened because of pina coladas.
Realized my problem with coconut was the texture, not the taste.
Went on to groove on Thai curries, coconut ice cream, and many other things.
The cheesecake is not one that requires a water bath, which makes things less complicated. It’s easy to make with an electric mixer, just keep the speed on low, to avoid beating extra air into the batter, and keep scraping down the sides. Make sure all your ingredients for the batter are at room temperature before you start. And plan on making it the day before.
This is not diet food. It may be the single richest dessert I’ve ever made. But put on a buffet table, it goes a long way, because people take small servings. (But they come back for seconds, and thirds.) It’s absolutely divine. Even Joe agreed, and he’s a New Yorker who doesn’t like monkeying around with his cheesecake.
I began with a recipe from Marlene Sorosky’s "Dessert Lover’s Cookbook", and did some adjusting for what I had on hand. There are a couple of unusual ingredients you’ll need to buy. Cream of coconut is not the same as coconut milk. You’ll probably find it in the liquor department near things like margarita salt. The recipe called for coconut extract. All I could find was imitation coconut flavoring, which turned out to work quite well; it’ll be in the baking section, near the vanilla. I used pineapple in its own juice; if all you have available is packed in syrup, that'll work, too.The easiest thing to do with the pineapple is to use a 20-oz can and divide it in two equal parts. One half, drained, will go into the batter. The other half, undrained, will be used for the topping.
PINA COLADA CHEESECAKE
2 c. graham cracker crumbs
7 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbs. sugar
3 8-oz. packages cream cheese (not whipped), room temperature
1 /2 c. sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
a little over half of a 15-oz. can of cream of coconut, stirred up very well before measuring
half a 20-oz. can of crushed pineapple, drained
1 c. sour cream
4 tsp. coconut flavoring
1/3 c. light rum
the rest of the crushed pineapple (not drained)
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1/4 c. sugar
1 Tbs. cornstarch
1 Tbs. water
1 10-inch springform pan, those pans with removable sides
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a food processor, mix the graham cracker crumbs, butter, and sugar until well blended. (You may also mix them in a bowl.) Press evenly over the bottom and two-thirds of the way up the side of the pan. Set aside.
Beat cream cheese and sugar in electric mixer, using paddle attachment if you have one, on low speed, scraping bowl often, until sugar is distributed and mixture is rather creamy. Begin adding eggs, one at a time, beating each until it’s completely mixed in and continuing to scrape bowl often. Add cream of coconut, pineapple, sour cream, flavoring and rum, continuing to scrape as needed, until ingredients are completely distributed. Pour into crust.
Bake for 65 minutes. Edges should be slightly brown and center jiggles a little when pan is shaken. Start checking for doneness about 10 minutes early. If it’s not ready at 65 minutes, raise oven heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 5-7 minutes and check with the jiggle test; that should do it. Do not remove from oven yet; just turn oven off and leave the cake in the cooling oven for one hour.
Then remove to a wire rack and allow to cool in a draft-free place. When it’s room temperature, you may add the topping or you may refrigerate the cake overnight and add the topping the day of serving.
Puree pineapple and its juice in the food processor. The consistency will be like applesauce. Transfer to a small saucepan and add lemon juice and sugar. In a small bowl or cup, dissolve the cornstarch in the water, and stir into the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until glaze comes to a boil and thickens. Remove from the heat and let cool. If cake has been refrigerated, you may apply topping when it’s still a little warm; otherwise, allow the topping to reach room temperature before spreading evenly over the cake.
Cover and refrigerate. Before serving, run a knife with a narrow blade around the sides of the pan. Remove sides. While it’s easier to slice and serve while chilled, it’s at its unctuous best near room temperature.