Smoked Cheesecake & Burnt Sugar Sauce
The smoke gives the cheesecake a haunting flavor—familiar yet exotic. This may just be the most interesting cheesecake you’ll ever set fork to.
For the crust
- Vegetable oil, for oiling the pan
- 12 ounces gingersnaps (about 36) or chocolate icebox cookies (about 36)
- 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
For the filling
- 4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 5 large eggs
- Burnt Sugar Sauce (recipes follows, optional)
Burnt Sugar Sauce
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Set up your grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium-high (400 °F). Lightly oil the springform pan with vegetable oil and wrap a sheet of aluminum foil around the outside.
- Make the crust: Break the cookies into pieces and grind with the brown sugar to a fine powder in a food processor. You’ll want about 1 3/4 cups of crumbs. Add the melted butter and run the processor in short bursts to obtain a crumbly dough. Press the mixture evenly across the bottom and halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Indirect-grill or bake the crust until lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool.
- Make the filling: Wipe out the food processor bowl. Add the cream cheese, brown sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice, and butter, and process until smooth. Work in the eggs one by one, processing until smooth after each addition. (You can also use a stand mixer, beating the cream cheese mixture until smooth and beating in the eggs one at a time.) Pour the filling into the crust. Gently tap the pan on the countertop a few times to knock out any air bubbles.
- Set up your smoker following the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat to 225 °F to 250 °F. Add the wood as specified by the manufacturer.
- Place the cheesecake in the smoker. Smoke until the top is bronzed with smoke and the filling is set, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. To test for doneness, gently poke the side of the pan—the filling will jiggle, not ripple. Alternatively, insert a slender metal skewer in the center of the cake; it should come out clean.
- Transfer the cheesecake in its pan to a wire rack to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until serving; the cheesecake can be made up to 8 hours ahead. Run a slender knife around the inside of the springform pan. Unclasp and remove the ring. (You’ll serve the cheesecake off the bottom of the pan.) Let the cheesecake warm slightly at room temperature before serving.
- If serving with the sauce, pour some of it over the cheesecake and the rest into a pitcher. Cut into wedges and pass the remaining sauce.
Burnt Sugar Sauce
- Place the sugar and 1/2 cup water in a deep heavy saucepan. Cover the pan and cook over high heat for 3 minutes. Uncover the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Swirl the pan so the sugar browns evenly, but don’t stir. Watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn or become bitter. (If it does, you’ll need to start over.) Cook until the syrup is dark brown and caramelized, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove it from the heat immediately. Take care not to get any molten sugar on your hands.
- Add the cream. The mixture will bubble up like Mount Vesuvius—it’s supposed to. Return the pan to the heat and whisk until the cream is completely blended in. Whisk in the vanilla.
- Remove from the heat and let the sauce cool to room temperature. Pour it over the cheesecake or serve it on the side, or do a little of both.
For a tropical flavor, substitute 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger for the vanilla extract, lime zest for the lemon zest, and lime juice for the lemon juice.