Cheesecake is an indulgence for many reasons: it’s made up of rich ingredients, and it can take a long time to prepare. But it’s totally worth it, especially if you give it a cocktail-themed edge by adding a bit of bourbon, a kick of heat from ginger and chili powder, and some maple syrup to round out the flavor with sweetness. Chili powder is typically for savory dishes, but it works nicely with the richness of this dessert. Bourbon and maple are a natural pair, complimenting each other and giving the cheesecake a pleasantly grown-up flavor. The flourish of a torched brulee sugar topping gives the cheesecake a rustic look.
Spiced Maple Bourbon Cheesecake
(makes 8 to 10 servings)
- 2 cups crushed gingersnap cookies
- 6 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 16 ounces softened cream cheese
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 6 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons bourbon (I like using Maker’s Mark or Buffalo Trace)
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ cup for caramelized sugar topping
- 9-inch springform pan
- Parchment paper
- Large baking dish
- Aluminum foil
- Hand torch (for making brulee top)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. To prepare the crust, mix crumbs, melted butter and chili powder in a bowl until it resembles the texture of wet sand. Prepare the springform pan by tracing the bottom disc of the pan on parchment paper and cutting out the circle to line it. This will help keep the crust from sticking to the pan. Use a little cooking spray or butter as glue to keep the paper from sliding around. Sprinkle the gingersnap crumb mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan and use your hands to press it into a firm, even layer. Bake the crust for about 10-15 minutes, until it’s hardened and lightly toasted. Allow it to cool.
Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees.
To make the filling, stir the cream cheese in a large bowl until smooth. Start adding in the liquid ingredients and then add the dry spices, mixing until everything is fully incorporated.
Take a large piece of aluminum foil and wrap the bottom of the springform pan with the baked crust – the foil should come at least halfway up the sides of the ring. Place the tin foil-wrapped pan into the center of the roasting pan. Carefully pour the cheesecake batter into the springform pan, making an even layer over the baked crust. Take one quart of boiling water and carefully fill the roasting pan with enough water to come almost halfway up the side of the springform, making sure the water isn’t higher than the level of the protective foil. This will keep the top of the cheesecake from cracking. Carefully place the cheesecake with its water bath into the oven. Bake for 40 minutes to an hour, checking it and rotating if needed. The finished cheesecake should have a wobbly center when it’s done, like a loose gelatin. Turn off the heat and allow the cheesecake to cool gently before removing it and placing into the refrigerator overnight to fully set.
When you’re ready to serve, run a butter knife dipped in warm water around the edge of the cheesecake to help separate it from the ring before unlocking and separating it from the dessert. Sprinkle the sugar over the cheesecake in an even, thin layer and use your hand torch to caramelize the top, making a crispy sugar shell.