Cheesecake with Nut Crust and Nutty Caramel Popcorn

 

Cheesecake with Nut Crust and Nutty Caramel Popcorn

 

Buttercream and I have been way too friendly with one another as of late so I have decided to purge the carbs from my system and stick with a strictly low carb diet over the next few months.

Unfortunately carbs and I really don’t see eye to eye as I suffer from hypoglycemia and carbs have a tendency to send my blood sugar into an acrobatic frenzy.  Over the years I have found that a low carb diet stabilizes it and makes me feel my most euphoric.  So with that, I will bid my beloved cakes and cookies adieu for the time being and slowly add them back into my diet as the occasional treat.

Cheesecake with Nut Crust and Nutty Caramel Popcorn Recipe

Nutty Caramel Popcorn Recipe

But not to worry, baking has become such a calming and creative outlet for me.   And while I may be very selective with what I am personally eating, my plan is to continue to forge forward with developing my baking skills;  therefore, I will continue to bring you a variety of sweet sensations all while I am noshing away on my meat doughnuts.

Of course, none of these sweet delights will go to waste.  I will be relying heavily on the Mr’s work mates as my taste testers (you never have to twist arms for willing volunteers) as well as any other brave volunteers.

Nutty Caramel Popcorn topping for Caramel Popcorn Cheesecake Recipe

Cheesecake with Nut Crust and Nutty Caramel Popcorn Recipe

Cheesecake with Nut Crust and Nutty Caramel Popcorn Recipe

So with that, I am bringing to you the most divine cheesecake that has ever walked the face of this planet.  This rich, creamy cheesecake has a nut crust and is crowned with a nutty caramel popcorn.  And if that weren’t heavenly enough, I capped it all off with a silky caramel drizzle.

This cheesecake pays homage to the many cheesecakes I consumed while living in Kenya.

Much of my time in Kenya I was following a low carb diet which was pretty easy to do because nyama choma (grilled meat) is a favorite amongst Nairobians and is widely available.  But eating meat day in and day out can be tiring, so cheesecake was a frequent indulgence as it is one of those desserts that is very easily transformed into a low carb delight.  Simply replace the graham cracker crust with a nut crust and substitute low calorie sweetener for the sugar and you are good to go.  The tricky part was getting your hands on ricotta and cream cheese as these were not frequently stocked in the shops.

Cheesecake with Nut Crust and Nutty Caramel Popcorn Recipe

Cheesecake with Nut Crust and Nutty Caramel Popcorn

It’s easy to take such luxuries for granted when you live in a developed country but when you are living in a developing country, everyday necessities such as sugar, gas, electric, and water may not be available.

So, when you can’t find a bag of sugar for months on end or you turn the tap on and you get nada, finding a store stocked with luxury items such as imported cream cheese illicits feelings equivalent to how Columbus must have felt when he discovered America.  And I have to be honest, when that shipment comes in, you frantically buy each and every last block you can get your grubby, little hands on and hoard it like there is no tomorrow.

Fortunately, there was a dairy farm not far from Nairobi that was expanding the range of cheese products that they offered with ricotta cheese being one such cheese.  So it was increasingly becoming easier to find.

Cheesecake with Nut Crust and Nutty Caramel Popcorn Recipe

This brings me to one of my most memorable Nairobi cheesecake making moments.  Zucchini’s, the small produce shop near my home in Gigiri, received a shipment of a well known brand of cream cheese.  I had been out of cream cheese for some time so I was pretty excited that cheesecake would soon be in my future.  I bought every last brick they had (as usual), as well as several tubs of ricotta cheese, and rushed home.

As I was scooping the snow white ricotta cheese out of the container into my mixing bowl I suddenly noticed a large bright yellow spot buried within the cheese.

“That doesn’t look like cheese?” I thought.

Cheesecake with Nut Crust and Nutty Caramel Popcorn Recipe

Upon closer examination, I realized that spot had legs and a hard shell.  It was a beetle!!  This was a freshly opened tub of ricotta so the beetle had obviously made its way into the cheese during the making process at the dairy farm.

Now most of you probably would have looked at that ricotta cheese with disgust and tossed it into the trash.  But this is Kenya and ricotta cheese is gold.  So, I shrugged, picked that beetle out of the cheese and continued to make my cherished cheesecake.

I know. . .I know. . .you are probably grossed out by this… and I wouldn’t expect anything different.  It’s funny when I think back about that incident because if I would have found a ginormous insect in my cheese in the U.S. I would have been appalled.  But in Africa, it was just another day in the life and frankly barely phased me.

So there you have it a nice carb-ilicious cheesecake.  I hope you enjoy this cheesecake as much as the Mr’s co-workers did.  Rest assured those big yellow-orange dots are not beetles but rather popcorn and nuts hugged with caramel goodness.

Here’s to not finding beetles in your cheese.

XOXO –

Lynn

Cheesecake with Nut Crust and Nutty Caramel Popcorn

FOR THE NUTTY CARAMEL POPCORN TOPPING:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (3 oz) un-popped popcorn
  • 1 cup unsalted almonds
  • 1 cup roasted, unsalted cashews
  • 1 cup unsalted macadamia nuts
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1.2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Directions:

  • Switch the oven on to 250° F.
  • Pop the popcorn.  I simply placed 1/2 cup of un-popped kernels into a brown paper bag and popped in the microwave (using the popcorn setting).  You can also pop on the stove top if you are feeling more ambitious.  Be careful not to burn the popcorn.  Burnt popcorn is gross.
  • Get out your large roasting pan and butter it up.  Don’t skip this step.  This popcorn is sticky and you want to be able to get it out of the pan.
  • Add the popped corn and nuts to the pan and mix well.
  • Spread the nut and popcorn mixture out into an even layer in the pan.  Place in the oven while you are making the caramel glaze.
  • In a big saucepan, mix together the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, orange zest and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Be sure to stir constantly until the sugar dissolves.
  • Once the sugar is dissolved, let the  mixture boil for 4 additional minutes.  You will notice it thickening up and transforming into the heavenly caramel glaze that will soon be hugging each and every nut and piece of popcorn.
  • Remove the hot caramel glaze from the heat and stir in the vanilla and baking soda.
  • Get the popcorn and nuts out of the oven.  You didn’t forget about them, did you?
  • Pour the hot caramel glaze over the top of them.  Make sure you coat each and every one of them with the caramel goodness.
  • Stir to coat and return the pan to the oven.
  • Bake for about an hour until the glaze is dry.  Be sure to stir occasionally.
  • Once you remove the popcorn from the oven, you will notice that some of it is stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Use a spatula to free it.  Aren’t you glad you buttered the pan?
  • Let the popcorn cool completely in the pan, then break it up into clumps.  Top the cheesecake with the nutty popcorn.

FOR THE NUT CRUST:

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups ground nuts (I used a blend of macadamia nuts, cashews, and almond)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350° F.
  • Pulse nuts in a food processor until the have the consistency of a coarse meal.
  • Combine the ground nuts and sugar.
  • Mix in the melted butter.  The nuts should be moist.
  • Transfer the mixture into a 9 inch spring form pan.
  • Press the nuts in an even layer on the bottom of the pan.
  • Bake for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and cool completely.
  • Fill with the cheesecake (recipe follows).

FOR THE CHEESECAKE:

Ingredients:

  • 40 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 whole eggs + 2 yolks
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Directions:

  • Remove your ingredients from the fridge.  You want them to be at room temperature when you start to mix the filling.
  • Crank the oven up to 500° F.
  • Place aluminum foil around the bottom of the spring form pan.  This will keep the crust dry while baking in the water bath.  No one, and I mean no one, wants a soggy nut crust.
  • Prepare a water bath by filling a large baking pan with water.  The level should fall half way up the outside of the springform pan.
  • Butter the sides of the springform pan.
  • Using a hand mixer on medium – high beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, zests and vanilla in a big bowl.
  • Once smooth, start to add the eggs and egg yolks one at a time.  Be sure to beat after you add each but don’t over beat.  Over beating introduces air which can cause cracks.
  • Stir in the cream.
  • Pour the cheese filling over top the nut crust.
  • Place the springform pan in the water bath.
  • Bake at 500°F for 20 minutes.  If the top starts to bubble or crack, immediately lower the temperature to 200°F.
  • Reduce oven temperature to 200° F and bake until the cheesecake is set (about 40 – 60 minutes).  You want the cheesecake to be slightly jiggly in the middle as it will firm up as it cools.   It’s done when the temperature reaches 150° F in the center.  When you check the temperature of the cheesecake, be sure to do it outside of the oven.  You knew that, right?
  • Remove the cheesecake from the oven and loosen it from the edge of the pan by running the tip of a knife  between the top edge of the cake and the side of the pan.
  • Transfer it to a wire rack and allow it to cool completely in the springform pan.
  • Cover and refrigerate in the springform pan at least 8 hours or overnight.
  • Remove the cake from the pan and top with popcorn and caramel drizzle (recipe follows).

FOR THE CARAMEL DRIZZLE:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Directions:

  • Combine corn syrup, brown sugar, and butter in a small saucepan.
  • Bring to a boil over medium-low heat.  Be sure to stir constantly.
  • Boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir in whipping cream
  • Heat to a boil.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Allow to cool slightly, then drizzle over top of the popcorn and cheesecake.
  • It’s heaven, isn’t it?

Caramel Popcorn recipe is from Williams Sonoma.  

Cheesecake recipe adapted  from Saveur Magazine.

 

25 thoughts on “Cheesecake with Nut Crust and Nutty Caramel Popcorn

  • April 26, 2015 at 7:51 pm
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    This nutty caramel Cheesecake looks truly divine! we have a lot in common, as far as our eating habits and what makes our bodies “feel best”. I can’t handle a lot of sugar and I’m allergic to chocolate and egg yolks, so sweet treats often end up in my husband’s belly. But, I SO enjoy the therapy of baking. I can’t imagine living in a developing country, but loved reading your post about it. Honestly, I don’t think I’d freak over a beetle in my food… but im a strange one. Lol. Great post, beautiful photography and one heck of a delicious looking Cheesecake that I will be sure to try! Cheers to once in a while indulgences … and beetles in ricotta 😉

    Reply
    • April 29, 2015 at 1:05 pm
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      Ha! Ha! Thanks Cheyanne. Living in a developing country offered up many interesting “adventures”; however, I wouldn’t trade the experience of living here for anything. Hope you get a chance to try this cheesecake. It certainly was a big hit in the hubby’s office.

      Reply
  • April 26, 2015 at 11:50 pm
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    I lived in Vietnam as a child and lived under third world condition. A pouch of Kool-Aid drink mix was a special treat. We did not make drinks with it but ate it directly from the pouch (didn’t know any better). I can appreciate your cream cheese and ricotta cheese experience. The cheesecake looks incredible! I love all the dripping caramel drizzle.

    Reply
    • April 29, 2015 at 1:16 pm
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      Ha! Ha! I love your Kool-Aid story Thao. It is funny how one quickly resets what is and is not acceptable when the environment changes. Glad you liked the cheesecake. I went a little light on the caramel and let everyone apply their preferred amount; however, feel free to dump the whole bowl on the cheesecake. 🙂

      Reply
  • April 27, 2015 at 12:39 pm
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    This made me think of bacon and living in China. Good bacon was near impossible to find. The expat store down the street got a delivery of Farmer John thick-cut bacon once and I spent hundreds on 10 packs and froze them. I wouldn’t think twice about Farmer John bacon in the US…it wouldn’t even be the bacon of choice for me. But in China, it was sheer gold!!! I would have picked the beetle out as well! This is gorgeous. xx

    Reply
    • April 29, 2015 at 1:23 pm
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      Fortunately bacon and sausage were easy to come by in Nairobi. Kitty litter. . .that is a whole different story. Months could pass without nary a box in sight. My guys are all inside kitties so liter is essential.

      Glad to hear I am not the only one who would pick the beetle out. 🙂

      Reply
  • April 27, 2015 at 3:58 pm
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    Wow, this looks absolutely AMAZING. I’d want to eat the cheesecake, popcorn, or caramel by themselves so together is definitely a YES. I haven’t thought about cheesecake as low-carb before, but now that you mention it – it totally is – and would fit really well into lower-carb eating.

    Reply
    • April 29, 2015 at 1:25 pm
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      Thanks Sarah! Cheesecake is the best ever low carb delight. You can even add some unsweetened cocoa powder if you need a little chocolate fix.

      Reply
  • April 27, 2015 at 7:39 pm
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    It’s amazing how travel can open up your mind to things that you totally take for granted at home. The beetle story doesn’t gross me out as much as it makes me laugh. Just par for the course in most areas of the world! Maybe not quite that extreme, but the idea of bugs not being such a huge deal. Anyway! Only you would make the association between Kenya and cheesecake – not two things you’d typically associate – in one move!

    Reply
    • April 29, 2015 at 1:31 pm
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      Thanks Nora. I’m a master at finding obscure links and patterns. Travel definitely has the power to open up your mind about other environments, cultures and even yourself. I myself became very used to bugs, lizards and misc critters while living in Africa; however, I watched other expats struggle with the African wildlife and cultural differences. Lack of adaptability can really affect your experience in a negative way.

      Reply
  • April 28, 2015 at 7:52 pm
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    These pictures are gorgeous! I haven’t had cheesecake in a while, but now I’m totally craving this exact one. Maybe with some extra caramel… I have no idea what I would do if I found a beetle in my ricotta. Probably be totally grossed out if it happened here. But while living in a developing world…I don’t know! In any case, please tell me more about these meat donuts 🙂

    Reply
  • April 29, 2015 at 6:51 am
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    Oh my goodness! This looks so amazingly good. I cannot wait to give this a go!
    My taste buds thank you in advance. YUM! What an inspired recipe!
    Pinning this and I will be cooking it as soon as I can!!!!!!!

    Reply
    • April 29, 2015 at 1:32 pm
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      Thanks Claire! Glad you enjoyed it. I hope you find some time to make if because it really is a tasty showstopper.

      Reply
  • April 29, 2015 at 7:27 am
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    This cake is insane in the membrane! I want it all. I’d probably even eat the beetle. Popcorn is crunchy and so are beetles…right?

    Reply
    • April 29, 2015 at 1:33 pm
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      Ha! Ha! Erin. You are more woman than me. They do serve termites on the menus in Nairobi so . . .

      Reply
  • April 30, 2015 at 11:55 am
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    I’d probably do the same thing! I’ve never lived in Kenya, but I do live pretty far away from a grocery store and well, cheesecake is important!

    Reply
    • May 2, 2015 at 6:43 am
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      Ha! Ha! My parents live in the country so I completely understand the notion that going anywhere is definitely a trek. Happy that I’m not the only one that just picked it out. The cheesecake gets cooked so that makes it alright. . .well at least that was what my mindset was. 🙂

      Reply
  • April 30, 2015 at 3:12 pm
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    This looks awesome! Bugs don’t shock me, but this cheesecake is super stunning. Love the towering popcorn 🙂

    Reply
    • May 2, 2015 at 6:41 am
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      Thanks Medha! It was a lot of fun to make and the caramel popcorn alone is wickedly tasty.

      Reply
  • May 5, 2015 at 4:22 am
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    Haha – maybe a beetle in your cheese is good luck?;) The Kenyan version of king’s cake! This cheesecake does look super divine and that pile of nutty caramel popcorn on top is amazing!

    Reply
  • May 13, 2015 at 4:26 pm
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    Oh my! I love everything about this! When we were kids my mom would put quarters in our birthday cake and whoever found the quarter…well, you know – surprise! Luckily no-one broke a tooth! Perhaps the beetle serves the same celebratory purpose?! Stretching it? I love the tower of popcorn! Pinned!

    Reply
  • June 20, 2015 at 5:40 am
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    You don’t even know how much I love popcorn with caramel! Never thought about combining it with cheesecake. Thanks so much for this recipe!

    Reply
    • June 20, 2015 at 7:02 am
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      It’s like two treats in one (three if you count the caramel drizzle)! Glad you enjoyed the recipe.

      Reply

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