Whether you sprinkle the top of this cheesecake with sugar and torch it or not, it’s a deliciously festive way to celebrate the season. The brûléed top looks fancy and is easy to do if you happen to have a small blowtorch, providing a crunchy burnt-sugar foil to the cool, creamy cheesecake underneath. Cheesecake, brûléed or not, is a great make-ahead dessert, freeing up your oven to roast your turkey on the big day – it needs to chill anyway, so you can make it up to three days ahead and keep it covered in the fridge until it’s time to eat. Cheesecake also travels well, if you’re charged with bringing dessert, and feeds a large crowd – ideal if you have more people around your table.
If you’re not an eggnog fan, simply leave it and the nutmeg out for a classic baked cheesecake you can top with anything from chocolate or caramel sauce to macerated or simmered fruit and compotes. Slice it with a large, sharp knife, dipped in hot water and wiped clean between each cut.
Brûléed (or not) Eggnog Cheesecake
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (or chocolate wafer crumbs)
3 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. sugar (white or brown – optional)
3 8 oz. (250 g) packages cream cheese, regular or light
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. vanilla or rum extract
3 large eggs
1/2 cup eggnog
1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
extra sugar, for topping (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
To make the crust, combine the graham crumbs, butter, and sugar and press the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan that has been sprayed lightly with nonstick spray. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then set it aside. Turn the oven up to 425°F.
To make the filling, beat the cream cheese in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugars, flour and vanilla and beat it again, just until it’s smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Beat in the eggnog and nutmeg and pour over the crust.
Bake the cheesecake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 250°F and continue to bake for another 30-35 minutes. You can tell when the cheesecake is done when it’s barely firm around the edges and the center is just slightly jiggly. It will firm up as it cools. Immediately run a thin knife around the edge to loosen it from the pan, but allow it to cool completely and then refrigerate it for at least an hour before you remove the sides of the springform pan.
To brûlée the top, sprinkle it with an even layer of sugar and run over the surface with a small blowtorch to melt it. Chill again until the sugar sets. (Alternatively, you could do this part after you slice it.)
Slice with a sharp knife dipped in hot water, then wiped dry before each slice. Serves 16.