My mom has been sending my brother and I recipes that she used to make when we were kids. Among those was a recipe for Strawberry Pretzel Salad, which I remembered fondly from 4th of July festivities, but when I made it myself, I found it lacking. The pretzel crust was phenomenal, but it obtained most of the strawberry component from none other than strawberry Jell-o. I felt this crust could do better, nay, deserved better than a topping made of hooves. Thus, my inspiration for this recipe was born. That, and I’ve been wanting to make caramel in a can for a while, and turning it into a baking project prevented me from eating the entire can with a spoon.
So first, make some caramel in a can. Take a can (or five) of sweetened condensed milk, peel off the wrappers, pop them in a crock pot, cover them up with water, and let them do their thing for 8 hours. Or 9, if you forget about them at the end like I did. Sure, you could do this on the stove, but you risk the water boiling away and the explosion of the cans, and I don’t know about you but I prefer watching that sort of thing on TV as opposed to scrubbing the reality of it out of all of the seams of my cupboards and off the ceiling. Let the cans cool most of the way down–I took the lid off of the crock pot and turned it off, but didn’t take the cans out of the hot water for another hour or so. You can store extra unopened boiled cans for about a year in case of caramel emergency. Take some (or all) of the contents of a can and thin it with whipping cream, whisking it in, microwaving to help it all melt together, until you have a pourable consistency.
For the cheesecake crust, coarsely crush pretzels until you have ~4 cups. Mix the pretzels with 1 1/2 cups of melted butter and 6 tablespoons of sugar, press into a springform pan, and bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. For the cheesecake innards, cream 4 8oz packages of full fat cream cheese in a mixer. Add 1 1/2 cups of sugar in a steady stream and then 1 tablespoon of vanilla. Once this is mixed, add 4 room temperature eggs, one egg at a time, until just mixed–any longer and you’ll beat air into the mixture and that spells trouble. Pour your innards into your crust, put in a water bath and bake for about an hour at 325. Once the cheesecake is out of the oven, cool it to room temperature and then refrigerate at least overnight.
Then cut yourself a slice, drizzle some caramel on top, and you’ve got non-hoof-based magic in your mouth.