So last week I touched on the Wild West theme at this year’s Teslacon. However, there is also a bonus theme to further sweeten the all-immersive experience: A Night Steampunk Circus. Not much has been revealed yet about this event except for the appearance of Cycropia Aerial Dance as one of the performers, an old time sideshow, and a Dia De Lo Muertos themed costume contest. If it’s anything like previous experiences at Teslacon (which it will be, plus so much more, knowing their track record), it will be nothing less than fantastically fun.
Now when I picture a night circus, I think of a dark and slightly macabre cabaret with traditional acts like clowns and acrobats, but enough shock, awe, and naughtiness to keep the kiddies at home. So for this dish I decided to take a staple circus concessions food, mix it with a little of the Wild West, and gourmet it up a bit for grown up tastes. What I made was a “Muleskinner” cheesecake with a caramel corn and graham cracker crust.
The “Muleskinner” was a cocktail from the old West involving blackberry liquor and whiskey. At the time, the whiskey served up in the saloons was grain alcohol that was often housemade, tasted terrible, and could have practically anything (whether well or poorly advised) added to it. Saloon owners were even known to add things like turpentine and tobacco juice to lengthen the shelf life of the bottle–the life of that particular bottle on that shelf without having to pay for another one, of course. Now luckily we aren’t going to be that authentic, so please for your health and sanity find a commercial whiskey of your liking to make this cake. We’ll be using fresh blackberries for this recipe, but a 1/3 cup of blackberry liquor would be an adequate alternative to 1 cup of berries for the swirls in the filling. If you want a good Muleskinner cocktail recipe, the Potemkin has one with a bonus recipe for homemade blackberry liquor.
Enjoy and hope to see ya’ll at Teslacon!
Muleskinner Caramel Corn Cheesecake
- 1 bag of Pop Secret Sweet and Crunchy Caramel Corn
- 1 cup of graham cracker crumbs (about 16 s’more-sized squares)
- 9 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- 2 cups of blackberries
- 3 Tbs whiskey
- 1 cup and 2 tsp sugar
- 3, 8oz packages cream cheese at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch and 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
- Mint leaves
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook popcorn according to package directions. Remove and discard the un-popped kernels. Crumble the rest in a food processor with the graham cracker squares.
- In a separate bowl, mix the crumbs with melted butter. Press the mixture into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch non-stick spring form pan or pie dish. Bake in the oven 14-16 minutes until firm. You can use this time to rinse out the food processor.
- Remove the pan or dish from the oven and allow to cool. Reduce the temperature to 300°F.
- Puree one cup of blackberries in the flood processor, strain and discard leftover seeds and pulp. Stir in 2 teaspoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of whisky.
- Blend cream cheese and cup of sugar with a stand or electric mixer on low in a separate bowl. Once mixed, add vanilla and remaining whiskey, and then one egg at a time. Finally, add sour cream and blend completely.
- When crust has cooled completely, add half of the filling. Drop teaspoonfuls of the blackberry puree into the batter and swirl with a skewer or toothpick to your preference. Add the rest of the batter and repeat. Reserve any leftover puree in a jar for syrup or future use.
- Bake cheesecake until edges are set, about 50 minutes.Turn off the oven and prop the door open with a wooden spoon. Let cool in the oven for an hour. Chill the cake about 4-6 hours in the fridge, or if you’re in a hurry like I was, the freezer about 1-2 hours.
- Before serving, garnish with mint leaves and leftover blackberries.