- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Fall brings wonderful ingredients with which to bake, but it also brings busy schedules, with football games, soccer matches, gardening that has to be done and walks in the woods that just need to be taken.

It’s possible still to entertain friends and savor the beautiful fall outdoors. The secret is to do as much as possible ahead of time, such as making a batch of applesauce and refrigerating it or baking this easy do-ahead cheesecake.

Based on yellow cake mix, this cheesecake feeds a crowd.

Four time-shaving make-aheads for fall entertaining

• Cheesecakes. They keep a couple of days, lightly covered, in the refrigerator.

• Applesauce. Make it with good local apples. Store in the refrigerator up to a week.

• Waldorf salad. Remember this salad? Make it again, up to four or five hours in advance.

m Cole slaw. It improves with time. Make it a day in advance.

Toffee-crunch cheesecake

Softened butter or solid vegetable shortening for greasing the pan

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

1 package (18.25 ounces) plain yellow cake mix

4 tablespoons (half a stick) butter, melted

4 large eggs

2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, at room temperature

cup sour cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 package (6 ounces; 1 cup) toffee chips, such as Heath Bar

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with softened butter or vegetable shortening. Set the pan aside.

Place the sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips in a medium glass bowl in the microwave oven or in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Either heat in the microwave for 1 minute or heat on the stove, stirring, until the mixture is warm and the chips melt. Stir well and set aside. Also measure out one half cup of the cake mix and set aside for the filling.

Place the remaining cake mix, the melted butter, and 1 egg in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 2 minutes. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. The batter should come together in a ball.

With your fingertips, pat the batter evenly over the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of the prepared pan, smoothing it out with your fingers until the top is smooth. Set the pan aside.

For the filling, place the cream cheese and the chocolate sweetened condensed milk mixture in the mixing bowl that was used to make the crust, and with the same beaters (no need to clean either) blend with an electric mixer on low speed until just combined, 30 seconds.

Stop the machine and add the reserved cake mix, the remaining 3 eggs, the sour cream, vanilla, and all but a quarter cup of the toffee chips and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.

Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the filling onto the crust and spread with a rubber spatula so that the filling covers the entire surface and reaches the sides of the pan. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining toffee chips. Place the pan in the oven.

Bake the cheesecake until it looks shiny and the center no longer jiggles when you shake the pan, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool, 30 minutes. Lightly cover the pan with plastic wrap and place the pan in the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour, but preferably 24 hours for the flavors to meld.

Cut into squares and serve. Makes 12 to 16 servings.


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