Friday, February 22, 2013

Chocolate Lovers Cheesecake

Let me just get this out there and out in the open. 

I have never made a cheesecake before. Like never ever ever.

Scary, right? Well, let me kinda take that previous statement back. I made a cheesecake couple of years ago, but left it out on the counter overnight and never got to try it because cheese left out overnight is never a good idea to eat the next day. So, I don't really say that time counted. Do you agree? I hope so. The idea for making this cheesecake for the captain's true birthday comes from a long time. Long long time ago. When I first met the captain many moons ago, he was making cheesecake. Yes, cheesecake. A turtle cheesecake to be exact. I couldn't believe it. For one, not many men I know make cheesecake and second, I don't know a single man that owns a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I should have known right then and there that it would be true love. Awwwww.

Let's just say, the captain makes one of the best cheesecakes I've ever had. And no, I am not just saying that. It's really that good! The crust is so buttery delicious and the filling, no matter what it is, is always so light and creamy. I don't know how it does it or what he does (maybe it's just made with lots of love), but they are down right amazing. I am such a lucky girl that I usually get one every year for my birthday. I don't remember the first few flavors, but last year I got a cheesecake that was scented with orange and lemon zest and the year before that was a white chocolate cheesecake. Both were so amazing and when I brought the extras to work (of course I froze a few pieces for those late night cravings), they though it was pretty dang good too. I think I am going to leave the captain to do the cheesecakes and I can just stick to regular cakes. Ya, that sounds good. I'm thinking a lactose intolerant girl should not be allowed to make cheesecakes. What do you think?

Because I wanted to surprise the captain with something different and something extra special, I wanted to tackle the infamous cheesecake. But just not any cheesecake. A chocolate lovers cheesecake! Right up his alley. Cheesy and chocolatey. Now say that three times fast! That wasn't has hard as I though. Never mind. I am not going to lie here, I did a lot of cheesecake research and making one is not an easy feat. Water bath or no water bath. Crust up the sides or no crust up the sides. Cream cheese or marscapone cheese. And it goes on and on and on. Not to mention the wide ranges of temperatures and baking times. I was a little intimidated, but jumped into this  cheesecake making session with full force. I was determine to make this a success for my main squeeze. The cheesecake definitely wasn't as hard to make as I though, but I did learn some lessons. Here is what I learned and some tips for my fellow cheesecake lovers out there:

1. The crust recipe may always need more butter. Not necessarily a bad thing, right? Even though I followed the recipe, it was not moist enough to have the crust stick to the springform pan.

2. Make sure to put your cheesecake on baking sheet while baking the crust and the cheesecake because the butter may drip and cause the oven to smoke. Like fill up your whole kitchen with smoke. Not such a good thing.

3. Your cream cheese MUST be at room temperature before you make the filling. If you don't, it will be lumpy and no one likes a lumpy cheesecake.

4. Don't overcook your cheesecake. This is the hardest part because as a baker, if it jiggles, to me, that means it needs more time. Not cheesecakes though. If it lightly jiggles in the middle it's done. Strange I know, but it's true. This was probably the hardest part for me because I was both scared of it being underdone or overdone.

5. You must must must cool your cheesecake at least eight hours or overnight in the fridge. The more it chills, the better it is. Just trust me. 

My first cheesecake making experience wasn't as scary as I though it would be.  The cheesecake turned out okay, but I know I can do better. I am a baking perfectionist. The crust was a little overcooked, but perhaps that's because I used chocolate Teddy Grahams instead of the chocolate wafers (who want's to spend $6 for wafers when the teddies were only $3!) or I just cooked it too long. So, keep an eye out for timing in baking the crust. Maybe try a minute or two less in your oven. Every oven is different.  I thought the filling part would really make me nervous, but I think you just sort of know when it's done. If it's like soup, it's probably not done. If it seems firm, but the center wiggles, it's probably just about right. Don't let the jiggling of the cheesecake worry you. The cheesecake will finish cooking in the pan while it's cooling and then firm up and develop more flavors as it cools in the fridge.  The filling was definitely cooked (hooray!) and the topping of chocolate ganache just put it over the top.  This chocolate lovers cheesecake was was definitely cheesy and chocolatey. Just what I was going for to surprise the captain for his birthday!

in my opinion, the crust is the best part of the cheesecake

dont' worry, you can't taste the espresso powder. it just gives the chocolate a little deeper flavor.

adding in the cooled chocolate to the sugar and cream cheese mixture

add each egg one at a time making sure not to over mix

smooth out that filling!

getting ready to add the ganache. not sure why the cheesecake kinda sunk, but oh well.

pool of ganache. mmm!

Chocolate Lovers Cheesecake (slightly adapted from Annie's Eats)

For the crust:
1½ cups finely ground chocolate cookie crumbs (I used chocolate Teddy Grahams, but if you can find chocolate wafers or want to use Oreos without the filling, that works too)

3 tbsp. sugar
4 -8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted (start with four and then work your way up to a moister crust)

For the cheesecake: 
½ cup sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. espresso powder or instant coffee granules
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
¼ tsp. salt
1¼ cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature

For the glaze: 
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 tbsp. heavy cream
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

To make the crust, preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with a round of parchment paper.  In a medium bowl combine the cookie crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Start with 4 tablespoons butter and then work your way up if you need a more moistened crust. Stir with a fork until all the crumbs are moistened.  Add the crumb mixture to the springform pan and gently press about 1 inch up the sides of the pan.  Press the rest of the crumbs into an even layer over the bottom of the pan.  Bake for 10 minutes (check at 8 to make sure it's not burning!), then transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Reduce the oven temperature to 300˚ F.

To make the filling, combine the sour cream, vanilla, and espresso powder in a small bowl.  Whisk to blend and set aside.  Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave (in short intervals, stirring frequently) until completely smooth.  Set aside and let cool slightly.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese, cocoa powder, and salt.  Beat on medium-high speed until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the sugar and continue mixing about 2-3 minutes more, scraping down the bowl as needed.  Add the cooled chocolate to the bowl and mix on medium-low speed.  Beat in the sour cream mixture just until evenly blended.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing each just until incorporated.  Don’t over-beat once the eggs are added or the cheesecake will puff too much.

Pour the filling into the cooled crust.  Bake until the center jiggles very slightly when nudged, about 50-60 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 1-2 hours.  Then cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 8 hours or overnight.

To make the glaze, place the chopped chocolate in a small heatproof bowl.  Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan or in the microwave.  Pour over the chocolate and let stand briefly, 1-2 minutes.  Whisk just until a smooth ganache has formed.  Whisk in the butter until completely incorporated.  Pour the glaze in an even layer over the chilled cheesecake.  Chill thoroughly.

To serve, carefully unmold the sides of the springform.  Run a sharp knife under hot water to warm the blade, and wipe dry with a towel.  Slice cleanly, wiping the blade between slices and reheating as necessary.  Serve chilled. Enjoy!

Even though everything turned out, I have still asked the captain for an official cheesecake lesson. He is the man when it comes to that and I need a tutoring session to get my next cheesecake just right. Stay tuned! PS. Don't forget that if you have extra cheesecake, you can wrap up the slices and freeze them. Just take out and let defrost in the fridge or on the counter until you are ready to enjoy. If you really can't wait that long, just pop in the microwave on low until it comes to temperature. Just don't cook it too long or you'll get cheesecake soup. Although yummy, not what you were going for.

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