My youngest brother had a plan, one that I was unaware of. It was for me to make a chocolate cheesecake. Of course, he didn’t actually apprise me of his plan until all the ingredients (literally) were in place. “Oh, I bought a six-pack of cream cheese from the store because it was on sale…I also bought this giant bag of chocolate chips! Wait, do we have graham crackers?”
You get the idea.
I had never made a chocolate cheesecake before, usually sticking to being a purist in the cheesecake realm by making a New York-style cheesecake once a year (mainly because I don’t want my hips to start getting the form of a cheesecake).
But a chocolate cheesecake always intrigued me. So keeping in cookbook theme, my trusty New York Times Cookbook was pulled out, because I knew Craig Claiborne had a recipe in there.
Chocolate Cheesecake Recipe (adapted from The New York Times Cookbook recipe)
1 cup of graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup of shredded wheat crumbs/flakes/leavings
5 TBSP melted butter
3/4 (minus 2 TBSP) sugar
1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate pieces
2 1/2 8 oz packages of cream cheese
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs, separated
1 cup of heavy cream
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Another reason why I don’t like making cheesecake is because of the time consuming process when you have to make one from scratch. The whipping, the folding, the long baking time at a low temp, the resting period, the chilling period, etc. If you’ve seen the other recipes I’ve posted here, you might have noticed that I’m a fan of the quick and tasty. And there is nothing fast about a cheesecake.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan.
Mix the graham cracker and shredded wheat "crumbs" with the butter. Press the mixture into the greased springform pan until a 1 to 1 1/2 inch crust is formed around the sides of the pan and the bottom is evenly coated. Set aside.
Melt the chocolate on the top of a double-boiler, remove from heat and let cool.
Beat together the cream cheese, salt, vanilla and half of the sugar until creamy and smooth. Beat in the egg yolks one by one until well incorporated and you have a nice smooth batter. Fold in the melted chocolate until well incorporated. Set aside.
In another bowl, beat the egg whites with the remaining sugar until they hold stiff peaks. Remember to add the sugar a little at a time while beating the eggs so that they actually incorporate completely.
Whip the heavy cream until stiff.
Add the egg whites and whipped cream to the chocolate cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle flour on top. Fold all these components together and make sure every item is well incorporated.
Pour the mixture into the prepared springform pan and bake for 1 1/4 hours. Do not open the oven door for one hour. Turn off the heat and let the cake sit in the oven for another 3 to 4 hours before removing. Once out of the oven, place in your refrigerator to chill.
And voila a good 4-5 hours later, a chocolate cheesecake is born.
The texture was decidedly creamier and lighter than a New York-style cheesecake. I spread some strawberry jam on top (which was "melted").It made me feel less self conscious about scarfing down a slice every other day until it disappeared. Dangerous.
Because apparently I’m a decent enough baker in the eyes of my friends and family, I was commanded to bake a birthday cake for one of my father’s friends. I wasn’t sure what to do, mainly because the majority of the people attending were from West Africa and I was afraid that if I didn’t do something familiar, it’ll go down in flames. This is not an unfounded fear – when I lived abroad in a tiny island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, most of my “American as Apple Pie” creations were dubbed as interesting, but when I made a “tarte banane” or something that was culturally local, the reviews were more of the rave variety.
Well thank jeebus I was told they like chocolate. (because even on my tiny island, they liked chocolate.)
I of course hunted online for recipes, but then realized that I had perfectly good falling apart cookbooks to turn to for a simple chocolate cake, filling and frosting. The actual cake had the following components: Basic Chocolate Cake, Dark chocolate ganache, Mocha Buttercream Frosting.
The recipes for the cake and the buttercream I modified from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Book of Desserts, which has really nice standard recipes for cakes and frostings.
Basic Chocolate Cake (adapted from from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Book of Desserts recipe)
3/4 cup Valhorna cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
2 cups cake flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
3/4 cup shortening
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottom with parchment paper and grease parchment paper; dust pans with extra cocoa powder.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Next, in your mixer cream together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Then add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl in intervals to incorporate the ingredients. Add the vanilla and mix well.
Alternately add the dry ingredients with the milk to the egg/shortening mixture. I like to add it in thirds of each. Remember to scrape down the sides of your bowl so that all the ingredients are incorporated.
Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans. You might need a spatula to spread the batter if it's a little thick. To remove air bubbles, tap the pans on the counter a few times. This also lets the batter settle more evenly in the pan for a uniform rise.
Bake for 30 to 35 mins until toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the cake.
Let cool completely before frosting or decorating.
The frosting I used was a simple Mocha Buttercream, and what made it extra special I think was using my leftover French-pressed coffee from the morning’s brew. Now, I am sure any kind of coffee would work, but I think brewed versus instant will work better flavor-wise.
Recipe for Mocha Frosting (adapted from from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Book of Desserts recipe)
1 16 ounce package of confectioner's sugar
6 TBSP butter, softened
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa (I used Valhorna here as well)
1/3 cup cold, fresh brewed coffee
1 tsp vanilla
In your mixer bowl, on medium speed, mix together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder and butter until well incorporated. Add the vanilla and coffee until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
I like to beat the frosting for a few extra minutes to make it fluffier. My brothers claim that it tastes like the filling from the Dunkin Donuts® Chocolate Cream Filled Donut.
As for the ganache filling, I used a regular recipe that called for a 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1 cup of just boiling heavy cream poured on it, followed with a teaspoon of vanilla. All whisked until smooth and then set aside to cool.
Maybe because this cake was for a festive occasion, I tried my hand at decorating…and ended up with this.
It’s not Ben Israel, but my cake-eaters loved it.
It’s been months since I’ve wanted to check out the New York Cakes & Baking Supply store here in the city. This cavern of confections was first mentioned to me by a very regular baker in my office and he was pretty impressed by its offerings. Judging from his baked goods (brought into work every now and again), I could safely say that he knew what he was talking about.
I usually kept my baking contraption purchases limited to Bed, Bath & Beyond or Zabar’s, the latter for the more obscure utensils and ingredients. So when I came in here and saw all that this store had to offer – I think I might be visiting more and more in the future.
My wallet might need to be put on lockdown.
You can read a proper review of this fine establishment here.
I know this isn’t a post about a baked item, but it’s baking related so it counts!
(photo courtesy of Yelp.com)