Heavenly Sinful... Luscious. Creamy and scrumptious. Exquisite. All apt descriptions of the "plain ole" cheesecake. I truly believe whoever first decided to mix the simple ingredients of cream cheese, sugar and eggs together then bake for an hour or so deserves Sainthood status.
A good cheesecake, or even an "only OK" cheesecake usually garners overwhelming oooohhhs and aaaahhhs when served for dessert. A veritable blank palette, the creamy base can easily be used as a jumping point to nearly any direction you can think of. Fruit, of course always pairs well, but the addition of coffee and Kahlua brings a Cappuccino Fudge Cheesecake that will bring you to your knees. Lime and Tequila can turn your cheesecake into a Margarita while a zesty basil pesto can take your cheesecake into the savory arena bringing the ideal appetizer.
The biggest secret of all?? Cheesecake is really fairly easy to make. But, sssshhhh... don't tell anyone! With a simple blending of the ingredients, a bake in the oven and a chill in the fridge you have a dessert or appetizer fit for any gathering. Dressed up with garnishments or served unadorned you will be praised time and again and frequently asked for a recipe.
Memorial Day Weekend, 2011, brought my husband and I together with a special group of friends. Some 10 years prior and all new to our neighborhood we were drawn together somewhat by proximity, but more by our love of good food and the similarities of life. Over the years our friendships have grown into some of the closest I've ever had. We've traveled together, welcomed new babies, struggled through the difficult times and celebrated the good ones. As new friends we enjoyed a Progressive Dinner Party, appetizers and cocktails across the street, the main course down the street and desserts and drinks up the street. Amazingly, we've not repeated this wonderful evening... until last night.
With our travels spanning the world over the next few months our Progressive Dinner Theme included our travel destinations. Arriving at the Jones' we were transported to Spain and France with appetizers and drinks. Spanish Olives, cheeses and meats and an exquisite Tomato Peach Gazpacho were waiting along with Absinthe spirited French cocktails. French and Spanish wines completed the experience and had all of us gushing with pleasure.
Our next stop continued the Spanish flair and treated us to Waleska's exemplary Sangria, but also moved us to the Caribbean with a Ceviche recipe handed down for generations. Dan, of Becky's Football Stromboli fame, worked the "Steak-cation" and further showed his aptitude for man-food with a savory rubbed steak that he has promised he will write about soon. Finished off with Becky's delectable asparagus and a flavorful Grilled Veggie Pasta Salad we were ready to head to our next stop for cocktails and dessert.
The Roberts' had the bar set with nearly everything you could imagine to continue our evening, and the desserts brought plenty of oohs and ahhhs. Starting with Greg's homemade Italian Lemon Lime Gelato the group was transported to the Italian countryside with enticing flavors and textures. I'm so excited that he has agreed to share his recipe and write even a post for us. Stay tuned... Lemon Lime Gelato is up in a day or two!
With Liv Life headed to San Francisco this summer, chocolate seemed to be in order for the second dessert offering of the evening. Adding a dose of the dark confection to our cheesecake brought the basic blank palette up to another level. The addition of raspberries enhanced the flavor even more garnering my favorite comment ever... "Heavenly Sinful".
Light and creamy, the cake still brought forth a richness and mouth-feel that was capable of making one weak at the knees. Trader Joe's Joe-Joe's combined with brown sugar creating a slightly crunchy crust which we topped with a basic vanilla cream cheese layer. Interspersed into the vanilla layer we dropped raspberry enhanced chocolate cream cheese dollops and then for the finale spread a decadent chocolate ganache over the top of it all. An ideal finish for one of our most special evenings ever.
Totally satiated and content, the evening was an absolute hit. Counting myself lucky to live where I do and be surrounded with the wonderful friends I have, we have created a most memorable holiday weekend. As I write this post I remember and give thanks for those who have fallen for this country and who have made it possible for me to live the life I do. Thank you.
6/11/11 - edited to note: My original post omitted the sugar! Ouch! As noted below, not amount of any other ingredient would make up for that omission. The post has been corrected to include the correct sugar amount, please accept my apologies!!
Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake
adapted from Taste of Home, 2011 Best Recipes, pg 120
Printer friendly recipe here
1 1/2 cups cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies (we used Trader Joe's Chocolate Joe Joe's)
2 Tbs butter, melted
4 pkgs (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened (I used 2 lower in fat bricks and to regular bricks)
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cups low fat sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
9 oz dark chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves
6 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
raspberries for garnish
Place a greased 9-in. springform pan on a double thickness of heavy-duty foil (about 18 in. square). Securely wrap the foil around the pan. Combine the cookie crumbs and butter; press onto the bottom of the prepared pan.
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla. Add the eggs, beat on low speed just until combined. Set aside 1 1/2 cups of the batter and pour the remaining amount over the crust.
Melt the 9 oz. of dark chocolate; stir in the preserves until blended. Stir the chocolate into the reserved batter just until blended. Drop by spoonfuls over the plain batter (do not swirl).
Bake at 325º for 65-75 minutes, or until the center is just set and top appears dull. Remove springform pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen, cool 1 hour longer.
For the topping, place the 6 oz of dark chocolate in a small bowl. In a small sauce pan bring the cream just to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Cool slightly. Spread the cooled ganache over the top of the cheesecake. Refrigerate overnight.
Garnish with raspberries. (The raspberry garnish took this dessert over the top!!)
- While the raspberry infused chocolate was amazing, it did not really bring the raspberry punch I was looking for... next time I may try adding a raspberry puree for an extra flavor boost.
- From the ingredients above we made 24 mini cheesecakes and one 8 inch cheesecake and I had a bit of the chocolate cheesecake mixture left over.
- Bake mini cheesecakes for 17-20 minutes, check and cook a minute or two longer if necessary.
- My new favorite mini cheesecake baking pan is by Norpro - I'm really enjoying making cheesecakes in individual tapas-like portions and purchased two pans to make 24 at once!
- The raspberries as a garnish took this dessert over the top!!
- To "tamp" down the crumbs in the mini pans I used my the bottom of a children's medicine cup we had in the drawer.
- This dessert ranks up there with one of the best ever!!