Remember how I said I'm not lavish?
I said nothing at all about decadence.
My favorite thing about having guests over is cooking for them. Therefore, when two of our very good friends came over, I broke out all the stops for dessert.
I chose cheesecake, obviously because I'd never made it before and I was trying to impress people. Sounds logical, right?
Let me repeat something: I'd never made cheesecake before. And yes, this recipe is mine. I have discovered a so-far well-tested procedure for new recipes and thus far, it's working out pretty well. There is also the added benefit of being able to tell you what I screwed up because, as a first-timer, my mistakes were visceral and obvious.
For one thing, I started too late. The above picture was taken before the cake had properly set, accounting for it's slightly gooey appearance. But dinner was done and I wanted to try it so bad. (For the record, taste is unaffected at this point, but the finished texture of cheesecake is more appealing to me.)
Before we begin, I'd like to tell you about Christie's Corner in brief. That link will take you straight to her no-crack-cheesecake bible page, which I also studied extensively before undertaking this work. Christie, a fellow Cana-jun, eh, appears to be a fabulously lovely lady who runs a great food blog. Proof: My cake did not crack. She does a whole lot better than that, even, but that's for another post.
Chocolate Cheesecake with Decadent Accents
I'm going to be honest and tell you this should probably be a two day project of yours. The toppings are enough work for one day and the cake itself for another. It also feels like less of a crush this way. And trust me. This is so worth it.
You do, of course, have the option of not following the recipe and making your life a little easier by omitting complicated sauces and toppings and just getting to the damn cake. Just a thought. I won't be mad.
1 1/4 cup graham crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 unsalted butter, melted
4 oz dark chocolate
3 (250g or 8 oz) pkgs cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp extra-strong instant coffee*
1 tsp vanilla
For the crust, pour the graham and the sugar into a bowl and mix. Melt the butter and pour over the graham. Mix some more. Grease the pan, add your parchment paper layer at the bottom if you're going to, and then pack the graham into an even layer on the bottom of a 9" spring form pan. I left this in the fridge to give it some solidity while I was making the next layer.
For the filling, melt the chocolate. Go long and slow with it in a double-boiler. That sounds fancy. I melted this in a cheap, metal bowl sitting in the mouth of a just-simmering pot of water. Don't actually allow the bowl to get immersed in the water--good way to burn the chocolate. In my case, it probably took longer because my pieces were perhaps larger than some. I hate chopping chocolate--it's messy and flies everywhere and smears into things you didn't even think it was near. But I wanted that "snap" layer Christie's page mentioned, so goddamnit, I chopped chocolate. I then spread that over the graham layer as quickly as possible--it moves best when hot and you just poured it onto a cool if not cold surface. Try to make this a THIN layer--think about cutting a slice of cake through that solidified chocolate.
Throw these two layers in the fridge while you make the filling.
We're down to filling, people. This is an exciting moment. For some of you, this is the only moment, and I don't blame you a damn bit. I would've eaten this stuff out of the bowl. Happily.
Leave the cream cheese out a good long while. It needs to be room temperature if not warm to beat properly. Otherwise you do get little dots of unmixed cheese in your filling. I did, in fact. And I left those bricks out for hours. I'll flat-out warm them a touch next time.
Full disclosure: I beat this with a stand mixer. You can totally do it with the power of thine arm, though. It's just going to take longer.
Beat together the cream cheese and the sugar, starting with one chopped block of cheese and adding the rest gradually.
Add the second batch of melted chocolate. This is a labor of love. It takes a long time to melt this much chocolate. Read a book while you idly stir.
Slowly, gently, beat in the sour cream and the rest of the liquid ingredients. I believe that the science says that if you beat rapidly and fiercely, you'll add air to the batter and artificially inflate the cake. It's a heavy cake; it'll fall on itself when it cools and you'll be sad.
Pour that filling into the pan. Bake for approximately an hour at 300 degrees. Slow and steady.
I used the bain marie technique, and as I say, no cracks. It was a little fussy, though. I will probably try without next time, just to see.
Give it an hour or so to cool outside the bath once it's done baking. Then throw it in the fridge for at least four hours, preferably overnight.
Look at that colour!
I fixed this portion of the dessert up before the cake was a figment of my imagination. Originally, I intended for it to be a substitute for pomegranate molasses in one of Mrs. Rule's vinaigrettes but after tasting it, decided it should be an addition to, oh, just about everything.
2 cup pomegranate arils
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp maple syrup
Throw arils (I found a regular-size pomegranate to be about 2 cup's worth) and water into a small pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer, covered, for about fifteen minutes.
Throw the contents of the pot into a blender. Blend until arils are pulverized, but do not expect a puree at this point. The seeds at the heart of the aril will studiously avoid your blender's blades. Pour the pomegranate back into the pot through a metal sieve. It's helpful to use a flexible spatula to mash the remaining seeds back and forth, scraping the bottom of the sieve to preserve as much of the aril's pureed flesh and juice as possible. Discard seeds.
Add maple syrup to the pot and stir well. Bring the mixture back to a simmer. Allow to simmer covered for five minutes to make sure the syrup and fruit is blended, then remove cover and reduce for approximately twenty minutes to half an hour, depending on your desired consistency. Remember the puree will thicken as it cools as well.
So, you're done? I congratulate you. I will tell you what I did to plate it, then. Though, I'll warn you, I'm no expert and it probably could have been presented much more beautifully.
I knew this would be heavy so I used the sauces (yes, multiple, as you'll see in a moment) as something to relieve the palette. Firstly, I poured a pool of the pomegranate puree beneath the cake. I set a slice of the cake down right in the middle of it. Then I drew an arc of creme anglais
around the side of the plate. I set a couple of mint leaves into the cream for color and a little infusion, if they sat there long enough. Then I pressed a finger-full of slivered almonds into the top of the slice for a peak.
And...there you have it. An absurdly decadent, ridiculously time-consuming chocolate cheesecake that will make you close your eyes and press your tongue through the chocolate just to feel it.
*Extra-Strong Instant Cofffe
2 1/2 Tbsp hot water
1/2 tsp instant coffee
Love a little coffee spark in my chocolate. Mix ingredients.