Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Milk Chocolate Cheesecake

When it comes to desserts, my "go to" recipes are predominantly cheesecakes or ice creams. There is no fear in my heart when it comes to these desserts because so many attempts at altering them have been successful. This one was created for my sister-in-law Kim, who preferred one without chocolate mint. I have to thank her for helping me to expand my repertoire, even though the chocolate mint is my personal favorite so far. The recipes are identical if you replace the milk chocolate with a mint flavored milk chocolate or add 1t mint flavoring.

Ingredients for the Crust:
8 graham crackers (16 square crackers)
1/2C almond flour (finely ground almonds)
3T sugar
1/4C softened butter

Directions for the Crust:

Place the graham crackers into a large zip lock freezer bag and seal. Crush the crackers into a fine meal and measure out 1C, then add the almond meal and pack down to 1/2C. Placing one on top of the other simplifies this process and leaves you with 1 1/2C of the combined products. It's not necessary to be exact with the portions of each as long as you have 1 1/2C in total.

Place the crumbs into a medium sized bowl and stir in the sugar, then add the butter. The photos above are displaying the fact that the butter may need adjusting. 2T should have worked, however this batch needed more. A good rule of thumb is to mix in the butter, then grab a small handful and squeeze it in your hand. If it falls apart when you open your hand it's too dry and needs more butter. If it holds together, you have added enough butter to keep the crust together.

This recipe calls for an 8 1/2"-9" spring form pan and the crust is thick. For an easier time of plating, cut a circle of parchment paper and use it to line the bottom of the pan. Pour in the crust and press firmly to evenly distribute it across the pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Ingredients for the Cheesecake:
3 8oz packages Philadelphia Cream Cheese
1C sugar
4 large eggs
1t vanilla extract
8 oz milk chocolate

Directions for the Cheesecake:

Let the cream cheese come to room temperature to soften it. Preheat the oven to 370 degrees, placing the rack in the middle of the oven. Whip the cream cheese until it is fluffy, then add the sugar and whip to incorporate it fully. Afterwards, add the eggs, whip to incorporate, then add the vanilla extract and whip until you have a smooth batter.

The chocolate needs to be melted and it might be a good idea to set up your double boiler before you start the batter. If you melt it in the microwave, use 25 second bursts of heat on medium, and stir in between the heating until melted. Add the chocolate and stir into the batter.

When the chocolate is thoroughly blended into the batter, take the pan from the refrigerator and pour the batter on the crust. No need to do anything more as the batter is thin enough to fill out evenly. Place the pan into the preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes. Use a toothpick to check the center of the baked cheesecake. If it comes out wet, bake at 10 minute intervals until it is a bit firmer. The cheesecake will always be a bit jiggly in the center, but you will see it firming up after your continued baking.

Ingredients for the Topping:
2C sour cream
1T sugar
1t vanilla extract
2oz white chocolate

Directions for the Topping:

While the cheesecake is baking, place the sour cream, sugar, and vanilla together and stir. When the cheesecake is baked, remove from the oven and spread the topping on it, then bake for another 5 minutes. It has been my experience that cheesecakes are always taller on the sides where the most thorough baking has occurred, so as a rule, I start spreading the topping from the sides inward. This is done to encourage the sides to collapse a bit from the initial weight of the topping. It works, the sides do compress, but the center always seems to dip down further, leaving me to wonder why I even bother with this method.

After the topping has been baked, let it cool on a wire rack or improvise by placing it on a cold stove top burner. When it has cooled down, cover and place in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 4-5 hours. Remove from the refrigerator an hour before serving. Grate the white chocolate and spoon onto the top of the cheesecake, then release the side of your pan and slide onto a serving plate. This is when you are really glad you used the parchment paper.

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