Dark Chocolate Cheesecake

 

Andy, my husband, and his family have an annual Christmas Eve dinner at a friend’s house.  Since he was a kid, Andy has been responsible for providing dessert for this dinner.  When I started to tag along, I happily joined in the fun. For Andy, nothing is worth doing if it’s not worth overdoing. So, his desserts were generally ornate and complicated. Obviously, I had to at least try to keep pace; a simple batch of sugar cookies was not going to cut it. One year, I decided to make a cheesecake. I started with a basic cheesecake with a graham cracker crust and a cranberry compote on top. A maple cheesecake and a pumpkin cheesecake were soon to follow. Every Christmas, I’d become obsessed with water baths, temperatures, and baking times in an effort to get the cake to bake completely and cool without cracking.

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Unfortunately, I would gain all this knowledge and ideas for my next cheesecake but then not make another one until the following Christmas. This year, I was determined to change that. So, I resolved to make a cheesecake for Valentine’s Day. Obviously, that meant chocolate.

 

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When it comes to chocolate, Andy and I are of one mind: the darker the better. The inspiration for this recipe comes from a 2006 issue of Bon Appetit, but the baking method is a compilation of techniques I have tried over the course of many Christmas cheesecakes.

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Credit is due to Cook’s Illustrated and Alton Brown on this front (both excellent sources if you want to learn more about the science and overall WHY behind a recipe).  I used a high-quality bittersweet chocolate with a cocoa solid content of about 64%. This resulted in a very rich and just bitter enough chocolate flavor.  A little whipped cream on the side helps balance out the chocolatey flavor.

 

 

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While this is the fourth or fifth different cheesecake I’ve tried, I would highly recommend this for a first attempt at a cheesecake.  For some reason that I assume has to do with the chocolate, this cheesecake baked thoroughly and consistently and had no cracking or collapsing upon cooling.

 


Dark Chocolate Cheesecake

Crust

24 chocolate wafer cookies (from one 9 ounce package)

1 tablespoon sugar

¼ cup butter, melted


Filling

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

32 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature

1 ¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar

¼ cup cocoa powder

4 large eggs


Topping

¾ cup heavy cream

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 tablespoon sugar


Directions


For Crust:

• Preheat oven to 325 Farenheit

• Butter a 9 inch diameter springform pan with 3 inch sides

• Blend cookies in a food processor until finely ground, then blend in the sugar, and finely blend in the melted butter until well blended

• Press crumb mixture evenly across the bottom of the pan – NOT up the sides

• Bake just to set for 5 minutes

• Lower oven temperature to 250 Farenheit and set the crust aside to cool (this is a good time to work on the filling)

• Once cool, wrap the outside of the pan with two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil and set the springform pan in a roasting pan

• Bring a large amount of water to a boil


For Filling:

• Melt chopped chocolate in a metal bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring frequently until smooth

• Remove bowl of chocolate from saucepan and let cool until lukewarm but still pourable

• Blend cream cheese, sugar, and cocoa powder in a stand mixer or food processor until smooth

• Blend in eggs to cream cheese mixture one at a time

• Blend melted chocolate into cream cheese mixture

• Pour filling over the now cool crust, smooth the top (remember that the springform pan is sitting inside a roasting pan)

• Set the roasting pan holding the springform pan on the middle oven rack and pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to come about halfway up the sides of the springform pan

• Bake for one hour.  Turn the oven off and open the oven door for one minute.  Then shut the oven door and let the cake sit for another hour.

• Remove the cheesecake from the waterbath and refrigerate for at least six hours, preferably overnight, before adding topping


For Topping:

• Melt cream, chopped chocolate, and sugar together in a saucepan of water simmering over low heat, stirring frequently until smooth

• Let chocolate mixture cool slightly

• Pour over center of cheesecake and spread out to within ½ inch of the edge

• Chill until topping is set, about one hour

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