Thursday, March 13, 2008
Lysa's chocolate-raspberry cheesecake
My sister in law Lysa is a cheesecake queen. she’s so good at them that she even sells them to a little café near her in the Raleigh suburbs. i don’t think she follows a recipe anymore; just opens her pantry and bases the flavor of her next cheesecake by what she has available in her kitchen that day.
For those of you who don’t bake, I’ll let you in on a leetle secret: cheesecake is really easy to make. Ridiculously easy, even. I feel that way about most straightforward baking, whether it’s a batch of cookie dough or a simple cake. But I usually don’t tell this tidbit of info to the recipients of my baked goods, because the few times I have, the responses I get are rolled eyes and moans of, “Oh whatever, baking is hard, you’re just making that up”. So I keep mum about it now. The finished result is so good that I can see how it is hard to believe that it’s easy to make. A lot of people don’t have patience in the kitchen anymore, hence the prolific array of “ready-to-eat” products that are available at the grocery stores nowadays. And in the case of cheesecake, I saw an ad the other day on tv showing a tub of ready-made cheesecake filling, and all one has to do is to scoop it out into a ready-made crust and call it a day (not that I’m knocking ready-made crusts, because I buy those on occasion. However, I am knocking ready-to-eat cheesecake filling. I don’t even want to know what’s in the ingredient list).
Like all good things (crème brulée, beef short ribs, good ol’ suthun barbecue), cheesecake takes time, as it really needs to chill in the fridge for a good long while before digging in. Didn’t Hannibal Lechter say, “All good things to those who wait” ? you know it baby.
Lysa’s Chocolate-Raspberry Cheesecake
Turn your oven on to 350 degrees F.
For the crust:
one sleeve from a package of chocolate graham crackers
3 to 4 tablespoons of melted butter
put the graham crackers into a ziplock bag and seal shut. grab your rolling pin and roll it over the crackers until they've been obliterated into smithereens. alternatively, you could park your butt in front of the television (in my case, "Goldeneye" was on, and I’m not about to miss out on some Sean Bean eye candy), and beat the ziplock bag with your rolling pin. this is great fun and a great source of stress-relief. be careful not to bust open the bag, though.
put crumbs into a large bowl and add melted butter. stir until well mixed, then dump into a Springform pan (i believe that the one i use most often is a 9-inch one. i've also got a 12-inch one i rarely use), and press the crumbs all around the bottom and up the sides about a half inch or so. make sure you really get it pressed in well - use the back of a spoon or the underside of a ramekin to press it all down evenly. bake for 8 to 10 minutes; remove from the oven (don't turn the oven off!) and let cool while you're making the filling.
For the filling:
4 bars of cream cheese, at room temperature
1 heaping tablespoon of flour
1 cup sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
one small bag of frozen raspberries, thawed
one cup of chocolate chips
Put one bar of cream cheese, the flour, and a couple of tablespoons of the sugar into the mixer with the paddle attachment and beat until totally creamed together. (If you don't have a stand mixer, you could do this with a handheld mixer. absolutely. having said that, i don't know how i ever lived without the Big Red Bitch). Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
put the rest of the cream cheese into the mixer with the remaining sugar and beat until creamed together, stopping often and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the vanilla, and then on low speed add the eggs one at a time. (you could use 4 eggs here - you don't necessarily need 5 eggs - but Lys says that it makes a richer batter with one extra egg, so if you want a super-rich cheesecake, use 5 eggs). when it all is incorporated, measure out about a cup and a half of the mixture into a small bowl and set aside.
Melt the chocolate chips whichever way you find best works for you (i put them in a Pyrex bowl into the microwave for one minute). stir until they are silky, then add that to the small bowl of mixture and mix well. set aside.
Take your thawed raspberries and add them to the original bowl. you may find that you don't need the whole bag; maybe only half will do. it's up to you. stir gently.
alternate adding raspberry and chocolate mixes to your cooled crust (there is no "right" way to add it, just plop it in and smooth it down later), then take a knife or even your spatula and make big swirly motions in the mix. bake in the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until it doesn't jiggle like crazy when you shake the side of the pan. turn the oven off, but leave the cake in there with the oven door ajar (if your oven door won't stay cracked open, help it along with a wooden spoon) until completely cooled. this is supposed to prevent getting those massive cracks on the top.
Lys says to put a pan of hot water on either the bottom of your oven or on the oven rack directly under your cake so that the steam can help prevent cracking. I do this for bread, but this time for this cheesecake, it didn’t work. i took all preventative measures and mine cracked just the same. the recipient of the cheesecake in the pictures didn't mind, and you'll find most people don't mind at all. you could put the cheesecake into a water bath, and i've done that in the past, but make sure you wrap the pan in a double layer of tin foil before putting it in the water bath (do this before putting in the graham cracker crust), to ensure that water seepage doesn’t happen.
if you'd like, you could melt a few tablespoons of seedless raspberry preserves and brush that on top of the cooled cake. the cake then needs to be completely refrigerated for at least several hours to overnight before cutting into it.
If you don't have a Springform pan and you just want to use a store-bought ready-made graham cracker crust, that's totally fine. the pictures don't show, but i made one of those as well to bring to a friend who just had a baby. if you are going to go this route, you need to halve the recipe: 2 bars of cream cheese, 1/2 cup of sugar, keep the flour, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, half bag of raspberries, 1/2 cup of chocolate, and only 2 eggs. bake for 40 minutes and leave in the oven with door ajar just like the original recipe.
In other news, we start yet another season of Top Chef, and like the other seasons, I don’t actually watch the episodes until the following evening. I am a very-early-morning person; and with this recent time change, I’ve been getting to work long before the sun rises. This Girl needs her 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night to be a functioning human in the morning, so watching Top Chef when it originally airs is out of the question. So I am avoiding all food blogs today, because I don’t want to be subjected to spoilers. Please don’t tell me!