A friend recently asked me for a chocolate cheesecake recipe for her grandfather. Cheesecake seems to be the quintessentially American dessert but, in history, it was one of the first sweets ever made, specifically by the Greeks and then copied by the Romans.It makes sense as cheese was abundant at the time and most of it was of the fresh variety. Honey was the sweetener of choice (well, it was the only one available) and the cake was often topped with cooked fruit. Not so dissimilar to what we serve today.
Nearly every culture can claim a cheesecake: the British and American bake it with cream cheese, Italians make it with ricotta and a little bit of flour, resulting in a thinner and more “cakey” variety and Latin Americans typically make it as a flour cake to which cheese is added.
NY style cheesecake is dense, nearly dry and is made using heavy cream while most other American cheesecakes feature sour cream which not only does add a slightly sour tang but makes it ideal for freezing. Most cheesecakes come with a crust (graham crumbs or a cookie sheet) for ease of transferring, cutting and serving but I tend to like my cheesecake crustless, which reminds me more of a pudding. Once baked, it needs to be left on the bottom of the pan rather than slid on its own plate.
Here is the Chocolate Cheesecake recipe. At work, I would use small amounts of milk and unsweetened chocolate in addition to the bulk of the bittersweet for a complexity of flavors but if you are making just the one 10″ round it makes more sense to use just a bittersweet chocolate.
If you are using a standing mixer, a few tips are:
1. Make sure the cream cheese is really soft to ensure smoothness
2. Never beat at a high-speed – cheesecake is one of those cakes that does not need to have too much air incorporated.
Other than that, it’s pretty forgiving.
9 oz Cream cheese, softened
3/4 C Sugar
4 1/2 oz Bittersweet Chocolate
1 ts Vanilla Extract
1/4 ts Salt
12 oz Sour Cream
1. Beat the cream cheese , sugar and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until smooth and light.
2. In the meantime, melt the chocolate in a small bowl set over boiling water. Add to cream cheese and mix until blended
3. Add the eggs and mix, frequently scraping the sides of the bow with a spatula
4. Mix in the sour cream and beat until smooth
5. Prepare a 10″ round with removable bottom and line it with a round of parchment paper. Pour in the mixture and wrap foil around the pan to prevent leakage.
6. Place the pan in a large roasting pan and pour hot water to reach 1/3 up the sides of the cheesecake round
7 . Bake at 350F for about 1 hour or until cheesecake is set (it will move as a solid mass when lightly shaken).
8. Let cool and then refrigerate for at least 6 to 8 hours before serving.
9. Decorate with whipped cream or berry compote