We Need More Cheesecake

By Beacon Staff

I know that cookies are the baked good of choice during Christmas season, and I love cookies. My mid-section is a testament to that. But I think the holiday needs more cheesecake. So …

… this is my Christmas gift to you: I will share three secrets that will produce a perfect cheesecake every time. That means the top of your cheesecake will never crack and the cheesecake will be cakey and creamy, too.

First: When you’re mixing the softened cream cheese with the sugar and eggs, add these after the sour cream. The batter will be smoother; it won’t stick to the bowl, thereby reducing the number of times you have to stop to scrape down the sides.

Second: Bake your cheesecake in a water bath. Wrap your spring form pan in two layers of aluminum foil and place it in a roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with hot water, about halfway up the side of the cake pan.

Third: This is the most important step of all. When your cheesecake has finished baking just turn the oven off and leave the door closed for one full hour. No peeking! This accomplishes a couple of things: you can handle the pans without oven mitts and the internal temperature of the cake has the chance to drop gradually, rather than being “shocked” by immediate removal from the heat.

Here’s my recipe for Holiday Chocolate Cheesecake. I’m fairly confident you’ll like it enough to make it a part of your annual holiday tradition:

For the crust:
2 cups finely ground chocolate wafers, crushed
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
2 8-oz. blocks cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup cream
1 pint sour cream

To prepare crust: In a mixing bowl, combine crust ingredients together with a fork until evenly moistened. Lightly coat the bottom and sides of a 9-inch spring form pan with non-stick cooking spray (or butter). Firmly press the mixture over the bottom and 1-inch up the sides of the pan, using your fingers or the smooth bottom of a glass. I frequently use metal measuring cups. Refrigerate the crust while preparing the filling.

To prepare filling: Melt chocolate chips with cream over a pot of simmering water until smooth. Set aside and keep warm. In a large bowl, beat the sour cream on low, then add the softened cream cheese for a minute or two just until smooth and free of any lumps. Gradually add the sugar and beat until creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Periodically scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beaters. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and continue to slowly beat until combined. Stir in the vanilla. Pour half the filling into the prepared spring form pan. Then pour in the melted chocolate. Pour in the rest of the batter. With the tip of a sharp knife, gently swirl the chocolate taking care not to pierce the crust on the bottom of the pan.

Preheat the oven to 325. Wrap the spring form pan in two layers of aluminum foil. Place it in a roasting pan. Place the pan on the oven rack, and then carefully pour in hot water to about halfway up the side of the spring form pan.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes. Turn off the oven and keep the door closed. Do not open the door for at least one hour. Remove the roasting pan and take the cake pan out, removing the layers of foil. Let it set in the refrigerator, loosely covered, for at least 4 hours. Run a sharp knife around the edges and release the spring form. To release from the bottom, use an offset spatula to loosen the cake, and then transfer to your presentation plate. This cheesecake freezes well, so you can make it in advance. Let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight before serving