Chocolate (or White Chocolate) Cheesecake

chocolate cheesecake sliced open This recipe was adapted by Eric Postpischil from page 104 of Death by Chocolate by Marcel Desaulniers.

Notes

This is a long recipe with many steps. Do not let that stop you. I have found most of Desaulniers’ recipes to be straightforward even though long.

This recipe uses half white chocolate and half semisweet. You can use all of one or any mixture, but half and half is a very nice combination. I also used to make it with some raspberry-flavored chocolate, but that has become unavailable, so I either add some raspberry extract or replace the heavy cream (in the cheesecake, not the ganache) with raspberry juice (squeezed from about a pint of raspberries).

This recipe calls for changing the oven temperature several times. Because of the low temperatures, I figured accuracy was important, so I used an oven thermometer and made sure it agreed with the oven control setting.

I give three choices for the crust. For the cookie crusts, I expect you can use almost any chocolate cookie, but I also give a separate recipe for those.

Chocolate: I use Callebaut for baking, which is available at Whole Foods Market. Most brands may work well.

Ingredients

White Chocolate Curls

Almond Crust

Thick Chocolate Cookie Crust

Thin Chocolate Cookie Crust

Cheesecake

Chocolate Ganache

Equipment

White Chocolate Curls

Warm the white chocolate. Marcel Desaulniers suggests leaving it between burners on the stove while other stuff is cooking. I warm the block in my microwave for 99 seconds on 10% power, but microwave ovens vary. You want the chocolate warmed only a little bit, so that it is firm but a bit flexible when peeled.

Once warmed, use a vegetable peeler to shave off curls. You can cut a bunch and save the curls for future recipes. Set aside two ounces (57 g) for the current cheesecake. If you are making the white chocolate cheesecake, you can use the remains of the block in the cheesecake.

You can skip the curls, but they make the cake look very fancy.

Almond Crust

Chop the almonds in a food processor until very fine. Depending on the size of your food processor, you may need to do this in two batches. Add sugar and blend in food processor. Melt butter and add to almonds and sugar. The mixture should barely stick together.

Press the mixture around the side of a 9"×3" springform pan. It may help to hold the pan vertically and rotate it as you press crumbs down onto the side of the pan. When the side is done, press the mixture onto the bottom of the pan. The quantities above are enough for a thick crust, so it is okay if you make a thinner crust and have some left over.

Place the pan in the freezer for 15 minutes. (You may leave it there 1 or 2 days, which I recommend to break up the work; the cheesecake takes all of an evening to bake.)

Thick Chocolate Cookie Crust

Chop cookies in a food processor until very fine. Depending on the size of your food processor, you may need to do this in two batches. Melt butter and mix with cookies so that they barely stick together. Coat the inside of a 9"×3" springform pan with 1 t chilled butter (5 g).

Press the mixture around the side of a 9"×3" springform pan. It may help to hold the pan vertically and rotate it as you press crumbs down onto the side of the pan. When the side is done, press the mixture onto the bottom of the pan.

Place the pan in the freezer for 15 minutes. (You may leave it there 1 or 2 days, which I recommend to break up the work; the cheesecake takes all of an evening to bake.)

Thin Chocolate Cookie Crust

Chop cookies in a food processor until very fine. Coat the inside of a 9"×3" springform pan with 1 t chilled butter (5 g).

Dump cookie crumbs into springform pan and swirl to coat. You can alternately spray the pan with a baking spray and swirl the crumbs to get more to stick, but it is not necessary.

Place the pan in the freezer for 15 minutes. (You may leave it there 1 or 2 days, which I recommend to break up the work; the cheesecake takes all of an evening to bake.)

Cheesecake

Put the cream cheese out to soften.

Make sure the bottom rack of your oven is at least three inches below the center rack on which you will bake the cheesecake. Preheat the oven to 325 ºF (163 ºC).

Break chocolate into pieces, perhaps ½ oz. (14 g), for easy melting. Heat ½" of water in the bottom half of a double boiler over medium-high heat. Place the semisweet or white chocolate and heavy cream in the top half of the double boiler. Tightly cover the top with film wrap or put the lid on. Allow to heat for 10 to 12 minutes.

Stir to be sure all chocolate is melted or almost melted, then remove from heat and stir until smooth. Put aside.

Place the softened cream cheese, sugar, and optional salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle. (Desaulniers is specific about the paddle. The “paddle” for my mixer is an open plastic oval, not solid. If you do not have a paddle, try one balloon whip.)

Beat on low for 1 minute, on medium for 1 minute, and on high for 1 minute.
Scrape down the side of the bowl, then beat on high for 1 more minute.
Scrape down the bowl.

Add the eggs, 2 at a time, beating on medium for 15 seconds after adding, and scrape down the bowl after each addition.

Add the vanilla extract and the melted chocolate mixture, then beat on medium for 15 seconds.

Remove the bowl from the mixer.
Use a rubber spatula to finish mixing the batter until it is smooth and thoroughly combined.

Pour the cheesecake mixture into the prepared springform pan, spreading evenly. (That is what Desaulniers’ instructions say, but the batter with white chocolate flows fluidly, so there is no need to spread it. If you use all semisweet chocolate, the batter might need a little spreading.)

Place a baking sheet with sides partially filled with 4 C of hot water on the bottom rack of the oven (the bottom rack should be at least three inches below the center rack).

Place the springform pan on the center rack of the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
Lower the temperature to 250 ºF (121 ºC) and bake for 15 minutes.
Lower the temperature to 225 ºF (107 ºC) and bake for 15 minutes.

Then lower the temperature to 200 ºF (93 ºC), and bake the cheesecake until the internal temperature of the cheesecake filling reaches 170 ºF (77 ºC), about 2 hours and 45 minutes. (The cheesecake is liquid and will slosh, so do not lift the pan. Gently pull the rack partially out of the oven to bring the cake into reach so you can insert the thermometer.)

Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to remain in the oven undisturbed for an additional 2 hours.

Remove from the oven and cool at room temperature for 1 hour. (That is 6½ hours from start of baking until you are done for the day!)

Refrigerate the cheesecake for 12 hours (do not remove the cake from the pan).

Chocolate Ganache and Finishing the Cheesecake

After the cheesecake has been refrigerated for 12 hours, prepare the chocolate ganache. Break the chocolate into very small pieces, 1/8 oz. (4 g) or smaller, and place it into a stainless steel bowl. Heat heavy cream, butter, and sugar in a 1½-quart saucepan (1.4 l) over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil.

Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 4 minutes.

Stir with a whisk until smooth.

Pour over the top of the chilled cheesecake. Use a rubber spatula to spread the ganache evenly over the top of the cake, being careful not to spread it over the edge and down the side of the cheesecake. (I do not use a spatula; if you pour the ganache immediately after preparing it, then you can get a smooth top just by tilting and rolling the cake. Avoid letting the ganache drip down the side.)

Refrigerate for 30 minutes to set.

The cake can now be released from the springform pan. To do this, wrap a damp, hot cotton towel around the side of the pan (the towel should be large enough to wrap completely around and cover the side of the pan) and hold it around the pan for about 1 minute. Carefully release and remove the springform pan. Use a serrated knife to trim the crust so that it is level with the ganache (trim the crust away from the cake so that it does not fall into the ganache).

Toss the white chocolate curls onto the cheesecake. Transfer the cake to a serving plate or cake circle.

Adapted by Eric Postpischil from page 104 of Death by Chocolate by Marcel Desaulniers.