Converted to the Church of Cheesecake

Thursday, July 29, 2010

-How I resisted so long is a mystery.-

Every time BF mentioned that his favorite dessert in the world was cheesecake I rolled my eyes and replied in a quiescent voice that yes, I understood the hint. He wanted me to make him cheesecake. I, in response, said nothing and usually swept the matter under the conversation like hiding dust beneath the area rug in hopes we could move on. I had no interest in making cheesecake or learning how to make cheesecake.

It was then my sad mistake to ask BF when he was away at training what he wanted me to make for dinner the night he got back. I planned to make something fun and somewhat extravagant and in my alimentary daydream I forgot to mind my filter. "I'll cook whatever dessert you want," I said without hesitation.

"Cheesecake," BF replied. He didn't miss a beat and his tone didn't belie any smile or humor. It was an honest response that was impossible to ignore or push aside.

"Oh... okay," a pause, "Cheesecake it is." I knew he couldn't see my trying to smile over the phone but he didn't need to to know that my good humor was a lie.

So the stars had aligned and karma had struck me down. I would now have to learn to make a cheesecake.

-Can I get an Amen? Or at least other good cheesecake recipes suggestions?-

It's not that I necessarily have anything against cheesecake. I don't. It's just that it's never been at the top of my list of favorite things to eat. Most cheesecakes I try are far too rich, or loaded with so much chocolate fudge, caramel swirled, pistachio dusted, Butterfinger crust hoohaw that it goes against my general preference for dessert with focused simplicity.

Still, I ended up putting it off after he arrived. We went out instead. It wasn't a planned diversion, it was just that we both had had a long day and after amusing ourselves for a while after his return neither of us had the energy to cook. So out we went for Mexican food. I had escaped my commitment.

A few days later BF reminded me of my promise and having committed to the task - I had given my word after all - we went (me begrudgingly) to the market to gather ingredients for a simple chocolate chunk cheesecake. Yes, it may not be a paragon of simplicity, but there's something to be said for the combination of cream cheese and chocolate and it was what BF wanted. I did dress it up with a vanilla bean too. How could I not?

The prep was easy though time consuming; each stage of the preparation required the cheesecake to sit and cool for a length of time, the longest being five hours. Still, as they say, patience is a virtue.

The next day we tasted the result.

Readers, consider me a convert to the church of cheesecake.

-Chocolate and cheese? Oh, hell yes.-

Vanilla Bean Chocolate Chunk Cheesecake
Adapted from The Essence of Chocolate

2 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs
4 oz of butter (one stick)
3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup of sugar
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups of sour cream, room temperature
1 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract)
10 ounces of chocolate chopped into pieces

Special Equipment
8-inch spring form pan

For the crust:
Preheat oven to 375F. Melt the butter and mix with the graham cracker crumbs. Press into the bottom and at least halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Refrigerate for 20 minutes, then bake the crust for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set on a rack to cool. Lower the heat to 350F.

For the filling:
1. In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment or with a large bowl and a hand mixer beat the cream cheese, sugar, salt for 2 minutes on medium until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

2. Add the eggs and beat for 2 minutes. Split open the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Add the sour cream and vanilla seeds to the batter and beat again for 3 minutes, stopping halfway through to scrape down the sides. Turn off the mixer and fold in the chocolate.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan; even the batter out and then mound it up in the middle a bit. The batter will be at the very rim of the pan and you will think that it will rise and spill over. It won't. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until lightly browned and set. Turn off the heat and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon and let the cheesecake rest in the oven for 30 minutes.

4. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and cool on a rack for 30 minutes, then refrigerate for five hours or overnight.

5. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the crust and cheesecake. Remove the springform ring and carefully move the cake to a serving platter. Serve or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving.


  1. that cheesecake looks awesome. i'm glad you 'converted'. you've been missing out!

  2. Amen fellow cheesecake brother. I am a dessertaholic in general, but cheesecake is at the top of my list. I haven't made one in a while, I might have to bust out the ol' springform...

  3. I've never been a fan of chocolate in cheesecake (as in chocolate cheesecake), but chocolate chunk might just work for me! This may have to be my next cheesecake.

  4. So wait, you didn't use a water bath and it didn't crack??? Huh?????
    I have a delicious base cheesecake recipe that I play with all the time, but it HAS to be baked in a water bath or I risk cracking! How did you do that???

  5. Congrats! I converted my husband. Now he asks for constantly!

  6. This sounds delicious!! I have vanilla bean sugar(made it after using a VB in a recipe). You think I could substitute the VB sugar for the 1 cup of sugar and elimate the whole VB? Either way...sounds amazing! Can't wait to make it!

  7. I'm not a huge cheesecake fan either, but did LOVE this pumpkin and caramel one I made last Thanksgiving for a client:

  8. I once read a recipe with the comment, "You'll notice there's no fruit. If I want fruit, I'll make a pie." I agree, and if I want chocolate, caramel and/or nuts, I'll eat a candy bar. I like my cheesecake p.l.a.i.n.

  9. As for interesting Cheesecake recipes, I suggest Marcy Goldman's Book, A Passion for Baking:

    Yes, some or quite sweet and over the top, but the Cinnabun cheesecake (while somewhat labor intensive and has some interesting ingredients) keeps family and friends coming back for more. So much so that two folks int eh family ask for that cheesecake, specifically, for their birthday each and every year.

    But Garrett, do go for a straight vanilla bean cheesecake with and insane amount of vanilla. It really is quite an elegant, if not a bit extravagant in the calories, dessert.

  10. Garrett-

    My husband's favorite too, and I always said it gave me a headache...until I made it myself:)

    Pumpkin cheesecake with a gingersnap crust. Divine. I'm not going to give you a recipe because I know you can figure it out.

    One secret: orange zest knocks lemon zest out of the park in a cheesecake. Especially a pumpkin one.
    And add a little booze if you want.

    I plan on making a butternut squash cheesecake instead of pumpkin this year since I always end up with so much squash.

  11. How ironic. My own BF wants me to make cheesecake as well. It's on my "challenging recipe" todo list up there with macarons.

    Most cheescake out there is too cheesy and dense for me. It's why I never liked cheescake until I had Cheesecake Factory--which makes you forget you're eating cheesecake. I was wondering how your cake turned out, because if it fits my criteria, I'm going to make it.

  12. Mary - I liked this. It tasted like the epitome of what cheesecake should be to me.

  13. This cheesecake will haunt me until I make it... looks wonderful. Your website is great.. glad I found it! - Laura

  14. Definitely glad you're a converter! Cheesecake looks awesome!

  15. it looks really good and YUMMY! :D

  16. You might try an italian cheesecake that utilizes ricotta and mascarpone -- totally lightens up the heaviness factor and usually relies on lemon zest for brightness. There's also a brilliant cheesecake in Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible. Made a crustless version of it for Passover and it was really luscious and light at the same time.

  17. Holy crap! It's a gluten free recipe! Well, as long as I find another crust, that is. You rock.

    And I'm shocked that you of all people would snub the homemade cheesecake for so long. Chain restaurant NY-style cheesecakes suck, but those made at home - especially, I'm sure, by *your* capable baker's hands - are really worth going to war over.

  18. Thanks Garret!!

    I just made this cheesecake this weekend and I agree, it's everything I like in a cheesecake. The cheesyness is light, and it's not too dense. I lighten it up even more with a dollop of fresh whipped cream with some vanilla extract mixed in. I tweaked it a bit (more vanilla and no chocolate chunks), and it turned out splendid! This is now my go-to Cheesecake recipe! Awesome. Best part is my BF liked it too!

  19. this one calls out to me like a siren song...can't wait to try it! Lovin' your blog!

  20. I'm so glad to hear you came to the other side! That cheesecake picture looks like it could convert anyone!

  21. Until recently I felt the same way. Completely uninterested in cheesecake. Then I attended a set menu Sunday Roast at one my favorite eateries and after an incredible main, I really fancied dessert.

    Being a set menu affair there was only one offering, a cheesecake. I really wasn't into it but I plunged in.

    And it was beautiful. That the filling was ricotta and mascarpone was good but here's the thing, it was brulee'd. The top of the cake had been torched a la creme brulee. Genius. It made the cake.

  22. Soon, I'm going to have to dig out the recipe I found and modified for Pumpkin Cheesecake, as if I show up for thanksgiving dinner without one this year, my foodie cousin will KILL me! I only made it twice before, but he (and I) have both vowed we will never eat plain-Jane pumpkin pie again, after having sampled the heavenly manna that is pumpkin cheesecake.


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