Last night was the birthday dinner for a good friend of mine. She requested cheesecake for dessert.
Now, I am not usually the cheesecake baker in the bunch. Another friend makes truly awesome cheesecakes, so he usually fills those requests. BUT he was out of town on Saturday and said there was no way he could make a cheesecake in time to eat on Sunday night.
So I stepped up to bat.
I have made cheesecake before, but not in a long time. The recipes I have used didn’t require 12-24 hours to make them work, so I figured it was worth a shot.
Of course, a plain ol’ cheesecake just didn’t seem fancy enough for a birthday cake, so I decided to get creative. I had some blackberries in the freezer and I know the birthday girl loves both chocolate and coffee, so a blackberry mocha cheesecake seemed like the obvious answer, especially since I could make it WITHOUT a trip to the grocery store. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!
For once, there wasn’t a ready made recipe for blackberry mocha cheesecake. Huh. That hasn’t happened in a long time. So I was off in the world of making stuff up.
I found a pretty good recipe for the mocha cheesecake, but (naturally) made a few changes.
First, I didn’t have any chocolate cookies (How did that happen??) so I had to come up with something else for the crust. Hmm… I also only had a 9″ springform pan instead of a 12″, so I knew I would end up with more cheesecake than would fit in the pan.
I had vanilla wafers, so I crushed up some of those using a baggie and a rolling pin (about a cup…maybe a little more). Then I found some leftover candied pecans from when I made Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie Cupcakes — I crushed up some of those and added them, too. THEN I found some pretzels in the pantry. Yep, those got crushed and added, too. Altogether, I had about 1 1/2 cups of crushed up stuff to make the crust. If you make a little more, it will go higher up the sides. OR if you actually have a 12″ springform pan, use 2 cups of crushed up stuff.
I added 1/4 cup of sugar to the crushed up stuff and mixed it up well. Then I added 1/4 cup of melted butter to make it hold together. (Do I even have to tell you to use real butter instead of margarine?) Once it was all mixed together, I pressed it into the bottom of the pan and up the sides a little bit. I popped it into the oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, just to help it set.
When you take the crust out of the oven, leave it on and add a pan full of hot water on the bottom shelf. Oh, and then close the oven again and leave it that way.
Then came the filling. I will just go ahead and admit that it is completely necessary to taste the filling as you put it together . . . often. (Now you don’t have to feel bad about it cuz I just made it mandatory. You’re welcome.)
The original recipe used a food processor to mix up the filling, which would have been great, except I didn’t have access to my big one. So I just used my KitchenAid mixer with the wire whisk attachment. That worked well, too. (A hand mixer would probably be difficult to use — this makes a LOT of filling.) Remember, you want the mixture to end up as smooth as possible, so take your time with the mixing.
First I added 4-8 oz. packages of cream cheese to the bowl. (Well, after I softened them in the microwave, because I didn’t decide to do this in enough time to set them out to get to room temperature. Whatever works.) I turned the mixer on medium low long enough to break up the chunks, then turned it up on high to get them really smooth. I let it do its thing while I got the rest of the stuff ready to go.
Melt about 4 oz. of chocolate chips, either in a double boiler or in the microwave. If you use the microwave, use medium power and stop it to stir the chips about every 30 seconds. Try to get them as smooth as possible. Let the chocolate cool slightly while you are putting the rest of the ingredients together.
Going back to the cream cheese, turn the mixer down on low and add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 1 1/4 cups of sugar. Let it start to mix in, then turn the mixer back to high. (If you don’t mix it gently at first, you will end up with a cornstarch cloud hanging in the air. Consider yourself warned.) Mix until very smooth — about 3 minutes total.
Now turn the mixer back down to medium and add 4 eggs. Make sure to mix each one well before adding the next one.
Stop the mixer after adding the eggs and scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula. That’s when you will realize that there is a layer of cream cheese on the bottom that hasn’t mixed in well.
While you have the mixer stopped, add a big dollop of the cream cheese mixture to the melted chocolate and mix it well. (You may need to add one more and mix again to get it smooth.) Then add the chocolate/cream cheese mixture back to the mixing bowl. (Doing it this way helps you make sure there aren’t any lumps in the cheesecake. It really is necessary, I swear.) Mix on medium until there aren’t any streaks left.
Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl again, making sure you get all the way to the bottom. Add 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder and 1 tablespoon of vanilla. Turn the mixer back on low and gradually increase it back to high. (Remember the cornstarch cloud? Same thing with the cocoa.)
The original recipe calls for espresso powder next. I didn’t have any, but I did have some gourmet coffee brewed, so I added a couple of tablespoons of it to 8 oz. of sour cream and stirred it up until it was smooth. (I’m sure espresso powder would intensify the mocha flavor, but I really didn’t want to/didn’t have time to go to the store.) Add the sour cream mixture to the cream cheese mixture and mix it on high until there aren’t any streaks.
Once all the streaks are gone, add 1/3 cup of heavy cream and mix it in. Be careful not to over mix here — just whip it until it is incorporated.
Pour the filling into the prepared crust. (If, like me, you have a smaller pan, fill it to within 3/4 – 1″ of the top edge. You WILL have filling left over, which you can put in another dish and eat later with a spoon after baking.)
At this point, I went out on a creative limb again. I had some blackberry jam which I melted in the microwave so it would be syrupy. I poured a thin stream around on the top, then used the edge of a knife to cut the syrup into the top of the cheesecake.
Put into the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. DO NOT open the oven after 20 minutes or you will let the steam out. Simply reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake for another 35-40 minutes (depending on the size of your pan).
After baking, turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in the hot oven as it cools — about 2 hours. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and run a very thin knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen it. Let it continue to cool on the counter for about 30 minutes. Put it in the fridge to finish cooling (about 3-4 hours, depending on the size of your pan.)
Just before serving, I put about 1/2 cup of heavy cream and 1 teaspoon of vanilla in the mixer. Using the wire whisk attachment, I beat it on high until stiff peaks formed. I piped it onto the top and bottom edge of the cheesecake, with a dollop in the center, which I garnished with blackberries.
There weren’t even crumbs left on the plate. I’m really glad I have that extra dish of filling in the fridge at home . . .
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