30 October, 2012

Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake!!

I will apologize immediately because it has been quite a while since I have been able to devote any time to my poor flog, and you the readers.  A TDY to Baltimore, ear infections with growth spurts, 'rents moving in for a one month visit before they leave for their mission and my general exhaustion all add up to one empty flog wall!  Ask me how many times I have gone out to dinner and your answer would be a big FAT zero.  This is not normal for me, so I have been sort of itching to do something...ANYthing with food for weeks.  But when a hankering hits, there is no better way to deal with it other than indulge in it.  *chuckles*  I'm sure you agree, right?

I didn't make my cheesecake dairy free because the majority of guests at the dinner table were dairy consumers.  As long as I eat organic dairy, I can handle it.  But the Sprout can't handle it at ALL.  (Lucky for us...somehow we ended up with a child that doesn't like chocolate.  *gasp*  I am still not sure how this occurred.)  However!....this can TOTALLY be made dairy free.  There IS soy cream cheese and it turns out JUST as silky and just as delicious.  I promise you'll love it whether you use dairy or not.

*To cook cheesecake properly and to avoid a cracked appearance for presentation purposes you MUST bake this in a "hot water bath".  It isn't much more effort, but vital to a moist cake with a smooth top appearance.

Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake
1 3/4 c. graham cracker crumbs
1/4 c. pecan, walnut or almond meal (optional)
1 T. organic cane sugar
1/2 c. vegan buttery spread, melted
3 8 oz. packages cream cheese or soy cream cheese, softened
1 c. organic cane sugar
2 T. flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. milk (if you use soy...go with unsweetened soy milk)
3 eggs, beaten
4 oz. semi sweet chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 375 F

***Wrap the bottom of your spring form pan in heavy duty foil making sure that you have the foil (in one continuous piece) at least halfway up the whole pan, all the way around.  You will need a half sheet cake pan or a cookie sheet pan to set the spring form pan in and pour the warm water into.  Be sure you have these things on hand before you begin.***

**Make sure your oven rack is DEAD center in the oven and DO NOT use convection, even if you have the option.  It changes cooking time and will brown the top of your cheesecake prematurely, fooling you into thinking it is closer to being done than it really is.  Always lightly SHAKE for confirmation!**

In a medium mixing bowl stir together crushed graham crackers and nut meal. Stir in butter. Press crumb mixture onto bottom and about 2 inches up sides of an 8- or 9-inch spring form pan; set it aside.

Soften cream cheese. In a large mixing bowl combine cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla; beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Add eggs all at once, beating on low speed just until combined (do not over beat). Stir in milk.

In a double boiler or a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate.

Pour half of the filling into crust-lined pan.  In the bowl you melted the chocolate in, start adding the rest of the cheesecake batter in 1/4 c. intervals.  Completely mixing in each addition until you have half of the batter mixed into the chocolate.  

Once you have tempered the chocolate to a cooler temperature (three separate 1/4 c. additions of cheesecake batter to the melted chocolate will do it), pour that chocolate batter into the mixing bowl you were taking the plain batter out of.  Mix the chocolate batter and the remaining plain batter until completely incorporated.

With a large soup spoon place blobs of chocolate batter on top of the plain batter in the spring form pan in 3 or 4 separate places, closer to the center of the pan than the edges.  With a knife, swirl the chocolate into the plain batter, as you would when you marble a cake. 

***Do not "over swirl" or you'll just have a chocolate cheesecake that isn't very chocolaty!***

Place in your baking pan of choice (the cookie sheet or half sheet cake pan...I used a half sheet cake pan).  Place on oven rack FIRST!...then pour in enough water to completely cover the bottom of the pan (it WILL evaporate/steam a fair amount during the baking process) for sure.  I put 2 c. of water in my cake pan, when I poured it out only 1 cup remained.

Gently push the oven rack into the oven, taking care not to splash water into the cheesecake batter.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes for 8-inch pan, 35 to 40 minutes for 9-inch pan, until edges are solid about 3 inches in on the whole diameter of the spring form pan and the center still appears slightly wobbly when shaken gently.

 Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Using a sharp, thin bladed knife to loosen the crust from the sides of the pan; cool for an additional 30 minutes. Remove the side of the spring form pan; cool cheesecake completely (until the bottom center of the spring form plate is no longer warm at all). Cover and chill at least 4 hours before serving. 

*Having a cheesecake knife or a cheese wire is ideal for cutting cheesecake.  I didn't have either one.  You can see in the picture at the bottom of this post, my cheesecake slice didn't come out clean.  It is so smeared it looks like the marble effect didn't happen, but when you fork into the slice it had.  If you don't care how the cake looks presentation-wise, by all means...use whatever you want to slice your cheesecake.

Top cheesecake with fruit filling of your choice or eat it as is, like we did last night.  

 Another option is to make this a double chocolate cheesecake and make the plain portion of cheesecake white chocolate by the same method...adding 4 oz. of melted white chocolate to half of the cheesecake batter.  I believe if you pulverized 4 oz. of fresh fruit you could also make this a fruit swirl cheesecake, though I haven't tried that one yet.  This is a versatile recipe that is a SURE people pleaser!

*If you have special dietary considerations, you could try low fat cream cheese and halving the amount of sugar.  These two changes won't effect the outcome of the cheesecake either.  No matter what, have fun in the kitchen.  Cooking and baking should always be fun!