Rombauer Chocolate Cheescake

September 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

E: Pretty much every year for the last 3 or 4, I’ve used the same recipe for my birthday cake. It’s a newspaper recipe I got from some friends of mine, and really makes the most delicious chocolate cake I’ve ever had. I promise it will be on here some day. (We made one over the winter holidays last year as a New Year’s cake, but we didn’t get pictures of anything but the finished product.) But this year, I wanted to switch things up for my birthday. I wanted cheesecake. And so cheesecake we made!

delicious, smooth, and chocolate flavored!

I’ve baked this cheesecake at least twice before, and every time it manages to blow me away. This time we started pretty late at night and cut some corners with the crust, so as you’ll see it isn’t the finest nor the neatest crumb crust known to man. I’m convinced I’ve got the right method, because the last time I made one of these I got a perfectly neat, beautifully even crumb crust. So bear with me. And even if you overcook it a little and it cracks (ours did, though again last time we got it just right and it was perfect) it will still be absolutely delicious. If you are really worried about it you can always bake it bain marie style, though you certainly don’t have to. If you decide to do this, I certainly recommend pre-baking the crust to make sure it gets crispy.

As evidenced by the title of this post, this recipe comes from The Joy of Cooking, which I absolutely adore, especially for its desserts. There are several other wonderful looking cheesecake recipes in there, but sadly I haven’t touched them because this recipe was the first I tried, and was so good I just can’t bring myself to make anything else from that section. Whenever I want cheesecake it’s straight to this recipe I go. So if you don’t want something chocolaty (it’s a sin, I know, but sometimes we just have those days) or, if you are like a friend of mine who doesn’t like chocolate and was born to be tormented by the thousands of dessert recipes incomprehensible to him because they include that vile cacao bean, then let this be your impetus to do yourself a favor, break open a copy of Joy, and pick out some other cheesecake recipe to try. (If you do actually decide to do that after reading this post, you’ll have to let me know just how good it was.)

So let us begin. I’ll include all the ingredients for both the crust and the cheesecake first, and then dig into the process. Both the crumb crust recipe and the cheesecake recipe are from the Joy of Cooking, and I’ll give you the page numbers for the 75th Anniversary edition (sidenote: they took some stuff out of this new edition while adding other things, so I’m still looking to get a copy of an older one, maybe the 1975 version, to get back things like the classic, made-by-hand puff pastry dough).

Crumb Crust, p 667:
1 1/2 C. graham cracker or chocolate wafer crumbs
1/4 to 1/2 C. sugar
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional but highly recommended)

Chocolate Cheescake, p 745:
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/3 C. boiling water
1 lb. (16 oz.) cream cheese
2/3 C. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3 large eggs
2 C. sour cream (our container was shy by about 1/4 C. and it was fine)
1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

Start by making the crumb crust. If you are using graham crackers, and assuming they are packaged in the standard way in which each box contains 3 smaller packets of grahams, you’ll need between 1.5 and 2 packets to make 1 1/2 cups of crumbs. Take your grahams or wafers, and decide if you want to do things the easy way or the hard way. If you choose the hard way, start crumbling them with your hands and smash them with something heavy. Consider, for example, placing them in a plastic bag and hitting them repeatedly with a rolling pin. (This can be a good way to work out anger, frustration, or anxiety. Just saying.)

Or, if you choose the easy way, just toss the grahams into a food processor and pulse away. You want the crumbs to be uniformly fine. We didn’t do that here, and we couldn’t get our crust quite as neat and even. So if appearances are important to you, make sure to eliminate any larger pieces. Then mix in a bowl with some sugar (we used about 1/3 cup), the cinnamon, and the melted butter. It doesn’t have to be totally cool, you just don’t want it really hot.

crumb crust, packed and baked

Once you have it mixed together, place most of the crust mixture in the bottom of your spring-form pan and tamp with the bottom of a glass. I use a large rocks glass:  bigger diameters are better for getting even results. Spoon in more where needed, and use the glass to press excess into a 1/2 inch tall (or taller) rim around the edges. If your crumbs are fine and you work at it, you can get this pretty even all the way round. As you can see, we didn’t bother this time.

Either freeze for 20 minutes before filling, or preheat an oven to 350F, bake for 10-12 minutes, and let cool. The pre-baked crust will be more crunchy and flavorful, but do whatever pleases you.

While that is standing by, get working on the filling. Preheat the oven to 350F if it isn’t already there, and place a (metal) loaf or cake pan filled with water on the bottom rack of the oven to keep the air moist. That will help keep the cake from cracking, but isn’t quite as involved as a legitimate bain marie.

For best results make sure everything you need is at room temperature before you start, but if you forget like we did there shouldn’t be any major problems. Now get some water boiling, and chop up the chocolate.

stacked and ready to chop

Add the chocolate to a bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Much of it should melt very quickly. If there are some lumps, you can microwave the chocolate mixture for about 10 seconds at a time, and that plus some continual stirring should allow you to get rid of any chunks of chocolate.

mmmmmelted chocolate

Place the cream cheese in a large bowl and beat until smooth. Scrape everything down well, and gradually add the 2/3 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. We did it about 1/2 at a time, and scraped down the bowl and beaters in between.

cream cheese, sugar, &c. beaten

Once that is smooth and creamy, beat in 3 large eggs, one at a time, until just incorporated. Scrape everything down in between each egg. Then beat in the sour cream and the cocoa powder. Add the melted chocolate mixture, and either fold it in or beat just until well blended. We had a couple parts that didn’t get fully mixed, so just make sure you are scraping down the bowl and properly mixing in the stuff lurking at the bottom.

chocolate about to be mixed in

Scrape the finished mixture out of the bowl and into your waiting crust, and smooth over the top.

smoothed and ready for baking

Place your spring-form pan on a baking sheet and into the oven (or, like us, just place it straight in). Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the edges of the cake have puffed but the center is still moist and jiggles when tapped. It should look roughly like this:

a little past time to turn off the heat, oops

Our oven runs a little hot so the 40 minutes was a little long. It looked almost like this at 35 minutes, and we should have turned off the heat then which might have alleviated the cracking issue. But we waited another 5. So the takeaway is that unless you know your oven well, keep an eye on the cheesecake and if you think it is done, it probably is.

Turn the oven off, prop the door ajar with the handle of a wooden spoon, and the let the cake cool in the oven for 1 hour. Then remove to a rack or the stove top, and let it cool completely before you try to unmould it.

Cover (but not too tightly or you’ll get water sitting on the surface like we did if it is at all warm) and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving. This is definitely a make-it-the-night-before kind of thing.

all done! just ignore the crack

It gets tastier with time so the longer you wait, to a point, the better. Ours lasted in the fridge for the week it took us to finish it. Enjoy this recipe’s wonderful, creamy chocolatyness, and remember that shared food has no calories! (At least, we can all wish . . .)

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