Monday, February 14, 2011
I made a cheesecake for Valentine’s Day. Well, I made it late last week, but that’s just extending the holiday. We’re still going to eat some tonight.
Why cheesecake? Weren’t these cookies enough. No, I wanted a dessert for a special occasion. Cookies aren’t a dessert. Sure, you can have cookies for dessert. But they are not a dessert. And this cheesecake is more decadent, more romantic, sweeter. And it has a pink swirl.
I’ve been wanting to fiddle around with cheesecake for a while. Since last spring, in fact, when Fine Cooking magazine published a sort of cheesecake primer in their “Cooking without Recipes” column. It’s just this sort of Grand Unified Recipe with Endless Variations that I’m interested in, so I filed it. For about ¾ of a year. (Actually that’s a pretty short time for me.)
I adapted this light cranberry-swirl cheesecake recipe from Cooking Light magazine and tried to rework it with the Fine Cooking template, and for a first run at such a thing, it turned out really well. I suppose most people these days are trying to turn a full-fat recipe into a low-calorie one, but I thought, just this once, I’d take back the calories and see what it did for flavor. I have to say that unfortunately, as a general rule, calories have flavor. Flavor and texture and sensuality and pleasure and …well, you get the idea. And having the real thing a few times a year is much better than having something fake or almost there (and those are the good ones) more often.
This cheesecake is basic, with only a little orange juice and zest thrown in, but the cranberry swirl is fruity and puckery. I added orange zest to that as well. It’s very similar to homemade cranberry sauce, but I added an egg so it would mesh better with the cheesecake batter. The chocolate crust is dark and bittersweet (I used Nabisco Brand “Famous” chocolate wafer cookies). You could use something else to make the crust, such as graham crackers or vanilla wafers, but the chocolate crust says, “Be my Valentine.”
I didn’t allow this cheesecake to cool long enough before cutting into it, so it was a bit oozy about the middle, especially the cranberry swirl. It firmed up before we dug into it again, however, so the later slices held up much better. There’s also a lot of concern about cheesecakes cracking on the top as they cool. I, however, have one foolproof way to deal with these cracks that works every time: I get over it and just eat the cheesecake.
Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake with Chocolate Crust
Adapted from Fine Cooking and Cooking Light magazines
For the cranberry swirl
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup fresh orange juice
6 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
grated zest of 1 orange
1 large egg
For the crust
8 ounces chocolate wafer cookies
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 ½ ounces (7 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
For the filling
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ cup fresh orange juice
grated zest of 1 orange
1/8 teaspoon fine salt
¾ cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs, room temperature
1. To make the cranberry swirl. Place the sugar, ¼ cup orange juice and cranberries in a medium bowl. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have popped and are tender and the liquid has thickened slightly (it will thicken more as it cools). Remove from the heat and cool completely.
2. Pour the cooled cranberry mixture into a food processor. Add the zest of one orange and pulse to combine. Add the egg and pulse to mix completely. Refrigerate until ready to use.
3. To make the crust, preheat oven to 375 F. Place the chocolate wafer cookies in afood processor. Process into crumbs. Add the sugar and pulse until well-combined. Pour in the melted butter and process until the crumbs come together, but before they form a tight ball.
4. Pour the crust mixture into a 9-inch springform pan. Press the mixture firmly and evenly on the bottom and about 2-3 inches up the sides of the pan. Use your hands or the outside of a measuring cup to press.
5. Bake at 375 F for 9-12 minutes or until the crust appears firm, dry and slightly darkened in color (although this may be difficult to see with in a chocolate crust.) Cool on a wire rack until ready to fill.
6. Reduce oven to 300 F. In a heavy-duty mixer with a paddle attachment, beat together the cream cheese, flour, ¼ cup orange juice, and salt. Continue beating at medium speed for 5 minutes or until very smooth, scraping the bowl and paddle often. There should be no lumps in the mixture before you proceed to the next step.
7. Add the sugar and beat until smooth. Add vanilla and zest of one orange and beat until blended. Add eggs one at a time and beat just until blended before adding the next one.
8. Pour the filling into the prepared crust and spread evenly. Pour the prepared cranberry swirl mixture over the cream cheese mixture. Swirl the two mixtures together with a knife or rubber spatula.
9. Bake at 300 for about 1 hour or until the center of the cheesecake still jiggles slightly when nudged, but the edges appear dry or are beginning to brown slightly. Cool completely. Cover and chill for at least 8 hours.
Makes 1 9-inch cheesecake, at least 10 servings. Keep in the refrigerator for about 3 days, or wrap the whole or partial cheese cake or individual servings and freeze for a month or so. Thaw in the refrigerator.