Cheesecake. If you are lucky, you know it well: if you are luckier, you know it in it’s smoothest, creamiest form.
But maybe you know cheesecake as being crumbly, or lacking flavor, in the name of cutting
calories corners? Maybe you have had cheesecakes that cracked right down the middle, or ones that sogged from a leaky spring-form in a bain-marie? Those things are enough to turn you off from cheesecake. I understand.
So here is this. A cheesecake that is not light, one that allows for no scrimping. A cheesecake that is a complete diet-wrecker, a cheesecake that is utmost, total indulgence.
It’s base is a graham cracker crust with nutty, browned butter and cacao nibs, which provide texture and pure, chocolate flavor. The filling is made from the holy grail of cheesecake-filling-possiblities: cream cheese, sour cream and Greek yogurt, which I have used for the slight, lactic tang it provides. Just the right amount of eggs makes this utterly creamy and the splash (ok, almost a cup) of Frangelico liquor amps the vanilla flavor and adds an essence of hazelnut that is unmistakable.
To complete this picture of perfection is a velvety layer of ganache, topped with candied cacao nibs, which pull the nutty, cocoa flavors of this cheesecake through.
Have I convinced you yet? You must try this. Because in addition to the taste aspect, I have provided you with tips that will ensure a perfect bake, and the smoothest surface and all it takes is a little planning ahead.
Give it a try! All you have to lose is…nothing, really, because even cracked cheesecake is still cheesecake. Yes! I’ll be serving this on Shavuos (which starts on Saturday night) given that I don’t eat this all before then, along with this, this, these and a few batches of artisanal ice cream that I made with my new ice cream maker.
To say we have a lot of dessert going on is not an understatement, but this cheesecake will be the star of the show. Happy Shavuos and have a great weekend!
PS: cheesecake is also a fine way to a end a memorial day barbecue. Just saying.
PPS: so much shavuos goodness going on! Don’t forget these ice pops, these gorgeous flower cones, or these no-churn ice cream sandwiches (which were a hit on Pinterest!)
Yield: one 10″ cheesecake
Why I love this recipe: cream cheese, sour cream and Greek yogurt make for a cheesecake that’s lusciously creamy with the tiniest hint of dairy tang to it. The brown butter crust is perfectly crumbly and not too sweet- thanks to cacao nibs and the frangelico liquor adds hazelnut and vanilla flavor. For the final indulgence, this cheesecake is topped with a velvety ganache and toasty, caramelized cacao nibs, which balance everything out.
Notes: cheesecake takes some planning in advance. Before you begin, all your filling ingredients need to be room temperature. Leave them out on the counter overnight. This will make the mixing seamless, and prevent against a gritty batter. Most cheesecake recipes call for baking in a water-bath- here, we’ll bake it on top of a roasting pan full of water, at a low temperature- low and slow is the name of the cheesecake game. Use the full amount of water called for- it ensures even, all-around baking. When cooling your cheesecake, make sure to do it gradually, cooling it in the oven for an hour and then on the counter-top before being refrigerated. The cheesecake will hold up well for a day or two in the fridge and freezes nicely, although I would recommend freezing the cheesecake without the topping and only adding it later, once defrosted.
For the crust:
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, browned
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (approx. 14 crackers crushed)
- 1/3 cup cacao nibs
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
For the cheesecake batter:
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups sour cream, room temperature
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, room temperature
- 3/4 cup frangelico liquor (hazelnut liquor)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 32 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
For the ganache + candied cacao nib topping:
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup cacao nibs
- 1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter
- For the crust: Preheat the oven to 325. Pour the sugar, graham cracker crumbs, salt and cacao nibs in a medium bowl and whisk together.
- Pour the browned butter over the top and stir with a spatula until combined.
- Press the mixture into a 10-inch springform pan and bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is golden. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool, leaving the oven on.
- For the cheesecake: In a food processor, combine the eggs, sugar, Greek yogurt, sour cream, frangelico and vanilla together for 1 minute. Add the cream cheese a few tablespoons at a time and blend until smooth.
- Pour the batter into the springform pan.
- Fill a roasting pan with 16 cups of warm water, and place it on the floor of the oven. Set the cheesecake on the middle rack and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in with the door closed for 1/2 an hour. Then, for the next 1/2 hour, open the oven door a crack and leave the cheesecake in.
- Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack, letting the cheesecake cool to room temperature. Cover the top of the cheesecake with parchment paper and put in the fridge overnight, or for a least 8 hours.
- For the glaze: In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream and then add the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted. Stir until the glaze is smooth.
- Cool to room temperature. Remove the cheesecake from the springform pan and spread the glaze over the top.
- For the candied cacao nib topping: line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the sugar in a wide, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat, and scatter cacao nibs over the sugar.
- Leave the pan undisturbed until the sugar begins to melt in spots. With a wooden spoon, quickly stir the cacao nibs into the liquid sugar, incorporating any unmelted sugar as you go.
- Once coated, remove the pan from the heat and quickly stir in the butter.
- Immediately scrape the cacao nibs onto the prepared baking sheet, pressing them into an even layer with the back of the spoon or spatula. Allow to cool.
- Break the cacao nibs into tiny clusters by hand. Top the cheesecake with cacao nibs, reserving extras for another use. Serve.