The Benefits of Indecision

Last month, I had an epiphany. Things just clicked, and it was like a light bulb went on inside my head. You ready for this?

Half of a regular 9″ or 10″ cheesecake fills my 6″ springform pan perfectly. How did I discover this, you ask? Well, we had a cheesecake night with some friends. Yes, a night dedicated to all things cheesecake. Karen made her fabulous Bailey’s cheesecake. Janelle made a delicious white chocolate raspberry cheesecake. And I, as always, was plagued with indecision.

What flavor? Lime? Lemon-blueberry? Peanut butter? Black forest? Whopper? Snickers? Turtle?

See what I mean? How do you pick just one? (I think that’d be like trying to pick a favorite kid… although I’m not 100% convinced that parents don’t have favorites. 😉 Ha!) In the end, I couldn’t pick just one. And since 10 people do not need to eat FOUR full-size cheesecakes in one sitting, I did the only responsible thing I could think of. I halved the recipes and made TWO 6″ cheesecakes. 😀 (Even with my restraint, we still had a LOT of cheesecake left over. I think everyone took some home with them.) 

One of the best things about cheesecake is that it can be made ahead of time. You don’t have to worry about things getting soggy from sitting in the fridge overnight, and aside from the long baking time, it’s pretty low-maintenance. Make a crumb crust, beat some cream cheese, sugar and eggs together, pour into the pan and bake! Dessert is ready! This particular cheesecake takes a little more time than usual, since you do have to melt chocolate and then wait for it to cool, but overall it’s still pretty easy. I made the cherry pie filling while the cheesecake was baking and then topped it just before we went to the party.

Aside from halving the recipe, the only change I made was to add some vanilla (because that’s just what I do). I also baked it over (not in) a pan of water in the oven to help prevent cracks in the cheesecake. Although, if the cheesecake cracks, it’s not the end of the world, since you’ll be covering it with cherry pie filling anyway. And I have yet to meet someone who turned down a slice of cheesecake because it wasn’t picture-perfect. 🙂

The other advantage to this discovery? Two 6″ cheesecakes = twice as many opportunities for new flavors. I think a Whopper cheesecake is next…

blackforestcheesecakeBlack Forest Cheesecake

Makes one 6” cheesecake (double for a standard 9” or 10” springform pan)

For the crust:
12 Oreo cookies (feel free to go generic here)
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted

For the chocolate cheesecake:
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cherry topping:
12 ounces frozen sweet cherries, thawed, juice reserved (I used Bing cherries from our fruit order last summer.)
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

For the whipped cream cheese:
2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 6″ springform pan and set it aside. Place a shallow baking dish on the lower rack in the oven and fill it with an inch of water. (Skip this step if you’re not worried about cracks in your cheesecake.)

Pulse the Oreos and sugar in a food processor until the mixture is ground into fine crumbs. Add the butter and pulse to combine – the mixture should be evenly moistened by the time you’re done. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared springform pan, smoothing them into an even layer. Bake until the crust is set, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack. Maintain the oven temperature.

Place the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and set the bowl of a saucepan full of barely simmering water. Heat until the chocolate is melted, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and let the chocolate cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the 16 ounces of cream cheese, cocoa powder and sugar together until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat the eggs in, one at a time, scrapping the bowl down between additions. Mix in the vanilla. Mix in the cooled chocolate until just combined, scrapping the sides of the bowl as needed. (The batter gets very thick at this point.) Pour the batter over the prepared crust and smooth the top into an even layer.

Bake the cheesecake until the center barely jiggles when shaken, about an hour. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool for five minutes. Run a knife along the sides of the cheesecake to help loosen it from the springform pan, and then remove the ring. Allow the cheesecake to cool completely before refrigerating overnight.

While the cheesecake is baking, make the cherry topping. Reserve two tablespoons of cherry juice from the thawed cherries. Combine the cherries, two tablespoons of sugar, lemon juice, salt and any remaining cherry juice in a small saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it begins to boil. In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch and reserved cherry juice together. Add the cornstarch mixture to the boiling cherries and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. (This happens very quickly – now is not the time to walk away from the stove!) Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool completely before topping the cheesecake. (I let mine cool overnight and then assembled everything right before we left for cheesecake night.)

When you’re ready to assemble the cheesecake, make the whipped cream cheese topping. Beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together until smooth. (I used my KA mixer, but I bet you could make this part work with a good hand-held mixer as well.) Add the cream to the mixture, scrape the sides of the bowl and beat until the mixture has stiff peaks.

To assemble the cheesecake, spread the cherry topping on the top of the cheesecake, leaving a little border around the edges for the whipped cream. Using a piping bag with a decorative tip (I used the Wilton 1M tip), pipe the whipped cream around the edges of the cheesecake.

Slice into wedges and serve. Leftover cheesecake can be covered with plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator.

From Brown Eyed Baker

Click here for a printable version.

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