Yesterday was the first day of Spring (I’m hoping you all made it out to Rita’s for your free water ice), and it capped off a beautiful weekend of weather here in New Jersey — like, shorts and T-shirts warmth. And then today happened; I’m pretty sure I saw snow mixed in with that rain this morning. Just goes to show we’re not out of winter’s reach just because we pass through the March 20 threshold.
That being said, I thought I’d post a dessert with both a winter feel and a “spring” flare (i.e. I made it in my new springform pan [get it?]) to honor this transitional time of year: chocolate chai cheesecake, a la Stetted.
I had an extra pair of hands in the kitchen for this treat (my friend, Steve), and an extra mouth to feed once it was finished (Jay). We all agreed this was pretty successful, especially Jay, who later quipped, “That cheesecake burp was delightful.” That may not be the most appetizing way to encourage you to pursue this cake, but a simple “it’s good” just doesn’t seem as convincing.
Steve handled graham cracker crushing with aplomb, resulting in a beautiful crust, and I tasked him with topping off the finished product with our homemade chocolate ganache. When the cake was finally cooled, I was giddy with anticipation over the big springform pan reveal. What a fantastic invention; I could only imagine what this thing would have looked like if I had to lift it out of there myself.
♦1-1/2 tsp. ground ginger
♦1-1/2 tsp. cardamom
♦1/4 tsp. ground cloves
♦1 tsp. cinnamon
♦1/8 tsp. nutmeg
♦1/4 tsp. salt
♦1/8 tsp. black pepper
Mix spices together in small bowl.
♦1/3 c. butter
♦1/4 c. sugar
♦1-1/4 c. crushed graham crackers (one “sleeve” out of the box)
Cut butter into pieces and melt in microwave. Combine butter, sugar and crumbs until well blended. Press mixture into springform pan. Place on baking sheet, and bake in oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
♦2/3 c. heavy cream
♦1 c. semisweet chocolate
While crust is baking, heat cream in small saucepan until just boiling. Remove from heat and add chocolate chips. Let stand five minutes, then whisk until smooth. When crust is removed from oven, pour layer of chocolate on top, reserving some for topping the finished slices.
♦2 packages cream cheese
♦1/2 c. sugar
♦1 tsp. vanilla
Beat sugar into cream cheese in large bowl. Add eggs and vanilla, then mix in spices. Pour mixture on top of chocolate layer, and spread evenly. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, then gently run knife along outside edges and remove from pan. Let cake cool completely, then place in fridge for 2-4 hours to set. When serving, top with remaining chocolate.
Total time? 25 minutes prep (including crust bake), 30 minutes bake, 2-4 hours wait.
Cost? $2 cream cheese, $2.50 box of graham crackers, $2 heavy cream.
Overall success relative to expect? 7 out of 10. I’m not really a cheesecake person, but this was the best way I felt to break in the springform pan, plus I’m obsessed with chai-flavored things. Steve, Jay and I brainstormed adaptations of the cake — entertaining the thought of an Oreo crust, and agreeing milk chocolate (over semi-sweet) might taste pretty good. In the end, though, I was impressed with the final product; it tasted like something you’d order at a restaurant, so try it out.