While I'm not sure that this diagnosis exists in the DSM-IV yet, I am going to come out and state that I have a full blown baking disorder. It manifests in a wide variety of ways, most notable amongst them being a sort of Olympic Winter Holiday Season Cookie Bake-A-Thon (we atheists don't celebrate Christmas, but some of us adore the chance to overcompensate for our emotional shortcomings via fancy cookies), insomnia driven muffin creation, and, of course, the birthday cake of choice for friends and family.
Unfortunately, my complete and utter lack of any artistic skill whatsoever means that while these things will mostly turn out to be tasty (notable recent example of this NOT being the case), they will not necessarily be feasts for the eyes. After sufficient disastrous attempts to draw/write/connect-the-dots with a pastry bag and frosting, I have concluded that the best I'm going to be able to do to tart up a tart is a quick powder with icing sugar or dumping some chocolate shavings on top. In the event of an angel food cake, moderately aesthetic results can be achieved via chocolate glaze and stuffing some flowers in the hole in the middle of the cake. So, if what you're after are hot tips for the next Ace of Cakes-like creation, proceed to any variety of extremely anal retentive sites devoted to such matters. However, if you'd like a pretty decent cheesecake recipe that will improve your social standing, this is the place for you!
While she normally saves her special occasion manipulation resources for Frozen Lemon Cheesecake Squares (which I will post up here someday), this year my friend Val opted for an Espresso Chocolate Cheesecake. After the requisite website searching, I amalgamated a handful of recipes, added booze (because that is almost always the right choice!) and commenced. The result was pretty damn tasty...good coffee flavor, with a not overpowering hit of chocolate from the crust, mini chips, and a few chocolate shavings on top. While there were technical difficulties with the candles staying lit (damn outdoor celebrations), the damn thing did crack, and an initial misreading of the recipe yielded a basically pure sugar crust, requiring a re-do, it was a mocha-y, rich dessert. As with any cheesecake, you will need a good amount of advance warning. Typically, I bake them the day before, let them chill in the fridge overnight, and do my meager decorating the day of consumption.
Espresso Chocolate Cheesecake
(adapted from several recipes, mostly from epicurious.com)
9 whole chocolate graham crackers, crushed
1/4 cup sugar
5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup whipping cream
4 tsp espresso or instant coffee powder
1 1/2 tsps Kahlua or coffee liqueur
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 8-oz packages cream cheese (I use 1/3 less fat, with good results, and the illusion of health), at room temperature
4 large eggs
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup mini chocolate chips (regular sized ones sink to the bottom, while the little ones stay suspended in the batter)
bittersweet chocolate for shaving on the top (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix crackers, butter and 1/4 cup sugar in medium bowl; press onto bottom of 9" spring form pan. Using a measuring cup to tamp this down firms up the crust nicely. Bake crust 10 minutes. Cool. Maintain oven temperature.
- Combine cream, espresso powder and Kahlua in small bowl. The coffee powder won't dissolve fully, and will look weird. It'll be fine in the end, so ignore it and keep going.
- In large bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese until smooth.
- Gradually beat in 1 1/4 cups sugar, then eggs 1 at a time.
- Beat in flour.
- Beat weirdly undissolved espresso mixture into cream cheese mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared crust.
- Bake cake until edges are puffed, the center is just set, and (unfortunately and rather uncontrollably) it begins to crack, about 1 hour and 5 minutes. Be careful here, as it may take longer. I think the one I made took another 15 minutes, but it's going to depend on your oven. Check early, check often.
- Cool cake on rack 30-45 minutes; chill cake in fridge until cold, about 6 hours or overnight.
- Cover; keep chilled up to 2 days.
- Just before serving, shave some chocolate on top using a vegetable peeler.
Yield: 10-12 servings
Happy birthday, Val! And yes, I'll make you the lemon cheesecake next time.