Monday, September 19, 2005

The Best Cheesecake

Hot on the heels of Friday's custardy SHF entry, is another type of custard: cheesecake.
The first time I read Lori's excellent post on making the best cheesecake on the planet, I was sold. Did you know that she used to make cheesecakes for a living?
I wanted to try making her bulls eye cheesecake, but I chickened out after preparing the batters. I was nervious about pouring even chocolate and plain layers into the pan, so I settled on making a marbled cheesecake. I filled the pan with large, haphazard dollops of batter and swirled them together with a knife. This cheesecake does not need to be baked in a water bath, so that makes it that much easier.
Cheesecakes crack when they are exposed to a sudden temperature change. Cool your cheesecake in a fairly warm place after removing it from the oven to allow the custard to set without cracking. Make sure to chill it overnight in the refrigerator; creamy cheesecakes taste their best when cool. When you are going to serve the cheesecake, keep a moist dishtowel at hand and wipe down the knife after each slice. This will keep your slices clean and even.
Is it really the best cheesecake on the planet? I will say that it is outstanding. The plain cheesecake has an excellent flavor. The chocolate cheesecake is incredibly rich and chocolately without being heavy or truffle-like. Overall, it isn't too sweet and the whole thing is unbelieveably creamy. The thick crust is a perfect balance to the richness of the cheesecake. I would not change a single thing about this recipe.
In truth, I do not think that I eat enough cheesecake to really pass judgment on a global scale, but I will say that it is certainly the best I have had in recent memory.

Marbled Cheesecake
2 cups graham crackers, crushed into crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
2-8 oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
1-14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
3 eggs, room temperature
4 oz bittersweet/semisweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 350F.
Mix together graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter until mixture is wet (or pulse in a food processor until crumbs clump together) and begins to stick together. Spread mixture evenly in a 9 inch springform pan and press down firmly. Bake for 10 minutes. Set aside.
Reduce oven temperature to 300F.
Melt chocolate into a medium sized bowl.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add condensed milk and beat until smooth. Add eggs, one by one, beating each until fully incorporated. Pour 1/2 of the batter into the bowl with the melted chocolate and stir well. Pour chocolate and plain batters into the prepared pan, evenly distributing and alternating batters. Swirl with a clean knife.
Bake cheesecake for 50-55 minutes. It will not look totally firm when done; it will jiggle. The whole cake should jiggle evenly, though the center might be a bit looser.
Cool cheesecake at room temperature for at least 1 hour before refrigerating. Refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours.
Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Serves 12