Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake For Dan’s Birthday

My dear friend and brother, Dan Trout loves cheesecake. Dan loves it so much, he has been known to eat entire cheesecakes in a sitting. After the New Years Eve debut of my Pomegranate Cheesecake, he was heard to boast that he could even eat one of my cheesecakes by himself.

Well, as a cook and a big sister, I felt that gauntlet fall, and I picked it up and the challenge was made. I wanted to see if I could make a cheesecake which would defeat Dan’s immense gluttony for the creamy, cheesey, sweet and glorious confection.

By the way, I wanted to point out that Dan is not my birth brother, but he looks enough like Zak and I that people are continually asking if we are related. Dan’s wife Heather also looks enough like us that folks seem to think we are all siblings or cousins or something. I find this amusing, considering I grew up in West Virginia. Think about it.

At any rate, he and Heather are part of my family of choice, which is equal in importance to me as my blood family. Besides, in a metaphysical sense, we are all related, one to the other, in the great web of life–humans, animals, plants–everything that exists–is part of the same singular being.

So, yeah, Dan is my brother, and that is how it is, and it is all good. (Yes, Heather that makes you my sister, which makes your husband Dan your brother, too–see what I mean about growing up in West Virginia and how amusing–and confusing–all of this metaphysical stuff is? I feel like I should make up a metaphysical soap opera called “All My Relations.” Though, if I am making it up, maybe it should be a soup opera, not a soap opera. But, I digress.)

What was I talking about? Oh, yeah, cheesecake! (Sleep deprivation does interesting things to my mind.)

Anyway, I asked Dan what kind of cheesecake he was wanting for his birthday, and he said, “something chocolate.”

Something chocolate it was.

I decided to make a chocolate cheesecake with a chocolate-almond crust (knowing as I did that Dan loved almonds) with a raspberry jam swirl in the batter. Then, I would paint the top of the cheesecake with raspberry jam, and decorate it with fresh raspberries and a sprinkling of sliced almonds.

I mean, I just couldn’t make a plain chocolate cheesecake, could I?

I also decided to flavor the batter with espresso. In order to extract the espresso and liquify it in a form that would not cause the melted chocolate to seize up, I melted a tablespoon of butter with a tablespoon of heavy cream, then stirred into this warm fat mixture instant espresso powder, a staple in my baking supply cabinet. Then, after the chocolate was melted, I stirred this into it and it punched up the chocolate flavor immensely.

For the chocolate, I used bittersweet Scharffen-Berger; it gave the right depth of flavor and color to the batter which ended up looking like chocolate nougat before it was baked and milk chocolate after it was baked. I highly suggest using a quality chocolate in this recipe, because you really want the flavor to shine; it has to hold up to the cheese and raspberry.

For the crust, I used Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafer cookies, crushed into fine crumbs, along with almonds similarly treated, and butter. No sugar was necessary; I wanted the dark, somewhat bitter mocha-chocolate flavor of the black-colored cookies to shine through, with the almonds supplying a toothsome texture.

The jam that I used inside and on top of the cake is an organic seedless raspberry spread made in Italy called Fiordefrutta. It has an intense raspberry flavor with a delightful tartness that offsets the natural sweet flavor of raspberries. Too often raspberry-flavored baked goods are one-note affairs with sweetness being the order of the day. Not so with this product; it is a balanced flavor that smells sweetly of wildflowers and sunshine. (However, if you cannot get Fiordefrutta, any high quality seedless raspberry jam with a good balance of sweet and tart will do.)

What did Dan think of his birthday cake?

Well, it was like this: I gave him a huge slab of it, which he ate quite easily, to everyone’s amazement. Morganna couldn’t finish her piece (and she commented, “Mom–your cheesecake recipes are why German people are fat! Germans always want to overload their baked goods and go just one step farther and add just one more thing with fat in it to them!” I pointed out that I knew plenty of German chefs who were not only not fat but downright slender, but I still had to giggle, because if you look at the old photographs of our family’s German ancestors, they did tend toward the zaftig. As do I, for that matter.), so he offered to finish it for her.

He couldn’t do it. The last three bites were left untouched. (Correction: The last three bites were from Heather’s half a piece that Dan could not finish.He successfully finished Morganna’s cheesecake, as well as eating his own slab, as well as most of the rest of the piece Heather had. His capacity for gluttony in the face of cheesecake is still impressively undimmed. I did not mean to tarnish his reputation; I was merely mistaken.)

I sent the majority of it home with he and Heather, and I asked him to report on how long it lasts. I like gifts that keep on giving, and baked goods that are so good you just cannot sit down and polish them off in a day.

You have to parcel out the goodness and savor it for a while.

And when the goodness is creamy, mocha cheesecake with sparkling raspberry fruit essence swirled through it topped with almonds and fresh raspberries–it is an indulgence worth savoring. I mean, if you are going to take the caloric hit of a cheesecake, make the experience worth every blessed calorie that slides over your tongue.

Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

Ingredients:

1 package Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers
1/4 cup sliced almonds
8 tablespoons butter, melted
3 pounds cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
3 squares Sharffen-Berger bittersweet chocolate (about six ounces)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon espresso powder
1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam, divided in halves
1/4 cup raspberry jam
fresh raspberries for garnish
sliced almonds for garnish

Method:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Using a food pocessor, grind up the cookies and almonds into fine crumbs. While the processor is running, drizzle in melted butter, and process until the mixture forms clumps like wet sand.

Remove from food processor and dump into the bottom of a locked ten-inch springform pan. Using clean hands, press the crumbs evenly into the bottom and partway up the sides of the pan, then bake in your preheated oven for fifteen minutes. (If you have a convection oven, bake for ten minutes.)

Remove from oven and cool completely. Turn oven down to 300 degrees, and put a baking pan full of water in the bottom of the oven, in order to create a steamy, moist baking environment.

Beat together the cheese, sugar and vanilla on high speed (a stand mixer with a large bowl makes this easy) until well blended, light and fluffy. Scrape down bowl and beater, and beat for another two minutes, just to make sure.

While the cheese and sugar are beating, melt the chocolate by whatever method you prefer. I chop it finely with a chef’s knife (some people grate it by hand or use a food processor to grate it, or they use one of these nifty chippers), and then melt it in a glass bowl in the microwave. I microwave it on high at ten second intervals, after the first interval being twenty-seconds, stirring after each melting. Keep this up until the chocolate is fully melted with no lumps.

Meanwhile, heat up the tablespoon and butter and cream in a microwave until the butter melts and the mixture is steaming hot. Mix in the espresso and stir until a thick, dark paste forms. Stir this into the chocolate.

Whisk together the eggs until they are well beaten and then add to the cheese mixture. Beat until well combined, scraping down the bowl at least once.

Once eggs are combined with the cheese batter, add the chocolate mixture, beating until well combined and scraping down the bowl at least once.

Pour one half of chocolate-cheese batter into prepared springform pan. Add 1/2 of the first portion of raspberry jam by small spoonsful dropped randomly into the batter in the pan. Swirl with a knife to distribute. Pour the rest of the chocolate cheese batter into the pan and repeat the process with the other half of the first portion of raspberry jam.

Place the cake in the oven, on the center rack and bake for one hour and fifteen minutes. (Bake for fifty minutes if you have a convection oven.)

The cake is done when a tester piercing the center comes out looking mostly dry, and the cake is a warm brown color and appears to be set. Cool the cake on a wire rack on the counter until it comes to room temperature.

When the cake is slightly warmer than room temperature, take the second measure (1/4 cup) of raspberry jam, and warm it slightly in the microwave so it will spread easily. Spread it evenly over the top center of the cake, leaving the edges clean. (The cake will have sunk a bit in the center,leaving a raised edge around the outside–spread the jam in a circle in the middle, leaving the edges alone.)

When the cake is at room temperature, cover tightly with foil and refrigerate for eight hours or overnight.

To serve, run a thin spatula or knife around the edge of the springform pan and the cake. Rub the outside of the pan with a very hot, damp towel, then spring the latch and carefully pull the sides off the pan. Set the cake with the pan bottom on your serving plate.

Just before serving, carefully sprinkle a ring of lightly crushed sliced almonds around the circle of jam, then cover the jam with fresh raspberries set in concentric circles. If you want, you can melt a few tablespoons of raspberry jam and apply it to the raspberries to make a shiny glaze after they are on the cake, but it really is only necessary to do that if you really want to feel like Martha Stewart. I don’t generally do it myself, but some people think it makes it all even prettier.

This recipe serves up to twenty people. I mean it. It makes a really big cheesecake, and most people will be plenty happy with thin slices.

7 Comments

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  1. Ah! I was expecting another pic of the cheesecake slice.. Drooling… Raspberry and cheese, lovely combo..

    Comment by Suganya — May 21, 2007 #

  2. You can invite me for any of your birthday dinners. I will be sooo helpful in helping the rest of you eat that glorious cheese cake. BTW – you don’t have to be of German ancestry to be zaftig. I don’t have one scrap of German in me (to the best of my knowledge) and I have to fight the urge for the body to expand in all directions except up.
    However, I refuse to save this recipe! Too much temptation.

    Comment by Nancy — May 21, 2007 #

  3. Barbara, just ’cause you my sister, doesn’t mean I’ll let you sully my good name! I order you to print a retraction on your blog or face legal action.

    I DID finish Morganna’s piece of cheesecake!

    It was the half-piece of Heather’s I COULDN’T finish, (actually I think I could have, but I wanted to remain conscious, upright, and gastric-ly sound.)

    You sully my good reputation, and consider your challenge won. Well, as Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over ’till it’s over!” and as Yogi Bear said, “Yeah-ay-ay! ”

    There are two “Dan Sized” pieces left, and I haven’t had breakfast yet, so I hope you have a nice recipe for crow! ;-)

    (to all those who AREN’T Barbara, and don’t know me, please understand that my tongue would be planted firmly in cheek, if it weren’t saving up it’s energy to tackle that cheesecake! And yes, Suganya! It is INDEED a lovely combination! Thank you for a great B-Day dinner, Barbara!)

    Comment by Dan — May 22, 2007 #

  4. And to further digress into the bizarreness of Barbara’s digression…I’m not only Barbara’s brother, AND Zak’s brother, (which in turn makes them brother and sister as well as Heather and I,)

    I’m also Morganna’s boyfriend according to one restaurant owner in Columbus, (I think I shaved my beard off around then, which makes me look 15 years or so younger. Funny thing is, this was the SAME person that mistook me for Barbara’s brother the visit BEFORE that. I guess all us round-eyes look alike!)

    But don’t worry, fair readers…I won’t try anything with my niece/girlfriend Morganna. I’m scared to death of her Karate-instructing adopted father, Howie, who bought her from the Gypsies.

    (This could go on…but I’ll spare you…)

    Comment by Dan — May 22, 2007 #

  5. OHHHH OHH!!!!!

    And let’s not forget Heather’s favorite, (she just reminded me of it.) When Barbara was VERY pregnant with Kat, Zak enlisted my help in retrieving a the wee one’s crib to be from a “Babies-R-Us” in Columbus, (I’d just gotten my Scion xB, and was anxious to test the hauling capacity.)

    Well, here’s the two of us in this store, and we’re looking at the stuff, and Zak is showing me what they’ve ordered, etc. etc. So one of the store minions comes over, and is treating us like a couple. So, while we did nothing to encourage her, we also did nothing to discourage her. It was just easier that way.

    So, I’m also Zak’s “Hetero-Life Partner!”

    There…I’m done now…I swear.

    Comment by Dan — May 22, 2007 #

  6. Okay, Dan–I stand corrected! I will edit my post to note that you successfully finished Morganna’s piece of cheesecake, but not Heather’s.

    Your gluttony is still awe-inspiring.

    (For the record of those who do not know Dan and I, as zaftig as I am, I had a very small piece of cheesecake. He, the eater of one slab, a half a slab and a third of a slab, is quite slender. Ah, the joys of having a male metabolism and an ectomorphic body type!)

    I forgot that you were Zak’s hetero-life Partner, “Not-so-Silent Dan!”

    Forgive me!

    And I didn’t even get into the fact that Howie bought Morganna from the gypsies, nor did I mention her other uncles, (from my side of the family, of course,) Thomas, Bry, and Torquil.

    Together with Dan, she calls this group of my stronger-than-blood-kin-brothers as “The Uncles,” all of whom she has known from early childhood. Now that she is dating, “The Uncles” have all stood ready to confront any wayward boyfriend if need be, and she is very careful to introduce all of her boyfriends to this rather intimidating bunch of men.

    It is fun to watch the boyfriends’ reactions.

    I swear, I may have to write a satirical serial about our “family” called “All My Relations” that includes not only the human characters, but our cats, dogs, companion critters and the local wildlife drama as well.

    It would be fun. Especially if I could get Zak to illustrate it.

    Oh, and Dan–you are welcome for a good birthday dinner and cheesecake.

    Comment by Barbara — May 23, 2007 #

  7. As an update. The Cheesecake was completely consumed as of 10AM this morning.

    Heather also finally ate her piece of key lime pie, and proclaimed it delicious.

    Awe inspiring gluttony eh? I’m not sure if that’s a compliment, but I’ll take it as one ;-) Only for your cooking, dear sister…only for your cooking…

    Comment by Dan — May 23, 2007 #

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