Here’s how much Husband and I love coffee: Husband roasts his own beans. We each have a preferred roast, too – mine a little lighter, his a little darker. Neither of us cares much for a dark and oily roast, à la Starbucks. I’m not telling you this because I expect you to come running with a cup of coffee for me any time soon (who else is thinking of Working Girl right now?), but because knowing the depths of Husband’s and my love for coffee will give you some insight into how much we adored this cheesecake. And there’s a lot to adore.
For starters, a chocolate crust makes its way up the sides of the cheesecake. (This was a big deal for me, as I’d never before made a cheesecake crust that formed a sort of wall around the cheesecake.) Two cups of ganache are then poured into the crust, making a half-inch-thick layer of delectable chocolate. Next comes the coffee cheesecake itself, with a smooth, light, creamy dream of a texture and a surprisingly complex coffee flavour that isn’t at all bitter. There is a sour cream topping, which adds a bit of lightness to the rich coffee cheesecake component, and then the top is iced with ganache. Because I am a coffee freak, I dipped some of our roasted beans into milk chocolate and studded the top of the cheesecake with homemade chocolate covered coffee beans. They went really well with the whole thing, and added an interesting crunchy element to every fourth bite or so. I strongly advise that, if they’re available, they be included as part of the garnish on this cheesecake.
The cheesecake batter includes molasses, the idea of which I found extremely off-putting at first – so much so that I nearly skipped making this, and Husband and I would have missed out on so much goodness! Don’t hesitate to add the molasses! You can’t taste molasses at all in the finished cheesecake. (If you want to taste molasses, add more molasses than the recipe calls for.) Husband was stunned to find out there was any at all in the cheesecake – and if anyone hates molasses with an irrational passion, it’s Husband. I believe the addition of molasses is responsible for the cheesecake’s complex coffee flavour, as it balances out the bitterness contributed by the coffee. Interestingly, the flavours seemed to meld and become more harmonious as the days passed – this cheesecake just got tastier over time.
I read every single review of this cheesecake on epicurious.com, where the original recipe is posted in its entirety, making special note of issues that cropped up again and again for bakers. Many people found the ganache layer to be hard to slice through, but I didn’t have that issue. I used a hot, sharp knife wiped clean for every slice, and it cut like a dream. Some said the coffee flavour was too strong; others said it was too weak. The amount of coffee used in this recipe is your call, as the amount of coffee in this cheesecake can be varied. The amount used in the version below made for a really nice balance between all the layers. The original recipe calls for coarsely ground beans to be incorporated into the cheesecake batter, but I felt that would ruin the creamy texture of the cheesecake, and many epicurious reviewers complained of just that happening. Instructions for adding the coarsely ground beans are included in this version, but are marked “optional.”
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Cappuccino Fudge Cheesecake
Makes 1 10″ cheesecake
For the crust:
1 (11 oz.) box Nilla wafers
1 stick salted OR unsalted butter, melted (add more butter, 1 TBS at a time, if needed)
1/2 cup cocoa (Dutch processed is fine)
1 TBS granulated sugar, optional (for an extra sweet crust – taste crust to see if sugar is needed)
For the ganache:
1 1/2 cups + 1 TBS heavy whipping cream
20 ounces bittersweet, semisweet, or milk chocolate, or some combination thereof (I don’t care much for dark chocolate, so I used half semisweet chocolate and half milk chocolate)
1/4 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream, Kahlúa, or other liqueur that pairs well with coffee
For the cheesecake:
4 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, at room temperature*
1 1/3 cups + 1 TBS + 1 tsp sugar
4 drops (approximately 1/4 tsp) light rum
4 TBS + 2 tsp brewed espresso OR very strong coffee
1/2 TBS Turkish ground** espresso powder (NOT instant)
2 TBS coarsely ground coffee beans, optional
1 TBS vanilla extract
1/2 tsp molasses
4 large eggs, at room temperature*
For the topping:
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
Position rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350°F.
For the crust:
Brush sides and bottom of a 10″ springform pan (pan must have sides that are at least 2.5″ high) with melted butter. Line pan with a parchment paper circle and brush circle with butter. (Using a parchment paper circle will enable you to remove the cheesecake from the springform pan later.) Wrap pan in several layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil to waterproof the springform pan.
Finely grind cookies in food processor. (Alternatively, you can crush the cookies in a bowl with a potato masher, or place them in a sealed ziploc bag and crush them with a rolling pin. Just make the crumbs as fine as possible.) Transfer crumbs to a large bowl and add cocoa (and sugar, if using). Add butter. Stir together vigorously with a fork, until thoroughly combined. Transfer crumbs to springform pan and press crumb mixture firmly up sides to within 1/2 inch of top edge, then over bottom of pan. Note: A glass measuring cup can be used to press down the crumbs evenly on the bottom of the pan.
For the ganache:
Place chocolate and liqueur in a large bowl. Bring whipping cream to simmer in large saucepan. Remove from heat; pour immediately over chocolate and liqueur. Whisk until chocolate is melted and ganache is smooth. Pour 2 cups ganache over bottom of crust and use a pastry brush to brush the sides as well. Freeze springform pan until ganache layer is firm, about 30 minutes. Reserve remaining ganache; cover and let stand at room temperature to use later for creating lattice pattern (or for pouring over the top, if desired).
For the cheesecake:
Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until blended. Stir rum, espresso, fine espresso grinds, coarse grinds (if using), vanilla, and molasses in small bowl until thoroughly combined; beat into cream cheese mixture. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, scraping bowl after each addition.
Pour filling over cold ganache in crust. Place cheesecake, wrapped in aluminum foil, in roasting pan and fill with 1″ very hot water. (Alternatively, place cheesecake on rimmed baking sheet, to catch drips, and place at least one baking dish half-full of water on the oven rack just below the cheesecake.) Bake until the center 2 inches move only slightly when pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour 15 minutes. (It may need to bake longer.) Transfer cheesecake to rack. Cool 15 minutes while preparing topping (top of cheesecake will fall slightly). Maintain oven temperature.
For the topping:
Whisk sour cream, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl to blend. Pour topping over hot cheesecake, spreading to cover filling completely. Bake until topping is set, about 10 minutes. Transfer cheesecake to wire rack. Allow to cool for an hour. Cover cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool, about 3 hours.
Take plastic wrap from top of cheesecake and set aside upside-down, so that the side that was touching the cheesecake is facing up. Run a small, very sharp knife between crust and pan sides to loosen cake, making sure to press knife against springform pan, not cheesecake. Release pan sides. Run bottom of cheesecake, still on springform bottom, over hot stovetop for 10 – 15 seconds. Lay the plastic wrap back onto the top of the cheesecake, and place a large, flat plate over the top of the cheesecake. Carefully flip cheesecake upside down so that the sour cream topping is against the plate. Using an extremely sharp knife, loosen crust from springform bottom. (You may have to reheat the bottom of the pan if it is being stubborn.) Flip cheesecake onto serving platter. Remove plastic wrap from top of cheesecake.
Decorating and garnishing:
Spoon reserved ganache into pastry bag fitted with small star tip. Pipe diagonal lines atop cheesecake, spacing lines about 1″ apart. Repeat in opposite direction to make latticework. Pipe stars or rosettes of ganache around top edge of cake. (Alternatively, you can just pour the ganache over the top of the cheesecake.) Garnish with chocolate covered coffee beans, if desired.
Store in refrigerator.
Note: This cheesecake can be made up to 5 days ahead of when needed. Interestingly, the flavours intensify and meld as time passes – this was much better about four days after baking!
*I cannot overemphasize the importance of having cheesecake ingredients at room temperature. Cheesecakes should be beaten as little as possible, thereby incorporating the least amount of air into the batter. Cold ingredients require more beating, which incorporates more air into the batter. This in turn can lead to cheesecakes easily overbaking and collapsing; in addition, overbeaten cheesecakes tend to have a firmer texture than is desirable.
**If you cannot find Turkish ground coffee, use coffee ground to the finest setting possible. Pre-ground coffee (NOT instant) from a package – I believe this is known as percolator coffee – should work just fine.
Source: Heavily adapted from Bon Appétit, February 2002
See also: Cappuccino Fudge Cheesecake on epicurious.com, for helpful reviews