The very first cheesecake recipe I ever tried was this one. Cheesecake has a fearsome reputation for being finicky, a reputation which, in my firm estimation, cheesecake doesn’t deserve. I wanted to scale the mountain of cheesecake fear, and this recipe, which involves incorporating melted baking chips into cheesecake batter, seemed perfect for my first cheesecake. Only problem was, I didn’t realise that cheesecake ingredients should be at room temperature, so I woefully overbeat the batter in my attempt to get the ingredients to smooth out. My inexperience led me to overbake the cheesecake, because I simply couldn’t believe that the center two inches of the cheesecake should be wobbly. The result was much too heavy – the texture wasn’t light or silky or any of the things that cheesecake should be. I was flummoxed.
Looking back, it’s clear as day what I did wrong: I used cold ingredients and I overbaked my hapless cheesecake. I strongly suspect those are the two primary culprits behind cheesecake’s ice princess reputation. My advice to bakers struggling with making cheesecake is this: Firstly, use ingredients that are room temperature because room temperature ingredients require less beating. Less beating means less air incorporated into the batter, which means a creamier, more evenly baked cheesecake. Cheesecakes with too much air beaten into the batter tend to crack, bake unevenly, and overbake, which leads me to my second piece of advice: Don’t overbake the cheesecake. If the edges have browned and are set, and the center two inches are still wobbly and not quite set, then the cheesecake is finished baking. Take it out of the oven and let it cool! It will continue to bake outside of the oven, thereby setting those wobbly center inches. Follow these two pieces of advice, and your interactions with cheesecake will morph from “Yes, your majesty!” to “Did you just look at me funny?”
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Triple Layer Cheesecake
Yield: 1 9″ cheesecake
For the ganache:
1/3 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup chocolate
1 TBS butter
For the crust:
1 box vanilla wafers
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 – 2 sticks butter, melted (start with one stick of melted butter and add more butter as needed to make a moist crust)
For the batter:
3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled
1 cup peanut butter chips, melted and cooled
1 cup white chocolate chips, melted and cooled
OR flavours of your choice
For the ganache:
Place chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until boiling. Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and butter and let stand 2 – 3 minutes. Whisk until completely blended and smooth. Refrigerate until of proper piping consistency, or let stand at room temperature and pour over cheesecake once it has cooled to room temperature.
For the crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Using a food processor or potato masher, crush the crumbs until of fine consistency. Stir in the powdered sugar and cocoa powder until evenly blended. Stir in 1 stick of melted butter; add more butter, 1 TBS at a time, to achieve a moist crust.
Press crust evenly on the bottom and slightly up the sides of a 9″ springform pan. For a soft, brownie-like crust, place pan in freezer while you prepare the batter and do not pre-bake. For a firmer crust, bake crust for about 10 minutes in 350°F oven. Cool completely on wire rack.
For the batter:
Ensure oven is preheated to 350°F.
Beat cream cheese on medium speed to soften, about 1 – 2 minutes. Scrape bowl and beater. Blend in sugar at medium-low speed and beat until evenly incorporated, about 1 – 2 minutes. Scrape bowl and beater. Blend in sour cream, vanilla, and salt at low speed for 1 minute. Scrape bowl and beater. Blend in eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute on low speed after each addition and scraping bowl and beater after each addition.
Divide batter into thirds of approximately 1 1/3 cups each. In one of these thirds, stir in the melted and cooled semisweet chocolate chips until well blended. In another of these thirds, stir in the melted and cooled peanut butter chips until well blended. In the last of these thirds, stir in the melted and cooled white chocolate chips until well blended.
Wrap the springform pan in several layers of heavy-duty foil. Fill a pan large enough to comfortably hold the springform pan slightly less than half full with very hot water.
Pour one of the flavours into the frozen or completely cooled crust and smooth top. Pour a second flavour atop the first and smooth the top. Pour the final flavour on top and smooth the top of this layer.
Place the filled springform pan into the water-filled pan. Bake for 55 – 65 minutes, or until the top edges are golden-brown and the centre two inches are still wobbly. Transfer cheesecake from water bath to cooling rack and immediately run a sharp knife around the edges of the springform pan to loosen the cheesecake, making sure to scrape knife against the sides of the pan and not against the cheesecake itself. Cool to room temperature, cover top with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
Source: Heavily adapted from Hershey’s 100th Anniversary: 100 Years of Hershey’s Favorites by Hershey Foods Corporation, 1994; original recipe is available here