Have I ever told you about my *thing* for peanut butter and chocolate? Nah, didn’t think so. A lot of people go nuts for chocolate with raspberry, or chocolate with mint, or chocolate with coffee. And these are three glorious flavour combinations, mark my patooty. I’d go to war for any of them. But my fey heart belongs to chocolate and peanut butter.
So naturally, when I received my copy of George Geary’s The Cheesecake Bible, I was all a-flutter with anticipatory excitement over his recipe for “Buckeye Cheesecake.” For those of you who aren’t familiar with the beautiful buckeye, it is a ball of peanut butter icing covered in melted milk chocolate. It is a treat of the Midwest and of Ohio in particular, and is so named because of its physical resemblance to buckeyes, a variety of horse chestnut.
But I felt some changes had to be made. Geary’s cheesecake calls for a sour cream topping, but I’m really not a fan of sour cream toppings on cheesecake. They never taste right to me, no matter what goes in them. I prefer to put the sour cream in the cheesecake batter and have done with it. In addition, Geary’s crust recipe sounded unappealing to me. It requires peanut butter cookies, flour, and melted butter. Not the worst thing out there as far as cheesecake crusts go, but homemade peanut butter cookies taste way better than store-bought ones, and I didn’t want to make cookies just to crush for this cheesecake crust. Store-bought graham crackers are awesome with peanut butter and with s’mores, which are heavy on chocolate, so they seemed the perfect cracker-y base for my cheesecake crust. I elected to cobble together my own graham cracker crust, which was just sweet enough and lent a lovely crunch to the affair.
Geary’s Buckeye Cheesecake also lacked any peanut butter filling, which is de rigueur for anything claiming to derive from a buckeye. There is peanut butter in the cheesecake itself, but its flavour is overpowered by the cream cheese and chocolate. In my mind, this does not constitute a true tribute to the worthy buckeye. It seemed to me an excellent idea to make a peanut butter icing and cover the entire cheesecake with the stuff, so as to get a better ratio of chocolate to peanut butter than is allowed by the original recipe. This was indeed an excellent idea, adding a delectable, silky, peanut butter-y dimension to every bite. I would not even bother making this cheesecake without the peanut butter icing, to be honest.
And at last we come to the cheesecake batter itself. Geary, in my opinion, didn’t include nearly enough of either chocolate or peanut butter for the cheesecake batter, so I tripled the amount of chocolate he calls for and more than doubled the amount of peanut butter he specifies. I’m so glad I did this, because the chocolate flavours came through loud and clear. I also ditched the recipe’s recommended bittersweet chocolate for milk chocolate, and I’m. Not. Sorry. The cream cheese and sour cream really dilute the sweet taste of cheesecake batter, so I felt that using bittersweet chocolate would result in a very dark chocolate cheesecake. If that’s your thing, then groovy. Groove on with your bittersweet self! But Hubbley-Wubbles and I are die-hard milk chocolate fans. Nonetheless, I have to say that even using milk chocolate in this recipe, it still tastes like it was made with dark chocolate. C’est la vie, eh? It’s still damned good.
Geary’s recipe says to bake the cheesecake at 350°F for 45 – 55 minutes, which sounded to me like it would overbake the cheesecake. I followed his instructions anyway, and that was a mistake. The cheesecake was overbaked, all right, and not nearly as silky as it should have been. I have instructed below that the cheesecake bake at 325°F for up to an hour and a half, which will help preserve the cheesecake’s creamy texture. If you want to go HAM with texture preservation, bake the cheesecake in a water bath, à la this cappuccino fudge cheesecake. You can’t go wrong with a water bath! (Hee.)
Despite things I would change when making this thing again, it was absolutely smashing. Sweet, toothsome peanut butter icing, a nuanced chocolate cheesecake, and a delicious, crunchy graham cracker crust all combine their forces to yield pure magic. There really is something magical about chocolate and peanut butter strutting their stuff together. 🙂
While getting this ready to post today, it occurred to me that today is the four month anniversary of our beloved Beast Cat’s passing. I hope he is at peace, wherever he is, and that he knows how much we love him and miss him. Beautiful Beastie, this one’s for you. We love you. ❤
Silky Chocolate Cheesecake with Peanut Butter Icing & Milk Chocolate Ganache
Yield: One 9″ cheesecake
For the ganache:
8 oz. chocolate, chopped (I used Cadbury’s milk chocolate)
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 TBS butter
For the crust:
2 bricks graham crackers
1 stick unsalted butter (you may need more to achieve a moist consistency; add more butter as needed, 1 TBS at a time)
2 TBS sugar
For the cheesecake:
12 oz. milk chocolate, chopped
generous 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
4 pkgs. cream cheese, 8 oz. each, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs + 1 yolk, all at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
For the peanut butter icing:
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
3 – 4 cups powdered sugar (start with 3 and add more to correct taste and consistency, if needed)
2 cups Cool Whip
For the ganache:
Place chocolate and butter in a medium heat-proof bowl. Heat cream until boiling and pour the boiling cream atop the chocolate and butter. Let sit for 2 – 3 minutes, then whisk until smooth and everything is thoroughly combined. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and set aside to thicken into icing consistency.
For the crust:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray a 9″ springform pan with nonstick cooking spray and line the bottom with a parchment paper round. (This will make releasing the cheesecake later much, much easier.) Spray the sides of the pan and the paper round with more nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
In a food processor, process the graham crackers into fine crumbs. If a food processor is not available, you can crush the crackers in a large bowl with a potato masher, or place the crackers inside a Ziploc bag and crush them with a rolling pin. Try to get the crumbs as fine as possible.
Transfer the crushed crackers to a medium bowl and toss with the sugar. Melt the butter and mix into the cracker-sugar mixture with a fork. The mixture should be moist, and a subsection of crumbs should easily hold together when pressed firmly with a fork. If the mixture is too dry, add more butter, 1 TBS at a time, to achieve a moist consistency.
Firmly press the crumb mixture along the bottom and up the sides of the prepared springform pan, making the thickness of the crust as uniform as you can. Pressing a flat-bottomed glass measuring cup along the bottom of the pan helps with this.
Place the crust-lined springform pan into the freezer and freeze while you prepare the cheesecake filling.
For the cheesecake:
Melt chocolate on low heat in a 2 – 3 quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan. When fully melted, add peanut butter and stir to fully combine. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on low speed for 1 minute to soften. Scrape sides of bowl and add sugar; beat on low speed for 1 minute. Scrape sides of bowl. Add vanilla extract and beat on low speed for 45 seconds; scrape sides of bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating each addition on low speed for 1 minute and scraping sides of bowl after each addition. Add yolk and beat on low speed for 1 minute; scrape sides of bowl. Add chocolate-peanut butter mixture and beat on low speed for 1 minute. Use spatula to finish folding in the chocolate-peanut butter mixture. Tap bowl firmly on counter or table several times to release air bubbles.
Remove the springform pan from the freezer and place on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips. Pour cheesecake batter into pan and smooth the top. Bake for 60 – 75 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and the center two inches of the cheesecake are still a little wobbly. (This may take up to 90 minutes.)
Place cheesecake on a wire cooling rack and allow to cool to room temperature. Cover surface of cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 12 hours.
Unmoulding the cheesecake:
Take plastic wrap from top of cheesecake and set aside upside-down, so that the side that was touching the cheesecake is facing up. 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 (in such a way so that the side that was originally touching the cheesecake directly is doing so again), and place a large, flat plate over the top of the cheesecake. Carefully flip cheesecake upside down so that the top of the cheesecake is against the plate. Using an extremely sharp knife, loosen cheesecake from springform bottom. (You may have to reheat the bottom of the pan if it is being stubborn.) This is where lining the springform pan with parchment paper pays off – the crust should easily release from the springform pan bottom. Flip cheesecake onto serving platter. Remove plastic wrap from top of cheesecake. Blot away any moisture with a paper towel.
Once the cheesecake is unmoulded, make the icing.
For the peanut butter icing:
Beat cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed for several minutes to soften and thoroughly blend. Scrape sides of bowl and add peanut butter; beat on medium speed until thoroughly incorporated, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and beat on low speed until blended, scraping bowl as needed. Add up to 1 additional cup of powdered sugar to correct for taste and consistency, as needed. Add Cool Whip and beat on low until thoroughly blended. Use immediately.
Ice sides and top of unmoulded cheesecake with peanut butter icing. Pipe decorative swirls of the ganache onto the cheesecake as desired. You don’t need decorator bags or icing tips to do this; you can fill a quart-sized Ziploc bag a little less than half-full with ganache and snip one of the bottom corners of the bag to allow for egress. Twist the bag so that the ganache is contained in the bottom half of the bag, and squeeze the ganache out of the small hole you have created. I’ve done this many times in a pinch, and it works very well.
Store cheesecake in the refrigerator. Slice with a hot, dry knife, wiping knife clean between slices and re-warming knife with hot water as needed. Allow slices to sit at room temperature for an hour before devouring; the flavours will be much more intense this way.
Sources:Ganache from Annie’s Eats; crust a KitchenChantress Original; cheesecake batter heavily adapted from The Cheesecake Bible by George Geary; peanut butter icing from Annie’s Eats (the original recipe has been taken down, but the new version currently on Annie’s site is divine)