I’d been trying to get one of my co-workers, Chris, to come to a cake party ever since I started writing here. I couldn’t tell if he didn’t come because he just wasn’t that enthused about sweets or because he thought my friends were weird, but when he told me his favorite dessert was cheesecake, I took it as a challenge!
Of course, this being Epic Portions, I wanted it to be more than just cheesecake. Chris, who sits next to me at work, got a first-hand taste of why cake party came to be in the first place, when over my lunch break I was trolling recipes for ideas and said repeatedly, “what do you think would happen if I used ___ instead of ___? (His response? “I just like cheesecake! Plain old cheesecake!” Silly boy.)
The result was chocolate- strawberry cheesecake. It was heavenly. I think I ate my weight in batter from the bowl alone. Mine was a little under-done… my oven tends to run hot and I wanted to keep it low to be on the safe side, but ended up keeping it a little TOO low… but even so, it was great. I took two Martha Stewart recipes and used elements from both, along with some sage advice from my own mum and a serious personal aversion to corn syrup (love of marshmallow aside, if I don’t have to use it, I don’t use it), and the proof is in the pudding (er, the cheesecake) that you really can trust Martha. Her recipes may be complicated and difficult, but they sure are tasty.
I should note, this recipe really isn’t very hard at all, but it’s bloody time consuming. You have to roast the berries for an hour an a half, bake the cheesecake for an hour or more, let it slowly cool in a turned-off, unopened oven for another hour, and chill it for at least four hours. It’s a lot of “down-time,” but you can’t really go run errands while your oven is on, so plan on staying home and babysitting this one for a significant amount of time.
Chocolate- Strawberry Cheesecake
1 lb fresh strawberries
2 cups white sugar
1 cup water
9 oz chocolate graham crackers
one stick (8 tblspn) unsalted butter
32 oz (4 pckgs) cream cheese
1.5 cups white sugar
1 tspn salt
1 cup sour cream
11 oz good-quality baking chocolate, as dark as you like
additional strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced, for garnish.
Begin with your berries: With the 2 cups sugar and the 1 cup water, make simple syrup by bringing the mixture to boil in a saucepan until dissolved and combined. Hull and half the washed 1lb of berries, and toss in the simple syrup. Arrange on a lined baking sheet, and roast at 300F for an hour and a half. Try not to eat them straight from the oven. Cool in the fridge for about an hour, then puree them – I used my mini-chopper but a blender would probably actually work better.
Meanwhile, raise your oven temp to 325F and monitor it for awhile to make sure it holds a steady temp. Take your graham crackers, and turn them into graham crumbs (as I have previously mentioned, I like beating them into submission with a rolling pin, but a mini-chop or food processor also works.) Melt your butter over LOW heat in a saucepan, and mix it into the crumbs until just moistened. Press the mixture into an even, condensed, crust-like layer in the bottom of a 9-in springform pan, and bake at 325F for about 10 min. Remove from oven and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, 1.5 cup sugar, and salt until combined and smooth. (Martha calls for a food processor, but I don’t have one. Stand mixers are also popular, but I don’t have one of those either. I used a hand mixer, and in addition to it working fine, I also got a nice upper-arm workout.) Meanwhile, in a double boiler, melt your chocolate until smooth. Beat eggs and sour cream into cream cheese mixture. Beat in melted chocolate, and continue to beat until thoroughly mixed and smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula to get all the stubborn bits.
Pour the mixture onto the crust in the springform pan. With a spatula, or a spoon, or really whatever you think will make the prettiest designs and least mess, spiral the strawberry puree into the batter in the pan, making swirls and patterns and whatnot.
Bake until just set, at 325F, without opening the door too much because that will make the cake crack on top, about 1 hour, maybe a little more. Turn your oven off, and allow the cheesecake to slowly cool in the oven, without opening the door or messing with it, for another hour. Remove from oven and cool to room temp on a wire rack, then transfer to the fridge and chill for at least four hours.
Top with hulled, washed, sliced fresh strawberries for a pretty and fruity touch.