CHEESECAKE: Love it or loathe it.
For years I loved it and my man loathed it. But that was before I overdosed on restaurant cheesecake and he got a taste of my homemade version.
In my slim-waisted youth I was crazy for the stuff and would eat a slice every chance I’d get. Those chances were plentiful in my hometown, the signature city of Philadelphia Cream Cheese: from neighborhood diners to fancy-pants restaurants, bar mitzvahs to bar menus, cheesecake was the dessert of choice.
My romantic attachment to cheesecake cooled considerably after I moved to Alaska, where for seven years I waited tables, charged with the daily duty of slicing cakes baked by a New York-expat who knew what a real cheesecake should taste like.
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His cakes — slightly tart, creamy textured — were perfection, though somehow, as I took a knife to one, cutting it in half, then in quarters and (dipping the blade in hot water then wiping it with a cloth) sliced each quarter into thirds, I always managed to “accidentally” ruin a piece.
Guess who got to eat it?
A year into the job, I never wanted to see a cheesecake again and took a lengthy cheesecake-eating hiatus. Then I met Alaska Joe, a geologist by trade and a gem in the kitchen.
I’d have married Joe for his cheesecake recipe — had he not already tied the knot with one of my best friends.
Joe’s chocolate cheesecake taught me how to love again, and it was his recipe that later turned my husband’s head — and won his heart. Built on a bed of chocolate-cookie crumbles, it’s since won the hearts of many.
For Cupid’s Sake Chocolate Cheesecake
For the crust
1½ packages Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers (available in the cookie section of most large supermarkets)
8 tablespoons (¼ pound) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
For the filling
12 ounces semisweet baking chocolate, broken up
2 tablespoons butter
1½ pounds (three 8-ounce bricks) Philadelphia Cream Cheese, room temperature
1½ cups whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
¼ cup strong-brewed coffee
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. To prepare the crust: In a food processor, pulse chocolate wafers into fine crumbs, or use a zip-top bag and a rolling pin. Mix the crumbs with melted butter and press into a 9- or 10-inch springform pan.
3. To prepare the filling: In a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, melt the chocolate and 2 tablespoons butter together; stir to incorporate. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the cream cheese on medium-low speed till smooth. Scrape down the bowl and slowly add melted chocolate/butter, stopping to scrape as necessary.
4. Beat in whipping cream and vanilla extract, then slowly add sugar, scraping the bowl between additions. Add eggs one at a time, then slowly add coffee, beating until smooth.
5. Carefully pour batter into the cookie-crusted pan. Turn the pan several times to settle. Place the cheesecake on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Turn oven down to 325 degrees and continue baking 30 minutes more for a total of 1 hour. (At this point, the cake may look a bit custardy in the center. That’s OK. Turn off the oven, partly open the oven door and leave the cheesecake in the oven until the cake cools. Once cool, cover and chill for at least four hours.
Nancy Leson is The Seattle Times’ food writer. Reach her at email@example.com. Genevieve Alvarez is a Times staff videographer.