Valentine’s Day seems to be dedicated primarily to all those who gave up chocolate on January 1st and who are beginning to miss it big time. It’s permission in the form of an official holiday to delve back into your chocolate stash (if you still have one) or make something extraordinarily over the top to share with those you love. If you’re going to celebrate the day with chocolate, make sure it’s not the waxy packaged chocolate hearts – get yourself some good stuff. White chocolate isn’t technically chocolate, but its creaminess lends itself well to a cheesecake.
The key to a nice, creamy cheesecake is to not overbake it – it should be slightly jiggly in the middle when you take it from the oven. Humidity helps keep the top from cracking – some bakers spray water into the oven as it heats or toss a few ice cubes into a pan slid onto the bottom rack to melt, evaporate and add humidity as the cheesecake bakes; I keep the temperature low and run a thin knife around the edge as soon as it comes out, then leave it to cool with the sides of the springform pan still intact – don’t take the ring off until your cake is completely cool, or it will stick to the sides and break in the middle. If you do experience cracks, a sour cream glaze is a quick cure, or simply cover the whole thing with fresh berries – they disguise all imperfections.
Creamy white chocolate cheesecake is fab on its own, but is easily dolled up with fresh berries tossed with a little sugar, caramel sauce, or a drizzle of caramel or hot fudge sauce. Yum.
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (or chocolate wafer crumbs)
3 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. sugar
6 oz. white chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 lb (three 8 oz/250 g packages) cream cheese, regular or light, or a combination
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. vanilla
3 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
To make the crust, combine the graham crumbs, butter, and sugar and press the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan that has been sprayed lightly with nonstick spray. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then set it aside. Turn the oven up to 425°F. Melt the white chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave, or in a glass or stainless steel bowl set over simmering water. Set aside to cool slightly.
To make the filling, beat the cream cheese in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar, flour and vanilla and beat it again, just until it’s smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Beat in the melted chocolate. Pour the batter over the crust.
Bake the cheesecake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 250°F and continue to bake for another 30-35 minutes. You can tell when the cheesecake is done when it’s barely firm around the edges and the center is just slightly jiggly. It will firm up as it cools. Immediately run a thin knife around the edge to loosen it from the pan, but allow it to cool completely and then refrigerate it for at least an hour before you remove the sides of the springform pan.
Slice with a sharp knife dipped in hot water, then wiped dry before each slice. Serves 16.