Let me explain. The store was out of those Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers typically used to make crumb crusts and my husband coyly suggested I use Chocolate Teddy Grahams instead. (He has a soft spot for those chemistry sets of a baked good; I allow them into our apartment only for malicious purposes.) I had to admit that they’d be a decent substitute. Plus, we could have some fun while we were at it.
And, oh, what fun we had.
In the end, they made a surprisingly tasty crust, but the cheesecake stole the show, as cheesecake is wont to do. And I know, I know, everyone’s got a chocolate cheesecake recipe that they or their cousin-in-law swears by, but I’m going have to, yet again, brashly step forward and pronounce this one better than all of them. I’m that gauche. It’s not the teddy bears, though, or the chocolate: it’s the caramelized sugar. That’s the real brilliance of this recipe, as it gets you wondering why you’ve been adding plain old sugar to cakes when you could have first cooked it into a toastier, richer syrup? The taste difference is noticeable in its depth. There’s something more there, even if people can’t immediately place it, and for me at least, that tucking of superior flavors into typical foods is one of my favorite parts about cooking.
Making caramel is a chore, especially this one as it demands you break down the sugar twice. But this small inconvenience is all trouble the cake will bring you. The rest is painfully simple: chocolate, sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Be warned, however: this is not a cake you get away with only making once. In fact, a certain Teddy Graham-loving husband of mine has really not shut up about it since, so for his birthday last week, I went at it again. This time, no teddy bears were harmed but as much as it pains me to admit this, I think they made for a better crust. Must be that day’s supply of calcium.
Cheesecake, elsewhere: Key Lime Cheesecake, Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake, Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake, Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Squares, Black-Bottomed Cupcakes (with a cheesecake filling) and Cream Cheese Marbled Brownies.
Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake
Recipe adapted from Epicurious.com
Serves 8 to 10
1 crumb crust (recipe below)
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
8 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Make crumb crust as directed in separate recipe, using chocolate wafer cookies instead of graham crackers.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cook sugar in a dry heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring slowly with a fork, until melted and pale golden. Cook caramel without stirring, swirling pan, until deep golden. Remove from heat and carefully add heavy cream (mixture will vigorously steam and caramel will harden). Cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until caramel is dissolved. Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate until smooth. Stir in sour cream.
Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy, then beat in chocolate mixture on low speed. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla, beating on low speed until each ingredient is incorporated and scraping down bowl between additions.
Put springform pan with crust in a shallow baking pan. Pour filling into crust and bake in baking pan (to catch drips) in middle of oven 55 minutes, or until cake is set 3 inches from edge but center is still slightly wobbly when pan is gently shaken.
Run a knife around top edge of cake to loosen and cool completely in springform pan on a rack. (Cake will continue to set as it cools.) Chill cake, loosely covered, at least 6 hours. Remove side of pan and transfer cake to a plate. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Do ahead: Cheesecake keeps, covered and chilled, 1 week.
Recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine
I actually double crumb crusts; I can never get enough cookie.
Makes enough for a 24 centimeter cheesecake.
1 1/2 cups (5 ounces) finely ground cookies such as chocolate wafers
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Stir together crust ingredients and press onto bottom and 1 inch up side of a buttered 24-centimeter springform pan. Fill right away or chill up to 2 hours.