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Operation Birthday Cake: White Chocolate Cheesecake

whitechoccheesecake2This is one of those things that I make that I don’t actually eat. Sure, I’ve licked a spatula on its way to the sink, but I’ve never had a piece myself. Regular cheesecake is on my list of “Will Cause Ugly Death” food items so this version, with its chocolate cookie crust, impossibly rich white chocolate center, and deep dark ganache top is DEFINITELY verboten. But, I continue to make it as it is quite the show stopper.

And, in offering to bake the cake for a good friend celebrating his birthday with a brunch at the Tabard Inn this past weekend, I definitely needed a showstopper. A man of distinguished tastes, big ambitions, and prodigious appetites, his birthday cake would have to be something hardcore decadent. Initially, the word was “chocolate”. Good to go. But he got extra points for amending that to “WHITE chocolate” in deference to his lovely wife. And with that, I knew this was it, THE birthday cake for Big Daddy. Perfect.

As is fitting for such a serious dessert, the preparations are no joke. The cake spends almost six hours in the oven and needs to chill for another 13, so this is a definite d0-ahead deal. Even with the helpful reminder I have Post-it-ed into the cookbook, I  still managed to find myself pulling this baby out of the oven at 2am on Saturday morning. But that’s mostly because I am an idiot. Also, ain’t nobody going to get a cracked cheesecake from  me. EVER. There’s also the matter of making the cookies and grinding them up for the crust. I suppose you could use those plain Nabisco chocolate wafers, but in for a penny in for a pound, I say.

whitechoccheesecake1White Chocolate Cheesecake
Marcel Desaulniers, Death By Chocolate
Serves 12

Chocolate Cookie Crust
3 tbs unsalted butter; divided: 1 tbs softened, 2 tbs melted
10 Deep Dark Chocolate Fudge Cookies (to make 2 1/2 c crumbs)

White Chocolate Cheesecake
18 oz white chocolate
1/2 c heavy cream
1 3/4 lbs cream cheese, softened
1 c granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
6 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache
1/3 c heavy cream
1 tbs unsalted butter
1 tbs sugar
3 oz semisweet chocolate

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Coat the inside of a 9″ x 3″ springform pan with 1 tbs butter.

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, chop the cookies in two batches. Pulse each batch until all the cookies are in crumbs (this should yield about 2 1/2 c crumbs), 10 to 15 seconds. Transfer the crumbs to a stainless steel bowl. Combine the cookie crumbs with the 2 tablespoons melted buter. Mix by hand until the crumbs bind together. Press the crumbs around the buttered sides of the springform pan, then onto the buttered bottom of the pan. Place the pan in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Heat 1′ of water in the bottom half of a double boiler over medium-high heat. Place the white chocolate and 1/2 c heavy cream in the top half of the double boiler. Tightly cover the top with film wrap. Allow to heat for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and stir until smooth. Set aside until needed.

Place the softened (MUST be adequately softened) cream cheese, 1 c sugar, and the salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted woth a paddle. Beat on low for 1 minute, on medium for 1 minute, and on high for 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl. Add the eggs, 2 at a time, beating on medium for 15 seconds after adding, and scrape down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and the melted chocolate mixture, then beat on medium for 15 seconds. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Use a rubber spatula to finishg miuxing the batter until it iis smooth and thoroughly combined. Pour the cheesecake mixture into the prepared springform pan, spreading evenly.

Place a lipped baking sheet partially filled with 4 c hot water on the bottom rack of the oven (at least 3″ below the center rack). Placed the springform pan on the center rack of the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 250 degrees F and bake for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 225 degrees F and bake for 15 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 200 degrees F and bake the cheesecake until the internal temperature of the cheesecake reaches 170 degrees F, about 2 hrs and 45 min. Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to remain undisturbed in the oven for an additional 2 hrs. Remove cheesecake from oven and cool at room temperature for 1 hour. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 hours.

After the cheesecake has been refrigerated for 12 hours, prepare the chocolate ganache. Heat 1/3 c heavy cream, 1 tbs butter, and 1 tbs sugar in a 1 1/2 qt sauce pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Place the semisweet chocolate in a stainless steel bowl. Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 3 to 4 min.  Stir until smooth. Pour over the top of the chilled cheesecake. Use an offset spatula to spread the ganache evenly over the top of the cake, being careful not to spread it over the edge and down the sides of the cheese cake. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to set.

The cheesecake can now be released from the springform pan. To do this, wrap a damp, hot, cotton towel around the sides of the pan and hold it around the pan for about 1 minute. Carefully release and remove the springform pan. Use a serrated knife to trim the crust level with the cake.  (Trim the crust away from the cake so that it does not fall into the ganache.)

To serve, use a serrated slicer, running under hot water and drying between each slice.

Desaulniers, Marcel. Death By Chocolate: The Last Word on a Consuming Passion. (New York: Rizzoli) 2003.

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