Decadent Triple-Chocolate Cheesecake
The original recipe for this delectable dessert came from a Hershey's cookbook, and we make it a little differently every time. You will need a good springform pan (round cake pan with removable sides) to make this cheesecake. Gentlemen, take note: the ladies will be so impressed that you can actually make cheesecake...just don't tell them it only has 9 ingredients! However, please don't make this for the first time when you do have someone to impress, since it takes a little practice. Be merciful to yourself. And don't even THINK about substituting low-fat dairy in this recipe. Attempting a low-fat cheesecake completely defeats the purpose of this creamy decadence.
For the crust:
1 box (9 ounces) vanilla wafer cookies, finely crushed
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup cocoa powder
For the filling:
3 packages (8 ounces each) whole-fat cream cheese (low-fat doesn't work here, tried it once with ghastly results)
1/3 cup white sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 bag (12 ounces) Guittard 55% cacao bittersweet baking wafers/chips
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream (half-and-half will not do)
9-inch springform pan with removable glass bottom
Baking sheet centered under cheesecake on lowest rack of oven, to catch drips
Place the wrapped cream cheese blocks in a bowl of lukewarm water on the counter, and allow to warm up to room temperature (about 20 minutes). Place cookies in a ziplock bag and pound them with a clean rubber mallet, or the blunt end of a rolling pin, until very finely crushed. Try not to eat all the vanilla wafers while performing this step (cheesecake does taste better WITH a crust, after all).
To make the crust, melt the butter in a glass dish in the microwave for 30 seconds (or less). Cover it with a napkin so that when the butter explodes from overheating (which it invariably does), you will not spend the next week wiping butter globs out of the microwave. Place the cookie crumbs in a medium mixing bowl, and gently stir in the melted butter and cocoa powder, forming a nice crumbly mixture. The texture should be such that you can make little balls out of it when you pinch it between your fingers...too dry, and you won't be able to press it into the pan to form the crust.
Snap the latch shut on the side of the springform pan, and gently press the cookie mixture with your fingertips into the ungreased pan. Cover the bottom completely, then press some of the crumbly mixture up the sides of the pan (about halfway up, not all the way to the rim of the pan). Set aside.
Now for the filling, for which you will need two large mixing bowls, one of them glass and the other (preferably) attached to a stand mixer. Place the softened cream cheese (NEVER start with chilly cream cheese straight of the refrigerator) and sugar in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, and using the flat beater attachment, beat on medium-high speed until soft and creamy, about 2 minutes. If you don't have a stand mixer, you can use a large mixing bowl and cream the cheese and sugar with a pastry cutter, and then stir until the mixture is smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each. Add vanilla and stir in. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl really well at this point to make sure all ingredients are incorporated: once you add the cream, you have to beat very gently, and be careful not to over-stir. Add the cream right at the end, and mix until just incorporated...DO NOT over-beat: the end result will be a dense, heavy cheesecake similar to a brick once chilled. If this happens to you, don't despair. You can still eat it, and it will taste fine...just warm up the slices in the microwave for about 10 seconds before serving.
In the microwave, melt the chocolate baking wafters/chips on low in a large glass bowl for about 1 1/2 minutes (or use a double-boiler to do the trick). Don't melt them to the point of liquid goo: you want the chocolate about 3/4 of the way melted, with some pieces still mostly whole, but melted to the point where you can stir them easily. Stir until the mixture is nice and smooth, sort of like fudge.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Note: at this point, you can take a short-cut and gently stir all the chocolate chips into the cream cheese batter, but I can't vouch for this method since when I tried it, it turned out really dense. Will try again and let you know what happens.
Pour about 1 1/2 cups of the white cheesecake batter into the glass bowl of smooth, melted chocolate, and stir to combine thoroughly (no streaks left). Spoon 2 cups of this new chocolate chip-cream cheese mixture into the springform pan (on top of the cookie crust), spreading evenly with a spatula. This makes up the bottom, darkest chocolate layer of the cheesecake.
Next, mix another 1 1/2 cups of the white cheesecake batter into the remaining chocolate chip-cream cheese mixture, pouring another 2 cups of this lighter-colored batter on top of the first layer of very dark chocolate cheesecake. Spread so that it's evenly distributed. This makes your middle, medium chocolate layer.
Finally, mix the last of the white cheesecake batter into the remaining chocolate cream-cheese mixture. This produces an airy, cappuccino-colored top layer for your cheesecake. Spread on smoothly with the spatula.
Place the cheesecake in the oven, and center a baking sheet on the oven rack beneath it to catch any drips (it tends to drip while baking, and this will make a big, smoky mess in your oven). Bake for 40 minutes, then remove from the oven and check for doneness. You want it to be fully set: tap the top of the cheesecake lightly with your fingernail (it will be firm and not jiggly). If your fingertip sticks to the top of the cheesecake, it isn't ready yet. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes at a time if not fully baked.
When done, remove from the oven and immediately use the little plastic spatula that comes with the cheesecake pan to gently loosen the cookie crust all the way around. Place the pan on a large serving plate or cake stand. Let the cheesecake rest for about 5 minutes, then unlatch the pan and remove the round sides from the cake, leaving it resting on the separate glass bottom of the springform pan (which is now on top of your serving plate--this can have the tendency to slide around if you pick the whole thing up, so don't make your pet's day by tipping the whole thing off onto the kitchen floor).
At this point, you meet your biggest challenge of cheesecake-making: not slicing right into it. Cutting a warm cheesecake can ruin the texture, so cover loosely with plastic wrap, propping the wrap up with four toothpicks stuck into the cheesecake (otherwise the plastic will stick the top of the warm cake). Allow the cheesecake to chill in the refrigerator for several hours (preferably overnight, if you are a master of delayed gratification). Once it has completely chilled, you will want to cover it more tightly with plastic wrap, to prevent the cheesecake from drying out in the fridge.