When your pregnant sister calls and invites you over for dinner on Valentine's Day, and she requests a cheesecake, you had better make a fantastic cheesecake. And since it's Valentine's Day, the scourge of single ladies everywhere, you'd better include a heavy dose of chocolate. And just for the heck of it, you might as well throw some bourbon in, too, because everything is better dowsed with alcohol, right? Well, I managed to hit all three green lights with this doozy of a dessert. You'll probably want to cut the pieces small unless you really enjoy having a stomachache, because this is one rich piece of V-Day luxuriousness.
Note: I used Ghirardelli 70% bittersweet chocolate, as my local store was out of Scharffen Berger. I used Valrhona for the cocoa. I couldn't find the usual Nabisco chocolate wafers, so I substituted with some chocolate Moravian wafers. You could also use Oreos with the filling removed. I used Maker's Mark for the bourbon. No one will know if you snag some on the side. Chef's prerogative.
Deep Dark Chocolate Cheesecake
Adapted from Bon Appétit magazine, October 2006
24 chocolate wafer cookies (from one 9-ounce package)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
¼ cup (½ stick) butter, melted
10 ounces high-quality 70% bittersweet chocolate
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup whipping cream
6 ounces high-quality 70% bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Chocolate curls (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 3-inch-high sides. Blend cookies in processor until finely ground; blend in sugar. Add melted butter and process until well blended. Press crumbs evenly onto bottom (not sides) of prepared pan. Bake just until set, about 5 minutes. Cool while preparing filling. Maintain oven temperature.
Stir chopped chocolate in metal bowl set over saucepan of simmering water until melted and smooth. Mix in espresso powder. Remove bowl from over water; cool chocolate until lukewarm but still pourable.
Prepare a water bath: wrap the springform pan in a large piece of heavy duty foil, making sure all edges reach the top of the pan. Set the pan in a large baking pan and pour water around the pan until it reaches about halfway up the side of the springform pan. Make sure none of the water gets between the foil and the springform pan, or the crust will be soggy.
Blend cream cheese, sugar, and cocoa powder in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until smooth. Blend in eggs 1 at a time. Mix in vanilla extract. Mix in lukewarm chocolate. Pour filling over crust; smooth top. Bake until center is just set and just appears dry, about 1 hour.
Turn off the oven and crack the door. Let cheesecake cool in the oven for an hour. Remove from the oven and remove the springform pan from the water bath. Run knife around sides of cake to loosen. Chill overnight.
Stir cream, 6 ounces chocolate, and sugar in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until smooth. Cool slightly. Pour over center of cheesecake, spreading to within ½-inch of edge and filling any cracks. Chill until topping is set, about 1 hour. Do ahead: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover with foil and keep refrigerated.
Release pan sides. Transfer cheesecake to platter. Top with chocolate curls, if desired. Let stand 2 hours at room temperature before serving.
Bourbon Cherry Sauce
Adapted from Michael Symon
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 cinnamon stick
½ vanilla bean, split and beans scraped, OR ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup water
In a saucepan over medium heat, add the cherries, sugar, cornstarch, bourbon, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, lemon juice, and water. Bring to a gentle boil, then simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cherries are bursting and the sauce is thickened. Remove from the heat to cool.