Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Layers of Awesomeness, Goodness, Amazing, & Incredible

Sometimes you see a recipe and want to make it… but it looks so daunting.  I threw caution to the wind on this one.  I had a hunch our dinner hosts would appreciate every last layer of this cheese cake.  In fact – Matt said “The layers are as follows: Awesomeness, Goodness, Amazing, & Incredible.”  I’m going with that is a good review.
I’m a lazy crust maker.  I could have gotten the food chopper out.  Could.  You see… it’s in the cabinet above the fridge.  I have to get a stool, take everything down, get it out, put all the stuff back…  Then use it, dishwash it… then get the stool, take everything off the fridge again, put it away… put everything back.  Yeah… you see where this is going?  Using a ziplock back and a rolling a glass on top of it worked just as well.  It was extra chunky – but in all that’s smooth creaminess… some chunky cookies are great.
While I’m usually a stickler for things when baking… this time – eh… forgot to have the eggs room temperature for the cheese cake layer… they worked fine cold.  When I took the “water bath” out of the oven?  Said water was gone!  Chocolate – use what you have and what you like… expensive?  Eh… not worth it in my opinion.  Sure go crazy if you want to – I use Aldi Semi-Sweet Chocolate chips… they worked tasted great.

Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake

Layer 1: Oreo Cookie Crust
30-32 Oreo cookies (or chocolate sandwich cookies) for a high crust
4 Tbsp unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted
Crush cookies in a food processor or in a ziploc bag with a rolling pin or mallet. In a bowl or food processor, pour melted butter on top of the crushed cookies and mix or pulse well. Place the oreo mixture at the bottom of a springform pan. Smooth out the mixture with the bottom of a measuring cup or glass. Wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil. Place the crust in the freezer while you make the cheesecake.

Layer 2: Cheesecake
For the cheesecake:
1 pound (two 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature (or not if you forget to take them out of the fridge.)
2/3 cup heavy cream
Put a kettle or pot of water on to boil. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Working in a stand mixer (or large bowl with hand mixer), preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is soft for about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt, and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition to yield a well-aerated batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and stir in the heavy cream. 
Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that nothing has been left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape the batter into the springform pan. Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour the boiling water into the roaster to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 15-30 minutes, at which point the top will be lightly browned and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven's heat, and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to sit in its water bath for another hour.

After 1 hour, carefully pull the roast pan/springform pan setup out of the oven, lift the springform pan out of the roaster—be careful, there may be some hot water in the aluminum foil—remove the foil. (that may be the only place there is any water left.)  Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.

When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and chill the cake for at least 4 hours or overnight. Make the mousse once the cheesecake has cooled.

Layer 3: Chocolate Mousse
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used semi-sweet chocolate chips)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream, cold
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl, and place over a saucepan containing barely simmering water. Melt the chocolate and butter together and stir with a whisk until smooth. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Add the egg yolks to the chocolate, one by one, beating with a whisk until incorporated. Set aside.
In another bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, and continue to beat. Gradually whisk in 1/4 cup sugar, and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
Beat heavy cream in a chilled bowl with chilled beaters until it begins to foam and thicken up. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and vanilla. Continue to whip the cream until it holds soft peaks.
Gradually and gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Then, delicately fold in the whipped cream. Take care not over work the mousse but make sure you blend in the cream well. Place the mousse on top of the cooled cheesecake while still in the springform pan.

Cover the mousse cheesecake with foil, being careful to not let it touch the mousse. If making the ganache immediately, place mousse-covered cheesecake in the freezer as you make the ganache (the cheesecake should NOT be in the freezer for more than 30 minutes). If making the ganache later, place the cheesecake in the refrigerator for a few hours. Either way, the ganache must be cool before you can pour it on top of the cheesecake.

Top layer: Ganache

1/2 cup heavy cream
4.5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Heat it up just before it boils. Pour the cream over the chocolate in a glass bowl.  Let sit for 3 minutes.  Stir the mixture until smooth. Stir in the vanilla extract. Allow the ganache to cool for about 15 minutes before pouring the mixture on top of the mousse cheesecake.

Spoon ganache on top of the mousse layer making sure not to overflow the springform pan. 

Left overs of cheesecake can be frozen in individual portions.  Freeze slices, wrap in parchment paper and save for a day when you need a chocolate fix.

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