EASTER DESSERT – BAKED CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE

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Well, we’ve made it through the winter and suddenly spring sunshine has replaced the cold grey days of months past.  And Easter is upon us too. Traditionally, Easter symbolizes new beginnings and for me, in the kitchen, it’s a time to start thinking about lighter meals and pushing all thoughts of comfort food aside until the fall.

Easter Dessert - Baked Chocolate Cheesecake

When planning an Easter menu (I prefer a brunch or lunch over dinner so that we can perhaps even eat outside if the weather cooperates!), it’s hard sometimes to think about the perfect Easter dessert, given that it’s a time of the year when many households are already filled with all sorts of chocolate treats. Also, given that my oven is generally in use most of the day, filled with some sort of roasted meat or poultry and vegetables, I’m always looking out for a dessert I can make in advance so I’m not fussing about in the kitchen instead of enjoying my lunch and guests.  And I mean, who doesn’t want to look like the perfect host(ess) and emerge from the kitchen with a perfect looking dessert with seemingly no effort?

For me, a baked cheesecake fits the bill – it looks impressive and there’s something about a cheesecake that screams “spring” to me.  Best of all, it’s nearly a one bowl recipe, especially if you use your KitchenAid stand mixer. A dessert that’s fuss-free to prepare, is ideal for a large group and can be made the day before?  Perfect for Easter entertaining

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When you’re making a baked cheesecake, though, there are a few things to watch out for – namely, that the cheesecake doesn’t crack on top. I mean, you can always decorate it with some whipped cream or grated chocolate but the perfectionist in me always strives for a perfectly smooth top with no cracks.  So, how to make a baked cheesecake and ensure perfect results?  There are a few ways you can avoid cracking, some involving baking the cheesecake in a water bath, but I’ve found that with my new KitchenAid oven (a freestanding electric range), I haven’t had to resort to that technique (which can be a little fussy).  I find the Even-Heat™ Technology and True Convection System very beneficial for recipes requiring truly evenly dispersed heat and even cooking and baking, like a cheesecake, which makes my KitchenAid the best oven for these tasks.

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The trick is to bake the cheesecake on a fairly low heat for a long period of time, then to allow it to cool in the oven (with the oven door propped open). A baked cheesecake doesn’t like sudden temperature changes so this step is essential in preventing cracking on top.  It does mean that your oven will be out of commission for a few hours (3-4 including pre-heating and baking time) but the best baked cheesecake recipes (in terms of having a great “slice-able” texture) call for being made the day before you need them and refrigerating overnight for optimal results.

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Another reason a cheesecake is a great recipe for entertaining is because it’s so versatile in terms of flavours. I view a cheesecake as a blank canvas – a plain cheesecake can be fancied up with toppings or sauces, or the filling can be flavoured – the possibilities are endless. If like me, chocolate is your flavour of choice for an Easter dessert, keep in mind that the best cheesecake recipe is not too chocolately or overly sweet.  I’ve lightened this one up a little by using 0% plain Greek yoghurt as well as whipping cream so it’s not too heavy – a perfect way to end a leisurely Easter brunch/ lunch.

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Baked chocolate cheesecake

INGREDIENTS (makes 1x 9-inch cheesecake, serves 10-12)

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
58g (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
100g semi-sweet chocolate chips
500g cream cheese, room temperature
110g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
115g (1/2 cup) whipping cream
80g (1/4 cup) plain o% Greek yoghurt
Easter candy eggs, to decorate
Semi sweet chocolate, grated, to decorate

 

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325˚F convection bake.
Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan.
Mix the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter and press into the pan.
Bake crust for 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
Decrease oven temperature to 285˚F convection bake.
Melt the chocolate, either in a metal bowl set over a pan of boiling water (make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water) or in a microwave fro approximately 2-3 minutes at 50% power.
Allow the chocolate to cool – it doesn’t have to be completely cool when you add it to the cream cheese mix – in fact, if it’s a little lukewarm, the chocolate will harden into tiny grains, making for a more interesting texture and look. If you cool the chocolate completely you will have a smoother mixture with a more even colour. It depends on what you prefer!
Using the flat beater that comes with your stand mixer, beat the cream cheese, vanilla and the sugar until smooth.
Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add the cream and Greek yoghurt, mixing until combined.
Add the cooled (or slightly lukewarm) chocolate to the cream cheese mixture and continue to mix until just combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared springform pan, smoothing with a spatula to ensure the mixture is even in the pan.
Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 50-60 minutes, until the centre is just set (it will jiggle slightly!).
Turn of the oven and leave the cheesecake inside, with the door propped ajar slightly.
Allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven for approximately 2 hours. This will prevent major cracking on the top.
When the cheesecake is completely cool, remove from the springform pan (running a knife around the edge to loosen before you remove the outer ring) and refrigerate overnight.
Decorate with Easter candy eggs and grated semi-sweet chocolate.

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