Someone asked me recently what my cooking style is. While I can’t claim to be as specific as “Italian cuisine” or “healthy cooking,” I think my style is best described as working with ingredients and ideas that inspire me. Take this recipe for dark chocolate cheesecake with cherry mousse.
The process started after I bought sour cherries on a whim and was having a difficult time deciding how to use them. I’d already made a cherry crumble this summer and I just haven’t been feeling very pie-y. So I decided to think outside the box (sorry, term leftover from my PR days) and came up with cherry mousse.
The original idea was to fill white chocolate cupcakes with cherry mousse but I wasn’t thrilled with how the cupcakes turned out. They had great flavor but the texture was a bit off. And they weren’t real chocolate. I guess that’s what I get for breaking my self-imposed no-white-chocolate-because-it’s-not-really-chocolate rule.
Rather than attempt the cupcakes again, I decided to switch gears and go with real chocolate. The question was should I make cupcakes again or try something different. After spending way too much time thinking about how to use the cherry mousse (we’re talking half a day of indecision here, SO not normal) I finally settled on dark chocolate cheesecake because The Flavor Bible okayed the combination of cherries, dark chocolate and cream cheese. And I do whatever The Flavor Bible says.
The result was incredible. I splurged on high-end chocolate (Scharffen Berger 70% bittersweet cocoa bar) which made for a rich and creamy cheesecake. Its smooth, light texture contrasted perfectly with the crispy chocolate wafer crust and the sweet, bright flavor of the cherry mousse balanced the richness of the cheesecake to create a perfect bite.
Dark chocolate cheesecake with cherry mousse equals optimum summer decadence. That, my friends, is my cooking style.
Here’s the recipe:
Dark Chocolate Cheesecake, adapted from Bon Appetit, October 2006
25 chocolate wafer cookies (about 6 ounces)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
7 ounces 70% bittersweet cocoa (use 4 of the 5 sections of a 9.7 oz Scharffen Berger bar), chopped
24 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 350°F and assemble a 9-inch spring form pan.
To make the crust, combine the wafer cookies and sugar in a food processor and pulse until the cookies are finely ground. Pour in the melted butter and pulse until well-blended. Press the crumbs in an even layer on the bottom of the spring form pan and bake until set, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool but keep the oven on.
To make the filling, begin by melting the chocolate in a double broiler: Place the chopped chocolate into a heat-proof bowl. Fill a pot 1/4 of the way full with water and set it over medium heat. Set the bowl over the pot but be sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Stir the chocolate every few minutes until melted. Remove the bowl from the pot and cool slightly.
Combine the cream cheese, sugar and cocoa powder in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, then pour in the melted chocolate. Mix until well-combined and pour the cheesecake batter over the crust in the spring form pan. Bake the cheesecake until set and a skewer inserted into the center comes out mostly clean (it’s alright if it collects a small amount of batter), about 60 to 70 minutes.
Cool the cheesecake for 10 minutes then use a knife to loosen the cake from the sides. Let sit 1o minutes longer then remove the ring from the pan. Refrigerate the cheesecake at least 4 hours up to overnight.
Use a vegetable peeler to create small shavings from the leftover chocolate bar. Spread the cherry mousse evenly over the top of the cheesecake and garnish with chocolate shavings.
1 cup (6 ounces) stemmed and pitted sour cherries
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin
4 teaspoons cold water
4 ounces heavy cream
Puree the pitted cherries in a food processor until smooth then combine in a small saucepan with the sugar and vanilla. Cook over medium-low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve.
Dissolve the gelatin in the cold water and let sit for 5 minutes. Mix it into the hot cherry mixture then chill until thick but not set, about 1 1/2 hours.
Beat the heavy cream using a whisk attachment until it holds its shape, about 6 to 8 minutes. Fold the whipped cream into the cherry mixture and refrigerate until ready to use. The mousse can be made up to two days in advance. Let the chilled mousse sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before spreading over the cheesecake.