Monday, 9 April 2012

Desserts - Double Chocolate Cheesecake


[My own Double Chocolate Cheesecake with an unconventional thick base, 'cause I want it that way]
Being a Gujarati, means you're born with two things - one - a sharp business mind, that is never put to rest, seeing money and profits everywhere, and second - an undying love for food that dies with you, sometimes causing your death, thanks to the various lifestyle diseases that you have accumulated with each rich yummy bite. And being a Gujarati and Jain, the latter only in name now, also implies that you are going to be pure vegetarians, if there can be something like impure too! I mean come on, you're either on this side of the fence or that, you can't be a fence-sitter when it comes to vegetarianism; eggetarians or ovo-vegetarians are in effect non-vegetarians. Anyway, we find it difficult, not so much in India, but most certainly abroad, to find food that does not contain animal products or eggs or gelatin, not to mention the language barrier there, and the fact that different countries have varying definitions of vegetarianism, considering eggs, gelatin, and some even fish to be vegetarian, just because it is white meat! When it comes to non-Indian desserts, it is next to impossible to find vegetarian ones, even in India. Eggs are an indispensable ingredient in nearly all desserts and so is gelatin, acting as a strong binding agent. The new "Egg Replacers" are like a breath of fresh air, an ingredient which is made from no animal products, and does what eggs do in traditional desserts, lending a rich creamy texture and holding the ingredients together; but they are not available everywhere and cost a lot. Inevitably, we always end up making desserts at home or going to those select few patisseries, bakeries and restaurants where we are certain we shall be served what we need.

Since the last couple of years, cooking seems to have interested me, and having a tongue that appreciates all flavours and foods, it is always convenient if you can whip something up for yourself. So here is my first recipe on the blog, for a Double Chocolate Cheesecake, which I have adapted from the recently launched GoodFood India magazine's March 2012 issue. The magazine, which is from the BBC group, which has some amazing recipes and being the Indian version, has a wider variety of vegetarian and spicy dishes.

General Information
 Serves: 8
 Preparation Time: 30 minutes
 Difficulty Level: Easy

Ingredients
 Cream Cheese: 300 g (The most commonly available ones are Zanetti and Arla Buko)
[Tip: Don't try to use the Cream Cheesespread, it has a high salt content and other ingredients, that you do not need.]
 Marcarpone Cheese: 200 g (Again the Zanetti one is easily available)
 Digestive Biscuits: 150 g (I used the Brittania NutriChoice Hi Fibre Digestive Biscuits)
 Unsalted/White Butter (Melted): 75 g (The one by Parsi Dairy Farm is the most commonly available Unsalted/White variant)
[Tip: Since it is a dessert, avoid using Salted Butter, but if you can't find Unsalted, it you can use the Salted one as well.]
 Milk Chocolate (Melted): 300 g
 Dark Chocolate (Melted): 100 g
[Note: The higher the cocoa content, the darker and more grown-up the flavour of the chocolate, that is to say it will taste that much bitter.]
(One of the best quality chocolate slabs is of Selbourne, or you can also use Morde or Marco, in that order, and their prices and quality also decrease in that order.)
 Springform Tin: 1 (Not a necessity, but having one makes it so much easier to serve the cheesecake the way it is set, rather than having to turn it upside down or trying weird methods to extract the cheesecake intact from the container.)

Method
 Mix the Cream Cheese with the Marcarpone in a container and continue until you have achieved a homogenous mixture. There may appear some tiny lumps in the mixture like some lumps of curd in buttermilk or cream in milk, but it will not affect the taste of the cheesecake. The lumps are primarily due to the cheeses not mixing well; you may use a wooden spatula to beat it well or an egg-beater, but using the latter may be going overboard a bit, as it could alter the taste of the cheese. The mix should taste like a cross between mild curd and your breakfast cheesespread.
[Tips Do not drain out the water that the cheese may have let out as it helps in mixing the cheeses (Is the plural of cheese cheese or cheeses?).
 I like tasting every different ingredient to get acquaint myself with new tastes and combinations and appreciating every ingredient at different stages, and would recommend the same, especially if you are a novice like me, so that you can identify what went wrong, if god forbid anything does go wrong.]

 In another bowl, crush/grind the digestive biscuits and evenly add to that the unsalted butter which should be melted until it appears runny and watery.
[Tips Do not pour the melted butter all in one place, as it gets absorbed by the biscuits pretty quickly and would result in lumps in some places, leaving the rest devoid of any butter; add it evenly, trying to cover all the areas.
 I would recommend grinding the biscuits with your hands as it gives the perfect texture for the base, not too finely ground and not too coarse, somewhere in between the two. In this particular case, hands work much better than a mixer grinder or mortar and pestle. However, it must be kept in mind that grinding with my hands took the most time in this recipe, so if you are a little pressed for time, use the machine.
 If your base does not seem to hold together, it is better to add some more melted butter to it.]

 Press the biscuit mixture into the base of a springform tin. I used one that was 8½ inches or 21½ centimetres in diameter. Also, I like a thicker crust, so I added more of the mixture and increasing its height to 1 centimetre, but ¼ to ½ of a centimetre crust is usually the norm. The thicker bases separate later. To avoid this, increase the butter content or go for a thinner base, as a thinner base will stick well to the cheese-chocolate mix.

 Slowly, fold the milk chocolate into the cheese mix and then also add the dark chocolate. Try to not mix it evenly, so that the mixture looks streaky and within each bite there is an explosion of flavours.
[Tip• I prefer to mix it evenly and then do make the top of the cheesecake streaky, by adding separately an unevenly mixed layer.]

[Well my top layer might not look like the picture below, but I'm sure it tastes just as good!]
[An extract from the March 2012 issue of the GoodFood magazine. This is how mine should have looked; I got the texture, but not the colour. Maybe next time...]
 Spoon the mixture into the tin and level the top, trying to make it streaky. If you're using my last mentioned tip, just add the separately mixed streaky mix here and try to make random patterns and not an evenly levelled layer.
[Tip: • My top layer did not look like the one in the picture, no matter how hard I tried. I think next time, I ought to first layer the top with the cheese mix, then add the melted milk chocolate in a few places and lastly the dark chocolate. If the chocolate seems too viscous, add a little melted unsalted butter to it and mix it evenly, as it lends a certain liquidity to the chocolate, which wouldn't be retained on freezing.]

 Keep the container to chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. It is better if it left for 4 hours or overnight.

→ The cheesecake is best served chilled.

Other Serving Options
[Whipped cream and caramel enhance the taste of any dessert. I just love it when the cream melts and dribbles down the cake like a waterfall, which crashes into a plunge pool of caramel.]
You can serve it with vanilla ice-cream or top it with whipped cream layered with caramel sauce (The Hershey's Caramel Syrup is just awesome!)

One slice of the cheesecake is also really filling, given the high fat content in the cream cheese and mascarpone cheese, so be prepared to exercise, as it is nigh impossible to keep your hands off it.
Happy cooking!

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