Sunday, May 24, 2009

White Chocolate Cheesecake with Raspberries

The Italian Rabblerowser and her boyfriend, Christian, invited Boyfriend and I over for dinner. Since they were making us a fantastic (and what looked like elaborate) meal, I offered to make dessert. On a side note not related to the cheesecake, dinner was fabulous. Boyfriend and I both agreed that the dinner was far better than most that we've eaten in Oslo. We started out with a fresh caprese salad eaten as a finger food atop a crostini. We followed that up with a beautifully executed scallop risotto that was finished with basil cream. The risotto was lightly and delicately flavored with little bits of scallops inside. It was elegantly presented with a nicely sauteed half scallop on top and a single basil leaf. So pretty! The main course was a filet of salmon that had been cooked very simply with salt and butter. Christian cooked the salmon so it was just rare. He also made a sauce out of a shallot, white wine and vinegar reduction that had been emulsified with butter. The pan sauteed salmon was served with gratineéd asparagus and roasted potatoes. Dinner was so delicious and elegant! I'd be happy to make dessert for a dinner at their house any day.

I know that The Italian Rabblerowser loves white chocolate so I decided to make a white chocolate cheesecake inspired from my favorite cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory. For this version, I made an Oreo cookie crust, put some fresh raspberries on the crust and baked the cheesecake batter on top of the raspberries. The result was a very moist cheesecake that I think hit all the right flavors. The crust had a sweet, almost bitter taste from the dark chocolate of the Oreos. The cheesecake was mildly sweet but you could still taste the white chocolate. My favorite was the addition of the raspberries. I love berries and white chocolate together because the tartness of the berries help to cut the very obvious sweetness of the white chocolate and provides a nice balance of flavor.
When preparing this cheesecake, I took a few departures from the original recipe. I lightened up the cheesecake quite a bit since I don't like very thick and dense cheesecake. I actually made 2 cheesecakes - 1 for dinner and a small, mini cheesecake for Boyfriend. I use this cheesecake to test some hypotheses so this recipe reflects the lessons that I learned. In a succinct list, what I learned is:
  • The mix of light and full fat creamed cheese plus the sour cream made for a lighter and fluffier cheesecake which is exactly what I hoped for.
  • The raspberries will be quite juicy and can sog up the crust so baking the crust before putting the batter and berries on it will help keep the integrity of the crust.
  • This recipe is a pain if you do not use a stand mixer or if you don't have 4 arms.
  • The cheesecake is quite dense so it takes YEARS to completely cool. Prepare yourself.
  • The cheesecake tastes best if it is allowed to rest and set overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Raspberries + white chocolate = divine.
White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake
Recipe inspired from Santacafe

Oreo Cookie Crust
1 1/2 cups very finely ground or crushed chocolate wafer cookies (I used Oreos with the frosting removed. Special thanks to Boyfriend for shucking the Oreos for me)
1/4 cup melted butter
White Chocolate Cheesecake
400 grams low fat cream cheese (14 oz)
400 grams regular cream cheese (14 oz)
½ cup sour cream (about 50 grams)
4 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 tbs flour
1/2 cup + 2 tbs sugar
1 tsp vanilla
225 grams white chocolate (8 oz), chopped
1 cup raspberries, washed and dried

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, 175 degrees C.

Mix the ground Oreos with the melted butter well. Spread the cookie mix onto a 10 inch springform pan, patting the cookies down to form a thin crust on the bottom. Also try and work the cookie mix up the sides of the pan, if possible half way up the sides. This, I found to be really hard to do. I think it will help if all the cookies were very finely ground but mostly, I think it will just take some patience and perserverence to make sure the cookie crust is even, goes up the sides of the pan, and is pressed firmly together. Just keep pressing it all together and you will eventually get there.

Bake the crust in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until the crust looks set and crisp. Take it out of the oven and let cool to room temperature. While the crust is baking, fill a pot with 1 inch of water and bring it to a very light simmer. Set a bowl on top of the pot, ensuring the bottom of the bowl does not touch the simmering water. Put the white chocolate into the double boiler and let it gently melt, stirring with a wooden spoon. Once it is completely melted, remove the bowl from heat and set aside to cool.

1. While the crust is cooling, make the filling. Mix the cream cheese and the sour cream with a hand mixer until well blended and fluffy.

2. To the cream cheese, add the sugar and blend again until well mixed.

3. Add the eggs one at a time, blending at low speed. Stop after each egg and scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure all of the contents get incorporated.

4. After the eggs have been incorporated, beat in the flour and the vanilla at low speed until just mixed.

5. Add the cooled white chocolate in a slow stream while blending the mix. This was actually a huge pain in the ass especially since I don't have a Kitchenaid. If you have a stand mixer, I suggest you use it for this reason alone. Beat the batter until it is well combined.

6. To the cooled crust, spread the raspberries out onto one single layer. Pour the batter on top of the raspberries and bake for 50 minutes.

Check the batter at the 40 minute mark. You want to take the cheesecake out of the oven when it is only partly set, about 3 inches away from the rim of the cake. The middle will still be jiggly and that's ok! If you bake it all the way through, you run the risk of a cracked cheesecake. The cheesecake will continue to cook and set outside of the oven.

Once the cheesecake is removed from the oven, run a very thin knife around the edge of the cake. Let the cheesecake cool at room temperature in the pan and on a rack. Once cooled (and this will take several hours, no joke) unlock the springform pan and gently remove the pan. Let the cheesecake sit, covered, in the refrigerator overnight. You can serve it garnished with fresh raspberries, raspberry coulis or a lovely sprig of mint.

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