It Is a Peanut Butter & Chocolate Haven
My oldest son turned 20 years old last month and we talked about what kind of cake he would like for the big day. He is a chocolate fan and requested a dessert that has chocolate and Oreos in it somewhere. It didn’t matter really. In this family, everyone has their differences. Since this dessert would be eaten by everyone on his birthday, but not all enjoy chocolate. I was in a dilemma. I know what you are thinking…it’s your son’s big day it shouldn’t matter! I am the people pleaser. I decided I would try to a make a cheesecake. Let them eat cheesecake! I compromised and made this Peanut Butter Cheesecake with Chocolate Ganache Topping. It has a yummy peanut butter Oreo crust and garnished with other chocolate goodies, like Peanut butter cups and more Oreos. It’s a Peanut Butter-Chocolate Extravaganza! It turned out so good and was a hit!
If you love cheesecake like I do, then any kind of cheesecake is good. But I have to say that a New York Style Cheesecake with a Cherry Topping is like I have won the Lottery. OMG. Hand it over. I can’t have cherries, so I will settle for a Strawberry Topping.
For the Love of Cheesecakes
But I do love a cheesecake and this Peanut butter cheesecake with Ganache will do just fine. Cheesecake is relatively easy to make and that is probably understated, but I think that some of us would rather avoid the baking process. Baking cheesecakes are kind of art, experimentation and require some amount of patience. Very intimidating if your very first one ends up with cracks. No worries! Just cover them up. There is always the next time. There is a couple of baking methods you can try: water bath method and the low then slow method. The method I use results in a wonderful cheesecake with no cracks. You are cooking the cheesecake at a high temperature for 15 minutes, then reducing to a very low oven temperature for 200 F. for the remainder of the time needed. It comes out perfect! No water bath needed. Cheesecakes are a bit fussy and there is always much talk about the type of pans to use, how long to bake them, etc. Here are some things that I have learned about cheesecakes:
Just Skip to the Recipe Please!
- One can never have too many cheesecakes.
- Do not overmix the filling it can cause the batter to have too much air. This makes the cheesecake puff up when cooking and then shrink or deflate, creating those old familiar cracks.
- Underbake rather than overbake. You want the cheese slightly wiggly-jiggly in the center. If that’s a term. Let it chill and set in the refrigerator.
- Make it the day before & plan ahead. Cheesecakes take time to set. None of…I will just whip something up. Not gonna happen. Unless you decide on a no-bake cheesecake.
There are 4 types of Cheesecakes: In a nutshell.
- Italian: Made using Cottage cheese or Ricotta
- German: Made using Quark: Which is a custard-style light cheese that is not aged, Farmhouse style cheese. Makes for a nice and light cheesecake. This is want to try someday. Mmmm good. There are many recipes for making your own Quark, here is a simple recipe by allrecipes.com. Or maybe the local health food or deli store might have it.
- New York: Traditional American Cheesecake using Philadelphia Cream Cheese, incredibly rich. A little goes a long way. (my favorite)
- French: Normally a no-baked Chiffon version, that is light and fluffy.
A Short and Sweet Bit of Cheesecake History.
It all began with the Ancient Greeks in 234 BC. The cheesecake was all the rage then and they even gave small cheesecakes to their Olympic Athletes. When the ancient Romans conquered Greece they found out about their secret and figured they could do one better. Cato a Roman Emperor came up with 2 versions of Cheesecake: a sweet and a savory. The recipe was nothing like today’s Cheesecake. By 1000 AD the cheesecake was popular all over Europe. Everybody had their own recipes and they looked more like the cheesecakes we know then just pounded blocks of cheese with honey and wheat flour and bake in a brick oven.
Pushing forward 700 years, the English colonies made cheesecake very popular. So popular that in 1730 Philadelphia built a “Cheesecake House” Tavern. Hence the name Philly Cream Cheese that we cook with today. Beer and Cake anyone? Bet you didn’t know: The ever-popular 1/3 fat Neufchatel Cheese was discovered by a dairy farmer 140 years before the Heavier full cream cheese made by Kraft 1912. Maybe that is more than you wanted to know about Cheesecake and cream cheese but it’s good trivia. :-). Enough history, let’s get on with it! Maybe your kids will be impressed. Neither if mine were not.
Start with the crust:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. You will be reducing the temperature later. Grease only the sides of a 9 x 3-inch springform pan and then the bottom with circle parchment paper. Set aside. Crush 24-30 peanut butter Oreo cookies in a food processor or a Ziploc bag with a rolling-pin. Remember to save a few for garnish and eating! Combine with 1/2 cup of room temperature/softened unsalted butter. Pulse several times until it becomes a buttery crumb consistency. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Press evenly with your fingertips into the bottom of the pan to form an “out-of-this-world” crust. Put the crust in the refrigerator to chill for about 30 minutes.
Peanut butter Cheesecake Filling:
In a large bowl take the four softened cream cheese bricks. I don’t like the term bricks because bricks are hard, cream cheese is not. Make sure they are full fat. Add the cup of white sugar, 3/4 cup of yogurt for a bit of a tang, the cup of creamy peanut butter, and vanilla extract. Use a hand mixer or stand mixer to combine for about a minute or so. Start to add the eggs one at a time to the mixture stopping after each additional egg to beat with the mixer. Remember the tip, don’t over mix, just incorporate one egg at a time. You don’t want the batter to accumulate so much air that the cake decides to inflate like a balloon while cooking and then deflate. What does that give the cheesecake? Cracks.
Time to Bake:
Remove the crust from the refrigerator that has been chilling. Pour the prepared decadent creamy rich filling into the crust. At this point, I am drooling and must have the self-control to keep from dipping my fingers in the filling. Spread it around evenly. It’s now ready to bake. Note to Self: Make a day ahead. The End.
Important Baking Steps:
- Place in 350 degrees F. oven and bake for 15 minutes. No more, no less.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees F. Bake for 2 hours until the cheesecake no longer looks shiny.
- After baking your determined time, turn off the oven and let the cheesecake sit inside for another two hours.
Tailored Tip: It is important to remember not to open the oven to check on the cheesecake. All to together now. “Cracks”. If you have a light inside your oven flip it on before you start baking.
2 hours later…I am back. Now you can take out the cheesecake that has been in the oven. Guess what? It’s time to chill the cheesecake overnight in the refrigerator and allow it to set. That is reason making cheesecakes is a bit time-consuming.
Meanwhile, the following day… (Sounds like a novel doesn’t it?)
It’s time to take out the cheesecake out from the refrigerator. With a knife loosen the sides of the cheesecake. Doing this will make it very simple to remove when you are ready for the topping. begin to gently pour the Ganache on top of the cheesecake starting in the middle and working your way out in a circular motion. It should just drip off the sides. Wonderfully Chocolate Rich Ganache Topping. (pronounced Gon-nosh)Oh, my. The best part about it? It is so easy to prepare. It requires truly only two ingredients. I was so surprised about how something so fancy and decedent could be so easy. Makes you look like a pro. So, so simple! If you are not familiar with Ganache, it is a Chocolate Glaze that is out of this world that can be used on top of cookies, bread, ice cream and anything else. It is made by using Chocolate and heated heavy cream. Also if you’re not careful you could start to eat by the spoonful. Sinful indeed. 🙂
The Chocolate Ganache I made used semi-sweet Chocolate, but I am sure dark chocolate, white chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, and even unsweetened chocolate could be used. Depends on your flavor preference.
Simple and Quick Chocolate Ganache
- 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate squares
- 1/2 cup of heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon of butter to give it some sheen (optional)
- dash of salt (optional)
You can make it two ways:
(Quickie Microwave version): In a small glass bowl add the chocolate squares and then add the heavy cream. Place in microwave on high for 30 seconds to 1 minute until the cream begins to bubble, depending on the wattage of your microwave. Then leave it in the microwave for about 2 minutes. This allows the hot cream to melt the chocolate. Then remove from the microwave and whisk together until creamy. Add the 1 teaspoon of butter and salt. You’re done and ready to put this Ganache on anything: Strawberries or otherwise.
(Stovetop version): In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the heavy whipping cream until it just begins to bubble. Then pour over chocolate and let it sit for a bit. Leave alone and forget about it! Then come back and say hello to your little friend. Start stirring until it all comes together and it becomes smooth and creamy. Add the optional butter and salt at this time
Let’s Garnish! Doesn’t it sound like a dance move or something? Sorry, too much coffee today. I put on top, a mix of two different Oreos: Peanut Butter, and Original Oreos. I used 10 each to make it a total of 20. Crumbled them into fine crumbs and sprinkled on top. Then I split in half 4 Peanut butter Oreos and placed them on the cake. Finally, with a knife, I sliced in half about 8 Mini Reese’s Peanut Butter cups and placed them in the center. You can choose to use any type of toppings.
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