These days are a bit harried, barreling toward Christmas as we are. Shopping, baking, and cleaning are edging out my running time; sadly, my runs are the easiest activities to give up when deadlines and other responsibilities expand to squeeze my limited time. In less than a month I will run a half-marathon for which I am currently NOT training! In some ways I am preparing for this particular half-marathon, though. It’s the Women’s Cocoa Half, in SATX on January 18th: a chocolate themed race. I’m eating plenty of chocolate these days, and baking with plenty of chocolate as well – which leads me to this quick post about the cheesecake I made yesterday. I want to have a special dessert for Phillip, our children, and grandchildren Christmas day. For the past year, my mind has been working on a cheesecake recipe, using seasonal Mi-Del Gluten-Free Candy Cane Cremes. I did a test run of my recipe this weekend, to see if it works, or whether it needs some adjustments if it does work. I am pleased to report that the recipe does work, and although I hate that whole proverbial toot one’s horn thing, I have to be honest and say that this cheesecake is one of the best I have ever baked or tasted. No kidding. I never kid about matters as serious as cheesecake. Now, I don’t have much time to put into writing a post this week, and most people don’t have time to read a long post this week, so I’ll get right to it. I want to share this recipe while we’re in the midst of the Christmas and New Year season just in case some people might find it useful as they search for a perfect, easy, gluten-free dessert to take to a Christmas celebration.
For this recipe, you will need an entire box of Mi-Del Candy Cane Creme sandwich cookies. An entire box contains sixteen cookies. Sixteen cookies produces about 1 3/4 cups of crumbs for the crust. Mi-Del Candy Cane Creme’s may be difficult to find in stores other than Whole Foods (the only place I had found them), but Trader Joe’s offers its own seasonal brand of gluten-free sandwich cookies: Candy Cane Joe-Joes. These cookies are roughly the same size as Mi-Del Candy Cane Cremes, so about sixteen of these cookies can be substituted for the Mi-Del cookies.
For the white chocolate peppermint ganache, only the best quality white chocolate will work. White chocolate chips or white coating are not true white chocolate, and lack the cocoa butter content necessary for use in successful baking. El Rey is one of the finest quality white chocolates available. It’s fairly easy to find; many HEBs in ATX carry it, and Whole Foods carries it as well. El Rey is the only brand of white chocolate I use in my baking. (As an aside, one of the most informative books I’ve ever read is Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate. Medrich explains in this book, among many other chocolate-related things, how to identify true white chocolate).
For the chocolate cheesecake filling, I used Guittard 53% dark chocolate. I wouldn’t recommend using anything darker than 62%; otherwise the cheesecake may not turn out correctly.
For the peppermint ganache, I tried 1 tsp, then 2 tsp of peppermint extract, but it was the third teaspoon that finally achieved the strength of peppermint flavoring I wanted. Depending upon your tastes, or the brand of white chocolate you use (El Rey, because of the natural way its processed, has a slight earthy flavor that required more extract in order for the peppermint flavor to be noticed), you may find you need or want to use less than tablespoon of extract.
16 Mi-Del Candy Cane Creme Sandwich Cookies
3 tbls butter, melted
10 oz dark chocolate, chopped
16 oz full-fat Challenge, 365, Horizon, or Organic Valley cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup organic sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
2 tsp Mexican vanilla extract
8 oz full fat sour cream, room temperature
White Chocolate Peppermint Ganache
4 oz El Rey or other good quality white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 – 3 tsp pure peppermint extract
1/4 cup crushed candy cane pieces
For the crust:
-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
-Place a 9 or 10 inch pie plate filled with water on the bottom rack of the oven, to keep the oven
moist (it helps to prevent the cake from cracking).
-Wrap the bottom of an 8.5 inch spring form pan with foil (for easier removal of the finished cake
to a plate).
-Spray the bottom and sides of the spring form pan with coconut or other non-stick baking spray.
-Break the cookies into pieces and place in a food processor.
-Pulse the processor until the cookies form a fine crumb.
For the Cheesecake:
– Melt the chocolate in a microwave dish, fifteen seconds at a time, stirring after every fifteen
seconds. When only a few pieces of chocolate remain unmelted, remove from the microwave and stir
until all is melted and smooth (or melt in a double boiler, but Alice Medrich endorses the
microwave method and I find it infinitely faster and easier).
-In a food processor (or with a hand-mixer) beat the cream cheese, on medium low speed, until
-Add the sugar and beat until combined.
-Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as
-Beat in the vanilla extract and sour cream.
-Add the melted chocolate and beat until incorporated.
-Pour the batter over the cooled crust; smooth the batter with a rubber spatula.
-Bake the cake for about 40-45 minutes or until firm yet the center of the cheesecake still looks
a little wet and wobbly.
For the Ganache:
-Place the chopped white chocolate into a heat-proof bowl.
-Heat the cream until the cream is just boiling.
-Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and let stand for a few minutes.
-Chill several hours before serving.
-To serve, remove the sides of the pan, then carefully unwrap the foil from the cake pan bottom. -Using your hand or a cake mover, carefully remove the cake from the foil and place on a plate. ENJOY!!!