New Year’s resolutions?

Hah! If it involves dieting, throw it out: It’s cheesecake recipe time!

Marbled Chocolate & Vanilla No-Bake Cheesecake

  • 2  8-oz  packages of cream cheese
  • 1/2  cup  ultra-fine sugar
  • 3/4  cup  vanilla yogurt
  • a dash of vanilla extract (probably about a teaspoon)
  • 1+1/4  cup  heavy cream
  • 1/4  oz (or 7 grams) powdered gelatin
  • 3  tablespoons water
  • 1 normal package of chocolate chips
  • a little less than half a box of ginger snaps, spice cookies, or graham crackers
  • 3-4 tablespoons butter

I always start out with the crust, so that it’s ready to go when you have the filling prepared. My philosophy on crusts goes something like this: These cookies are tasty, perhaps I should put them in cheesecake! I’ve used graham crackers (chocolate or regular), granola, Almond Windmills, and a plethora of other things. By far and away, ginger snap-types are the most interesting and wow-inducing. *To make the cream cheese more manageable later, leave it out at room temperature while you’re making the crust.

Crush your cookies. Start out with maybe a quarter of the box, a dozen cookies or so. Putting them in a bag and whacking with a hammer will do the trick, but if you want a very smooth and consistent texture, use a mortar and pestle. It’s time consuming, but worth it. (Fastest way: put the pestle on a cookie, push down, and rotate your wrist. Grind it– resist the urge to smash at it.)

Crusts are an inexact science with me. Melt your butter, and some of the chocolate too if you like (use less butter if you are adding chocolate). Add the cookie crumbs. You have crushed enough cookies when it looks crumbly, instead of forming greasy lumps. If it’s not crumbly and nice, add more cookies. You want it greasy enough to hold together, and no more. Press into the bottom of your pan using a fork– The pan?!

What kind of pan should you use? That’s kind of up to you. I usually use a springform (with much grumbling), since it’s much deeper than a round cake pan. I’ve also used disposable foil casserole pans to great effect. Basically, you need something 3+ inches deep, round, and at least 9 inches in diameter. (Or be brave, try a square.)

Once your crust is firmly pressed and an even thickness, you can now make the filling. The cream cheese should be soft; if leaving it out at room temp hasn’t been enough, put it in a large microwave-safe mixing bowl and nuke it for 20 second intervals. It just needs to be soft enough that you don’t get lumps. Using hard cream cheese straight from the fridge will give you lumpy cheesecake.

Add the sugar, mix on low-medium speed with an electric mixer. Add the yogurt, mix. Add the vanilla, or try using something delightfully alcoholic, like amaretto. A teaspoon or two will do.

Gelatin time. Measure out your gelatin (I use Knoxx, and it’s only about half a packet– so do measure it); put the 3 tablespoons of water in a bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the surface. DO NOT STIR, even if there are lumps. It won’t set if you do. Be sure to use a glass or metal bowl, as we’ll be double-boiling it momentarily.

While the gelatin is setting, whip the cream. Clean your mixer blades, pour the cream into a clean bowl, then mix at high speed for several minutes. It should get very thick and fluffy and hold its shape. Add it to the cream cheese, etc bowl and mix thoroughly.

Back to the gelatin! Fill a saucepan with water and heat on the stovetop. The bowl with the gelatin in it should fit into the pan so that it isn’t touching the bottom of the pan, but so that the hot water is contacting as much of the outside of the bowl as possible. Don’t slosh any in. Stir the gelatin until it dissolves and looks syrupy, then remove from heat and pour into the bowl with the rest of the filling. Mix thoroughly.

Get another mixing bowl (or even the one you whipped the cream in, to save washing-up time later!), and use a ladle to spoon in about a third to one half of the batter. It depends on how much chocolate you’re adding- more chocolate=less batter. It might not look like it, but it will even out in the end. Melt as much chocolate as you want (microwave in a glass bowl at 30-second intervals, stirring between) and mix in. Your fillings are now ready to go! Ladle generous spoonfuls of batter into the pan. Kind of dribble it around so that the chocolate and vanilla will be mixed when you slice the cake; for the top layer, try to spoon in equal amounts of each batter. Use a butter knife to swirl the batter around and make it look marbleized. Transport to the fridge and allow it to set for at least 4 hours. Et voila! You now have a beautiful, tasty cheesecake and a very messy kitchen. Clean up and daydream about how good it’s going to taste.

Since I do not have a picture of cheesecake to share with you, here are my favorite measuring cups:

Aren’t they the best? I got them at Salvation Army when I was living in Wellington. Speaking of other things discovered in Welly…

…My ears are very happy! I got Neko Case’s Middle Cyclone album today. It is excellent (although the 30-minute track of crickets chirping at the end nearly put me to sleep…) I am especially excited because I heard it for the first time this November, in a little CD store in Welly, and have been lusting after it ever since. We walked into the store and I knew it was her right away, and I also knew “I must have this.” But alas, like most things in New Zealand CD’s are rather pricey, and I thought it would be better to aim my souvenir money at tea towels decorated with pavlova cakes. The next apartment I have, that is getting hung in the kitchen before I even unpack my dishes… Someday, I will uncover the secrets of making pavlova– and then I’ll share those secrets here, with you! Until then, enjoy the cheesecake.

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