Sunday, April 22, 2012

Coconut Cheesecake with a Chocolate Crust

I was perusing old issues of Chocolatier the other day…Wait, that sounds pretty sad, doesn’t it?? Former editor, reliving halcyon days of dessert glory?…Ok, let’s start again…At the risk of sounding a bit pathetic, I was thumbing through old issues of Chocolatier the other day, and was somewhat startled by how great most of those recipes 

were, and how they still stand up as great desserts today. Many talented people worked on that magazine over the years, including a steady stream of interns, many of whom have gone on to do great things in and out of the food world. One of them, Jules Rosenthal, went on to become a superstar personal trainer, possibly motivated 

by all the calories she ingested during her time at the magazine. She’s a former caterer who is talented, funny, smart, and, obviously, in great shape. While at Chocolatier, Jules wrote an article on Coconut Cakes, developing some memorable cake recipes, including an outstanding Coconut Cheesecake with a Chocolate 

Crust. It’s a rich cheesecake with a whipped cream topping and a chocolate wafer crust. The topping is made by infusing sweetened coconut with heavy cream, straining it, and then whipping it to soft peaks. This step makes this cake extra-coconutty, but it would be equally delicious (and less rich) with plain whipped cream on top. 

One note on the baking: I baked this cheesecake in a water bath, but instead of wrapping the springform pan in foil as I normally do, I simply placed the 9 ½-inch springform pan into a 10-inch cake pan, and then placed both pans in the water bath. That way the crust will not get soggy, and the cake is still insulated from the direct heat of the oven. Thanks Jules, for this wonderful recipe. And for all the guilt. Time to go work out, I guess… :(

Coconut Cheesecake with a Chocolate Crust

Makes 10 to 12 servings

Chocolate Wafer Crust:
1 ¼ cups Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafer crumbs
¾ cup sweetened flaked coconut
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Coconut Cheesecake:
1 ½ pounds cream cheese, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
½ cup sour cream
½ cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons dark rum

Coconut Cream Topping:
2 ½ cups heavy cream
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

1/3 cup sweetened coconut, toasted

Make the crust:
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Place the chocolate crumbs and coconut in a food processor and pulse until the coconut is finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and toss the crumbs with the melted butter until well coated. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan. Using heavy-duty aluminum foil, double-wrap the outside of the pan.* Bake the crust for 10 minutes, until fragrant and set. Cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

Make the filling:
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until creamy. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and sugar until well blended. Gradually add this to the cream cheese, mixing at low speed until blended. Scrape down the side of the bowl with a spatula and mix again to blend. Add the sour cream, coconut milk and rum and mix well.
3. Scrape the batter into the cooled crust. Place the pan in a roasting pan and pour enough hot water in the roasting pan to reach halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake the cheesecake for 60 to 70 minutes, until just set. Remove the pan from the water bath and cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate the cake for at least 4 hours.

Make the topping:
4. In a medium saucepan, combine the cream and coconut over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow the mixture to steep for 30 minutes.
5. Strain the mixture, extracting as much liquid as possible from the coconut. Refrigerate the cream until well chilled, about 1 hour.
6. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, whip the cream with the confectioners' sugar until soft peaks form. Scrape the topping into a pastry bag fitted with a medium star tip (Ateco #6). Pipe rosettes around the edge of the cake, and, working from the outside in, continue until the entire top of the cake is sovered. Sprinkle with the toasted coconut.

*Note: Alternatively, instead of wrapping the pan, here’s a foolproof way to prevent water leaking into your crust and making it soggy: Place the whole springform pan (unwrapped) in a 10-inch cake pan (assuming you have one; this can be either an aluminum or silicone pan, both work), and then, once you’ve poured in the filling, place the pan in the larger roasting pan and pour in the hot water. If you make cheesecakes more than once a year, this method will change you life. Well….you know….a little bit, anyway.