Dark chocolate apricot cheesecake with blackberry sauce
Chocolate. Make that dark chocolate. That’s what Happy Valentine’s Day are all about. If you’re looking for something decadent and special come February 14th, this is one show-stopper of a dessert. And the best part is you can make it a couple days ahead of time: it’s even better after it’s had time to–in Mr. Squid’s words–”densify.”
I actually made this dessert by request awhile back for my tween’s birthday cake. But I was getting bored doing the same-old cheesecake; I wanted to have some fun with the recipe.
So I was looking for a few ways to tweak my classic recipe and I thought of a common dessert combination from Viennese desserts where apricots are the fruit of choice with chocolate, instead of strawberries or raspberries. I like a hint of tartness to desserts so along with subbing apricot jam for raspberry, I also decided to forgo the regular whipped cream on top with a fresh blackberry sauce instead. That said, you can’t even taste the apricot in the final cake, it just intensifies the depth of the dark chocolate.
You’re intrigued, right? I hope so. This was by far my favorite cheesecake I’ve ever made. Ever.
Note: Another update to this recipe was trying to make it just a smidge healthier. I know, this wouldn’t qualify for a light recipe by any stretch of the imagination but I used Neufchatel cream cheese instead of the full fat variety and I nixed the whip cream for a fruit sauce. Small steps, right?
Okay, one more note: Please don’t let these directions scare you, just being thorough here because I believe in cheesecakes without cracks, and a waterbath is the way to go.
Prep time: 30 minutes + 75 minutes baking + 60 minutes cooling
9 ounces chocolate wafers
3 tablespoons butter, melted (lower fat butter works well too!)
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chips are fine
1 cup heavy cream
¾ cup apricot jam
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese (Neufchatel recommended)
*Make sure the cheese is at room temperature
¾ cups sugar (I used 2/3 this time)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups blackberries (thawed or fresh)
1 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
For the crust: In a food processor, grind up the chocolate wafers (I also add just a touch of salt). I use Pepperidge Farms chocolate goldfish as the base for my crust—they’re not overly sweet like Oreos with cream filling. Add the melted butter to the crushed cookies. Here’s the tricky part. You’ll need a 9-inch springform pan. Surround the outside of the pan with aluminum foil (I’ll explain more on this later.) Cut a round piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom part of the pan. Spray the pan with cooking spray then insert the paper and spray again. Press the cookie crumbs into the pan and half way up the sides with your fingers (I’ve tried this with spoons, but frankly fingers are best). Put the crust into the fridge while you prepare the filling.
For the filling: Preheat the over to 325 degrees. In a large, glass measuring bowl, melt the chocolate and the heavy cream together in the microwave. Melt the two slowly. I usually start at half the power level for around two minutes. When the chips start to lose their shape, I finish the melting process by stirring the mixture vigorously. Add the jam to the chocolate mixture, stir and let it cool about 10 minutes.
In another large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and the sugar. As I noted in the directions, it’s key to have the cream cheese at room temperature. (Eggs, too!) Beat the sugar and cream cheese for at least 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Now, add the vanilla and the chocolate-apricot mixture. Beat all the ingredients together for at least 5 minutes (I set a timer).
Constructing a waterbath: Here’s another tricky part—creating a water bath for your cheesecake. water bath keeps your cheesecake dense and smooth instead of dry. You’ll need a large, glass baking dish. I wish I had a larger one, but my biggest is 9×11” so I have to improvise. (I also add a larger, cookie baking pan under the casserole dish to make it easier to get it into and out of the oven.) make several aluminum balls and place them in the center of the baking dish because the casserole dish isn’t wide enough. Next, gently press the springform pan into the casserole dish. Pour the cheesecake filling into the crust, making surethat your aluminum balls stay in place and keep your pan level. Add about a half an inch of water to the bottom of the casserole dish (not into your cheesecake!). Carefully put the whole contraption into the preheated oven.
Bake for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours or until the cheesecake just jiggles in the center. Once the cheesecake is set, turn off and leave the door open. Wait one hour and then remove the cheesecake. Carefully pull it out of the water bath. Gently release the springform mechanism, but don’t remove it. Use a butter knife to separate the crust from the pan (this will ensure that the top doesn’t crack). Put your cheesecake into the fridge for at least one day before serving.
For the sauce: Place the water, sugar, and butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat and cook until the mixture thickens and just barely become syrupy (about 4 minutes on my power burner). Pour the berries into the hot mixture and simmer until the berries start to break apart. Use a handheld immersion blender to liquify the berries. Alternatively, you can pour the sauce into a blender. Adjust the seasonings: I like my sauce tart so I added 1 teaspoon lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon red raspberry vinegar. You might like adding orange zest or a bit of juice to add a hint of sourness and interest to the sauce. Cool to room temperature before serving. The sauce will thicken as it cools.
Note: I’ve had this recipe for years, it comes from an old recipe book called 365 Great Chocolate Desserts by Natalie Haughton