Hello, and happy almost-Valentine’s Day! (Also, as I just realized, happy Mardi Gras to Louisiana and happy shrove/pancake day to the rest of the world!)
All holidays that actually happen today aside, I love Valentine’s Day. According to the internet and 90’s teen movies, I’m probably the only single person in the world who loves Valentine’s Day, but I really hope that’s not true because let’s be honest, why would any dessert lover not love Valentine’s Day?
Regardless of your relationship status, February 14th is the perfect time to indulge in copious amounts of your confection of choice (actually you could probably replace that date with literally any other day of the year and it would still be accurate). Plus, it’s also a great reason to do something nice for the people you love because it would make them happy! Send a note to an old friend, buy a bouquet for the resident flower enthusiast, grab a bottle for your favorite wine aficionado, call your mom to chat about everything and nothing! Just do something to spread the love, romantic or otherwise! (But seriously though, call your mom.)
And if you’re still at a loss about how to convey your undying love to your human being of choice, as my biochem professor likes to say, “everyone doesn’t like something, but no one doesn’t like enjoying copious amounts of chocolate and strawberries (especially in unnecessarily complicated cheesecake form) with friends, family, and bae.”
Okay yes I may have taken a couple of liberties with the last bit of that quote but my point still stands. Enjoy!
Happy Fat Tuesday of Pancakes,
Strawberry Brownie Cheesecake
3 tbs melted butter
1 tbs vegetable oil
30 g cocoa powder
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
40 g flour
2/3 cup roughly chopped strawberries
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp water
1 tsp lemon juice
16 oz (two 8 oz packs) cream cheese, low fat or regular
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbs flour
Strawberry cookie straws – I bought these at the Asian grocery store, but any strawberry flavored cookie would be just as great (strawberry wafers, maybe?)
- Preheat the oven to 350 ºF.
- Beat together butter and sugar.
- Sift in cocoa powder and whisk until well mixed.
- Stir in egg and vanilla until just incorporated.
- Sift in flour, add salt, and fold ingredients together until just incorporated.
- Divide batter among 3 springform pans and bake for 8 minutes or until the surface of the brownie at the center of the pan is just dry.
- Set brownies aside for cheesecake assembly.
- Puree all ingredients in a blender until smooth and no strawberry chunks remain.
- Filter the strawberry puree through a fine-mesh sieve.
- Set strawberry sauce aside for cheesecake filling.
- Preheat the oven to 300 ºF.
- Beat together cream cheese, vanilla, flour, and sugar until just combined.
- Beat in eggs one by one until just combined.
- Stir in strawberry sauce, reserving 2-3 tbs for garnish.
- Pour filling over cooked brownie crusts.
- Gently bang the cheesecake pans against the counter top a few times and pop any surface bubbles that rise.
- Prepare a water bath by pouring hot water into a large roasting pan until the depth of the water is equal to about half the height of the springform pans.
- Wrap the bottom and sides of each springform pan in aluminum foil, and place the wrapped pans into the water bath.
- Place the water bath into the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the center of each cheesecake is just set but still slightly wobbly.
- Cover and chill cheesecakes in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 8 hours.
Garnish and Assembly:
- Create a set of chocolate and strawberry garnishes for decorating the top of the cheesecake.
Tip: I included directions for the set of garnishes that I used to decorate my cheesecakes, but feel free to get creative! Three general pieces of advice for beginners like me who feel overwhelmed about where to start: 1) maintain approximately the same ratio of tall to medium to short pieces that I used for a well balanced height profile; 2) include some sort of soft, pipe-able topping (I used whipped cream) to fill in gaps and for structural stability; 3) stick to one “shape family” with varying colors (I went with curvy/squiggly to match the lacy heart for Valentine’s Day, but you can easily go with sharp/angular (think lots of elongated triangles), round/blobby, etc.). Scroll down for pictures!
- Tall pieces:
- Dark chocolate squiggle (A) – pipe the outline from melted chocolate, then fill in the center
- Strawberry cookies (B1 and B2) – gently break to form 1 piece the length of the chocolate squiggle and one piece about 3/4 the length of the other
- Dark chocolate plant (C) – pipe thin, waving strands of chocolate waving upward away from a single base like a kelp plant
- Medium pieces:
- White chocolate net (D) – pipe the outline, starting with a horizontal line to form the bottom, then creating a series of irregular humps like the back of a camel, placing shorter humps at the ends and taller ones in the middle; after piping the outline, pipe in a zig-zag formation down one diagonal, then perpendicularly down the other to form a messy net
- Dark chocolate swooshes (E1 and E2) – either use a small spoon to scoop out a small amount of melted chocolate, then smear in an arc using the back of the spoon or pipe out an outline, then fill in the center
- Short pieces:
- Strawberry (F) – pare off the base of the strawberry to create a garnish that is slightly shorter than the white chocolate net
- White chocolate heart (G) – pipe the outline of the heart, then fill in the center with a loose mesh of swirls
- Whipped cream:
- Whip together 1/2 cup whipping cream with 1/4 cup powdered sugar until the whisk just starts to form trails in the cream
- Add in 1/4 cup sifted cocoa powder and whisk just until stiff
- Tall pieces:
- Prepare chocolate ganache topping by mixing 1 part cream to 3 parts chocolate chips and melting the mixture in the microwave in 10 second intervals, stirring in between.
- Decorate serving plates by drizzling a pattern with the reserved strawberry sauce.
- Remove cheesecakes from the refrigerator and gently lift out of the springform pans. After removing the bottom, gently set the cheesecake onto the decorated serving plates.
- Top the cheesecakes with chocolate ganache:
- Fill a sandwich bag with the warm chocolate ganache and snip off a small corner of the bag about 1/8″ across.
- Holding the open corner of the bag just over the edge of the cheesecake, gently squeeze the bag to allow the ganache to flow out and drip down the edge of the cheesecake.
- Move about 1/2″ – 1″ along the circumference of the cheesecake and repeat the dripping process to form a second drip.
- Continue all the way around the outer edge of the cheesecake, varying the lengths of the drips by changing how much ganache you squeeze out before moving to the next spot along the circle.
- Squeeze a generous amount of ganache into the center of the surface of the cheesecake.
- Using a small metal spatula, spread the ganache into a smooth layer that merges with the inner edge of the ring of drips.
- Decorate the cheesecake!
Tip: Again, I provided instructions for how I chose to decorate my cheesecake, but get creative! In general though, place the taller/centering pieces down first so you have a framework for building the rest of your decorations around. Enjoy the slideshow!
- Arrange A and E1 near the center of the cheesecake and slightly to the back to create a centerpiece.
- Add D just in front of A/E1 with a small gap in between.
- Add F in front of the left side of D.
- Pipe a swirl of whipped cream and dot the top with a bit of ganache, then place E2 by pushing the end into the back of the whipped cream swirl.
- Lean G against the front of the whipped cream swirl, facing slightly to the left.
- Add in B1 and B2 behind A/E1.
- Pipe another small swirl of whipped cream directly onto the plate in front and to the right of the cheesecake. Garnish with C.
- Share with friends, family, significant others, or a favorite pint of Ben and Jerry’s (which I would argue is definitely a significant
ly deliciousother)! Happy Valentine’s!