Thursday, April 22, 2010

Junior's Chocolate Candy Bar Explosion Cheesecake

Or, in a word: HEAVEN.
A few years ago, while living in New York City, I had the pleasure of tasting the world's best cheesecake: Junior's Cheesecake. It began a love affair with cheesecakes that has culminated in me baking (and sometimes eating) an average of a cheesecake a month for years now. Especially when Juniors' came out with their cookbook which I have been slowly making my way through over the years. After that many cheesecakes, I've learned a thing or two that have helped demystify the cheesecake-making process. I know this might seem long, but it's very straight forward and I'd love to answer any questions that anyone has! SO, get out your mixer (or wooden spoon, whichever suites your fancy), break out that full-fat cream cheese and let's get started!
I do need to let you know beforehand what you are getting into. Once you have this cheesecake all other desserts will pale in comparison. You will find yourself nibbling on a delicate creme brulee while pining for this most amazing cheesecake. Better Than Sex Cake has NOTHING on this. And for what it's worth, my husband doesn't like cheesecake. Like, at all (weird). And he goes back for seconds when I make this. I'm just sayin'...

SO, how do you make the perfect cheesecake? People think it's so intimidating. In reality, the ingredients are simple enough and it's a very simple process, so chances are you have been scared of making them unnecessarily. All you need is to be educated on some simple steps to avoid cracking and to make sure it cooks properly and you will be the envy of everyone at your next party! And let's be honest here, this recipe has so many topping that really, who cares if it cracks a little - you can always cover it up!

While these steps seem long, they really serve just a couple of purposes which, if you can remember those purposes, the following steps will all fall into place without you having to think about them. You are simply trying to:
*Minimize quick temperature changes

*Not over-beat or over-bake the cheesecake
*Create a moist environment in which the cheesecake can cook

That's it! Once you know how to do that, making a cheesecake is a cinch!
So, let's expand on that. The following steps will help avoid the dreaded cracking:
1) Try to bring your ingredients to room temperature first, or at least as much as possible. Cheesecakes don't like a lot of quick temperature changes and the blending will happen better if you have room temperature eggs, cream, and cream cheese (although my cream cheese is always a little bit cold, I never remember to let it sit out for a full hour or anything).
2) DON'T OVERBEAT the INGREDIENTS. This seems to be the biggest problem. The more you whip the cream cheese, eggs, and cream, the more air pockets you will get in your batter. When you cook your cheese cake those air pockets will rise and you will get cracking. You will. Inevitably. So just get it to a creamy, combined texture and call it good.
3) When you add the cream, just stir it in by hand until it's combined instead of using a mixer. This really helps prevent cracking.
4) Use a water bath. It's really easy. You just lay some foil down in a "+" shape like this: and then wrap it tightly around the springform pan, with the tops coming up higher than the springform pan, like this:Voila.
Drop it on a cookie sheet or roasting pan and fill the water in the pan up to halfway up the springform pan like this:And you will prevent all sortsa problems.
5) I find that if I put my cheesecake in my oven uncovered for the entire time it gets really brown on the top. Well, remember how I said to have the foil come up higher than the springform pan in tip #4? Well, I place a piece of foil over the top of the cheesecake for the first 30 minutes and then take it off and let it bake normally for the rest of the tim (see picture above). Having the foil come up higher than the springform pan makes it so the foil never touches the cheesecake.6) Don't check it too often. Cheesecakes don't like changes in temperature too much, so the more you check it, the more likely it is to fall or crack. If you do check it, try to let at least 10 minutes go in between the next check so that your oven temperature can get back up to where it needs to be.
7) Once you take the cheesecake out and have it on the cooling rack, take a greased knife, the thinnest one you have, and run it around the edge of the springform pan, so that the sides of the cake separate from the pan. As the cheesecake cools, it will shrink, and if some of the sides are still stuck to the pan, well, you'll get cracking!
8)Then, walk away. Leave the cheesecake alone for 2 hours before putting it in the refrigerator so the temperature can slowly cool before being put in the refrigerator.
Right, it sounds complex, but again, most of it revolves around just keeping a constant temperature and not over-beating or over-baking the cheesecake. If you can just remember those things, all the individual steps become second-nature.

I've heard all kinds of tips for knowing how long to cook the cheesecake. I've found that the best way is to tap the side of the springform pan and if the center 1/3 of the cake looks wobbly, it's not ready. You want the center 1/3 to be just a little jiggly - like jello and then it's ready to pull out. By center 1/3 I mean this:In the end, it might take a couple of cheesecakes to get to know your oven. My old oven took much longer to cook, while my new oven is right on the minute with the recipe. Placing the foil over the top of the cheesecake can help if you need added cooking time but don't want the top to burn.

Now, this particular recipe is a little time intensive because of the ganache. But it's definitely a show-stopper. If you want an easier, but still delicious cheesecake, you could leave off the ganache and just do a dollop of whipping cream or a berry sauce on top.

If you go all the way, be prepared. The cream cheese is just a little tart; the toffee is just a little salty; mix that with the chocolate bar and a creamy ganache on top...and you have, quite possibly, the perfect dessert.

Recipe Below.
Junior's recommends a sponge cake crust, but for this recipe, I use a graham cracker crust, usually this one.

Chocolate Candy Bar Explosion Cheesecake

For Crust:
10 graham crackers
1 Tablespoon sugar6 Tablespoons butter, melted(I like to add 10-12 Ritz crackers to add a salty flavor. Some people add nuts, just do what you like, just increase the butter slightly to compensate for moisture)
3 1.4-oz Heath milk chocolate English toffee candy bars

For the Cheesecake:
8 oz Hershey's Milk Chocolate bar(s)
4 8-oz packages cream cheese (full fat) at room temperature
1 2/3 Cups sugar
1/3 Cup corn starch
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 large or extra-large eggs3/4 Cup heavy or whipping cream

For the Top Decoration:
1/3 Cup sugar
3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Cup cold heavy or whipping cream1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 1.4-oz Heath milk chocolate English toffee candy bars
Assorted chocolate candies, for example:
chocolate chips, Hershey's Hugs, Reese's Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups Miniatures, York Peppermint Patties, Kit Kat pieces, Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Nuggets, candy that has caramel in it, white chocolate chunks, Twix Bars, etc...

1) While you prepare the crust, remove all the ingredients for the cheesecake so they can come to room temperature.Preheat the oven to 350 F. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Wrap the oustide with aluminum foil (like we talked about). To make the crust, crush the graham crackers by placing them in a plastic bag and crushing them with a rolling pin. Combine the graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter until moistened. Pour into a 9-inch springform pan. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

While the crust cools, chop the 3 Heath bars into small pieces and sprinkle over the cooled crust. Like so (this is one of the best parts about this cheesecake!):2) Melt the 8-oz chocolate bar in the microwave carefully, so as not to burn it (15-20 seconds at a time). Set it aside to cool. Place the first package of cream cheese along with 1/3 cup of sugar and all the cornstarch in a large bowl. Beat on low with an electric mixer until creamy - about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl several times. Blend in the remaining cream cheeses. Beat in the remaining 1 1/3 cups of sugar, then the vanilla. Blend in the eggs, one at a time until combined completely. Beat in the melted chocolate until combined. Blend in the cream, stirring it by hand, until just completely blended. Don't over-mix! Gently spoon the batter over the crust.

3) Place the cake in a large shallow pan containing hot water that comes about 1 inch up the sides of the springform. Bake until the edges look baked and the center appears set, about 1 hour, 15 minutes. Remove the cake from the water bath, transfer to a wire rack, and run a greased knife around the sides of the cheesecake to separate it from the sides of the pan. Let cool for 2 hours (just walk away - don't move it). Leave the cake in the pan, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until completely cold, prefereably overnight or at least 4 hours.
4) At some point during this process, make the ganache by whipping the cream with an electric mixer on high until the cream thickens and soft peaks just begin to form. Add the sugar and cocoa, then the vanilla. Continue beating until the cream turns a light-chocolate color and stiff peaks form. Don't over-beat it. Refrigerate for 1 hour or up to one day.

5) Release and remove the sides of the springform, leaving the cake on the bottom of the pan. Place on a cake plate. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the ganache with a metal spatula. Press the candy crumbs into the sides and arrange the chocolates on the top. Use lots of chocolates, so you completely cover the top of the cake! Refrigerate until ready to serve (do not cover at this stage). Slice with a sharp straight-edge knife, not a serrated one. Cover any left-over cake and refrigerate or freeze up to 1 month.
Recipe originally found in Junior's Cheesecake Cookbook. Graham cracker crust originally from Ina Garten's Mixed Berry Cheesecake Recipe.

6 stars. =) Ok, technically I have to give it 5, but really, it's just so amazing.


  1. These tips are great. I've always struggled with cracks in the top.

    Your posts are the best because they explain in detail

    and did you make this recently and if so i might have to come by and steal a piece if it's left...

  2. I am so glad you did this post. I have been wanting to get that cheesecake book ever since you showed it to me but couldn't remember the name. Now I have ordered it from Amazon and am anxiously awaiting it's arrival.

  3. Oh that is SO not fair! I am on the HCG diet but I would KILL for that right now!

  4. I love your blog! It's so cute!

    This really is the best cheesecake! I remember it was the last thing I was able to eat before I had to give up dairy. You really are the best cheesecake maker of anyone I know!

  5. I absolutlely loved making this cheesecake I did tweek it for my taste by adding 1cup of sourcream to cut the denseness and adding 1tblspoon of almond extract to the cheesecake batter. OMG OMG this is so good one piece is all it takes but you will definetely eat the entire cheesecake.