This holiday season, I realized something about myself. Where most people look to find the perfect gift for someone, I look to find the perfect recipe. And often, it's not so much that I look, but that in my browsing through countless food blogs, I happen upon the perfect recipe. This is a perfect example of this.
This is the most epic of all of the things that I made for gifts for friends. And, it was the one that I have been thinking about the longest. You see, Dear Friend C LOVES s'mores. And she loves cheesecake. So, back during the summer, when I found a recipe for S'mores Cheesecake, I knew immediately that I had to make it for her -- I just needed to find an occasion. By the fall, it became apparent to me that I would need to make an occasion. So, I determined that I would make this cheesecake as a Christmas gift. But, I knew that a whole cheesecake was a lot of cheesecake, with a limited shelf-life, and a limited number of people to eat it. I had to think of a different way to do this, to give C the most enjoyment, for the longest amount of time.
So, what lasts a long time (and isn't full of preservatives)? Frozen stuff. And what makes things last longer? Dividing them up into small portions, so you can just eat what you want, and not feel committed to a whole piece of cheesecake. Cover it in chocolate, and you're in business.
Yes, that's right. I made chocolate-covered frozen s'mores cheesecake bites. And you know what? They were EPIC. I'm not the biggest fan of cheesecake, and I like chocolate cheesecake even less, but these were so good. I gave them to C at our annual Christmas dinner, and they were eaten for dessert. The look on her face (and that of her husband, K) was the most amazing thing I have ever seen as a result of something I made. So I know I did what I set out to do, and all of the time, and chocolate that ended up all over my kitchen, was totally worth it.
Chocolate Covered S'mores Cheesecake Bites
Adapted from Tracey's Culinary Adventures
I lost count for how many this made. It was a lot.
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (12 whole sheets for me. Cinnamon grahams are awesome for this)
3 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
A couple of good handfuls of Heath bar toffee bits (chocolate covered or not)
9 oz milk chocolate, chopped
2 8-oz packages cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large egg whites
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
12 large marshmallows, cut into quarters with wet kitchen scissors
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
To make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9" x 13" metal pan with parchment paper, with extra paper hanging over the edges so that you will have handles later. In a medium bowl, stir together graham cracker crumbs, butter, sugar and toffee bits. Press into the bottom of the prepared pan in an even layer. Bake for 12 minutes, or until set. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool completely. Reduce oven temp to 325.
To make the filling: Melt the chocolate in a small bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Cool until just barely lukewarm, stirring occasionally. (fp note: you could do that in a microwave, but i always burn chocolate when i do that.)
Combine cream cheese, sugar, and salt in the bowl of your food processor and pulse until smooth. With the machine running, pour the heavy cream through the feed tube and process just until blended. Again, with the machine running, add the melted chocolate and then the eggs, one at a time, blending and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition until the mixture is smooth. Pour the batter over the cooled crust.
Bake for about 55 minutes, or until the outer edge is slightly puffed and the center is barely set (the center will jiggle slightly when the pan is gently shaken). Transfer the pan to a wire rack, and cool. You can cool it on the counter for a little while, and then put it in the fridge overnight. After it is completely cooled, wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer for at least another 8 hours.
After the cheesecake is frozen, you can make the topping.
To make the topping: In a large metal bowl, combine the sugar, egg whites, water, cream of tartar and salt. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly until the sugar dissolves and the mixture feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. Remove the bowl from the pan and add the marshmallows; let stand a few minutes until the marshmallows soften. Place the bowl back over the pan of simmering water and beat the topping with a hand mixer for 4-5 minutes, or until stiff, shiny peaks form. Beat in the vanilla.
Let the topping cool just slightly (don't wait too long or it will set and you won't be able to spread it). Take the cheesecake out of the freezer and spread the topping evenly with a spatula. Let the topping cool completely. At this point, you can toast the marshmallow, if you want to. I'm not sure it made a big difference, but I have a kitchen torch I never use, so I took the opportunity to use it for this. Make sure you fold the parchment handles out of the way, and toast the marshmallow with the torch. You can also put it under the broiler for a minute, but if you do, make sure you watch it so you don't burn it. Put the whole thing back in the freezer to firm up. The topping never gets hard-frozen, so don't expect it to.
After it is completely frozen, take it out of the pan (I told you that you would need those paper handles!). Using a hot knife (run it under hot tap water, and don't dry it), cut the cheesecake into cubes. Put the cubes on a pan lined with wax paper and put them back into the freezer.
Melt some chocolate. Use whatever mix you want - I did about half and half milk and dark chocolate. You will need a lot of it. I think I ended up needing about 6 cups total. Let the chocolate cool until it is just warm, but still liquid enough to be easily pourable. While it cools, prepare your dipping station: Line a sheet pan (that will fit in your freezer) with wax paper, and cover every surface that is anywhere near the chocolate with wax paper too. Get out a couple of forks.
Remove the bites from the freezer, a few at a time (keep the cold things cold). Drop a bite into the melted chocolate and make sure it gets covered by spooning melted chocolate over it, using the forks (I know, how can you spoon with a fork? carefully) Use one fork to lift the bite out of the chocolate, and tap the handle of the fork gently on the side of the bowl to shake off any excess chocolate and smooth things out. Transfer the bite to the wax paper-covered sheet pan. Top with sprinkles if you want while the chocolate is still soft. After you have dipped the bites, put them back in the freezer. Continue in this manner until all bites are covered.
Once the bites are completely frozen again, you can put them in the container of your choice. And then you can take them out and eat them!!