I frequently bake for my students. I may be fooling myself, but a yummy brownie or delicious cupcake seems to lessen the blow of getting one's less than stellar calculus exam back. I also need to give away my baked goods to my students, or my friends will soon start blaming me for sugar overload; the students never complain. Students are also excellent guinea pigs for testing out new recipes. But during semesters when I have a lot of students, I need recipes that can feed a crowd. Cheesecake is perfect - it's fancier than a brownie, easy to make, and serves a lot, especially when I use my 9 x 9 springform pan.
The recipe for this cheesecake is very similar to that of the April Daring Bakers challenge, which is itself very close to Dorie Greenspan's recipe. I added coffee extract, espresso powder, and Kahlua. I also mixed some of the batter with some warmed nutella, and added a nutella swirl. The nutella-batter was too heavy for the cheesecake batter; I got only a slight hint of a swirl on top of the cheesecake, and more of a nutella-cheesecake layer right on top of the brownie layer. It wasn't quite the look I was going for, but it's probably one of the best cheesecakes I've ever had. I especially loved the brownie base. No matter how many layers of aluminum foil I use when I make cheesecake, the water bath always seems to leak into the springform pan. Here, though, the slight leak just seemed to make the brownie base just that much fudgier. Yum.
This recipe makes a lot of cheesecake. I used a 9 x 9 springform pan and had some batter left over for two round 4" cheesecakes. If you're using an oreo-cookie or graham cracker crust, you probably won't have any batter left over after filling the 9 x 9 pan. Use two-thirds of the cheesecake batter recipe (3 eggs) for a 9" round springform pan with brownie crust (or even for a slightly shorter cheesecake in a 10" round pan).
For the Brownie Base (adapted from King Arthur Flour):
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter 3/4 cup (2 ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder
4 large eggs
2 cups (14 ounces) sugar
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour (or spray with baking spray) a 9 x 9 square springform pan.
Melt the butter and stir in the cocoa powder. Cover, and set aside to cool.
Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs for 3 minutes, then gradually add the sugar, beating 2 to 3 minutes more. Stir in the butter/chocolate mixture. Gently fold in the flour and salt, just until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Cool completely.
For the Cheesecake:
1 Tablespoon espresso powder
1.5 Tablespoons hot water
36 ounces cream cheese (preferably Philadelphia cream cheese)
1.5 cups sugar
1.5 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons coffee extract
1 Tablespoon Kahlua
1/4 cup Nutella, warmed
Be sure to have all ingredients at room temperature, especially the eggs and cream cheese. This will help keep cracks from forming in the top of the cheesecake.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (if you're doing the cheesecake the next day; otherwise just leave the oven on). Put a kettle of water on to boil for the waterbath. Wrap springform pan in 3-4 layers of aluminum foil to prevent (or lessen at least!) leakage.
Dissolve the espresso powder in the hot water; cover.
In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium speed for about 4 minutes, until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for another 4 minutes, until the cream cheese is light. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well (about 1 minute) and scraping sides of bowl after each addition. Beating at low speed, add the heavy cream, extracts, and espresso powder mixture. Stir in the Kahlua. The batter will be thin.
(Note: If you're using a hand mixer, you will want to increase the mixing times).
In a separate bowl, stir together about 2 cups of the batter and the nutella. Pour the remaining batter on top of the cooled brownie base. You'll want to leave a little room (half-inch or so) at the very top of the pan, but it should be nearly full (depending on your pan size and your base, you may have extra batter which can be cooked in small cake pans or muffin tins). Drop the nutella/batter mixture on top of the coffee batter in spoonfuls over the top of the cheesecake. Much of this will sink through the coffee batter. With a knife, gently swirl the nutella batter through the coffee batter.
Bake the cheesecake for about 60-75 minutes: it should hold together, but there will still be a lot of jiggle in the center. Turn the oven off, and leave the cheesecake in the oven for another hour. After one hour, remove the cake from the water bath, and let it finish cooling on the counter top. Refrigerate overnight, and bring to room temperature before serving.