Monday, June 7, 2010

Peanut Butter Cheesecake with a Brownie Crust

It's been months since I posted any chocolate and peanut butter treats, that's just not right!  So here's another.  I don't need to convince you how great the flavor combination is.  I made this as one of several desserts for a party for my Abstract Algebra students.  I never have students over without serving cheesecake, it's so easy and quick, it serves a lot, most people really like it, and there are endless flavor combinations!  And it can be made ahead of time, perfect for parties!  You could definitely serve this on an oreo crust if you prefer, but I really like the brownie texture.

Brownie Base (adapted from King Arthur Flour)

12 tablespoons (6 ounces) unsalted butter  
1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
3/4 cup (3 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 or 10" round 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 (longer if you're using a hand mixer), 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, until a toothpick comes out clean or with just a few crumbs. Cool completely.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake

2 pounds (32 ounces) cream cheese
1 cup peanut butter (not the natural kind that you have to stir)
1 1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream

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 325°F (if you're doing the cheesecake the next day; otherwise just reduce the oven temperature). Put a kettle of water on to boil for the water bath. Wrap springform pan in 3-4 layers of aluminum foil to prevent (or lessen at least!) leakage.

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 peanut butter and beat for another 2-3 minutes.  Add the sugar and beat for another 4 minutes. Beat in the salt and vanilla.  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 sour cream and heavy cream.  The batter will be thin.

(Note: If you're using a hand mixer, you will want to increase the mixing times).

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 a little extra batter which can be cooked in small cake pans or muffin tins).

Place the cheesecake in the pan for the waterbath, and place in the oven.  Pour the boiling water in for the water bath, it should come about halfway up the side of the springform.  Bake the cheesecake for about 55-65 minutes: it should hold together and appear set at the edges, 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. Remove the foil, and refrigerate overnight.

Ganache Topping 

5 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 fluid ounces heavy cream 

Place the chopped chocolate in a medium-sized bowl.  Bring the heavy cream to a boil, and pour over the chocolate. Let sit for one minute, then stir until smooth.  Let the ganache cool to lukewarm or even room temperature, and then pour over the chilled cheesecake.  Spread the ganache evenly over the entire cheesecake, and return to the fridge to set.

Bring the cheesecake to room temperature before serving.  Run a thin sharp knife around the edge of the spring form pan before removing the outer rim of the pan.

A warm knife works best for cutting the cheesecake, you may want to wipe it clean between slices. 

How To Keep Your Cheesecake from Cracking

1.  The water bath greatly helps prevent cracks in your cheesecake, because it makes the cheesecake cook more slowly.  The problem is that water almost always leaks into the springform pan.  You can use a regular cake pan, rather than a spring form - no leaks, but you have to flip the cheesecake out, and then flip again to make it right side up.  That's kinda scary.  When using an oreo or brownie base, the small amount of water that leaks in can make the crust a little fudgier which I like.  So I usually use the water bath, and wrap it with at least 3 layers of aluminum foil.

2.  It's very important to have all ingredients at room temperature.  Take the eggs, sour cream, and cream cheese out of the refrigerator way ahead of time.  But, of course, life happens, and sometimes you forget!  You can fake it if you have to:  let the eggs rest in warm water for 10-15 minutes to bring them to room temperature.  You can also microwave the cream cheese (not too much!  use 5-10 second increments and low power) to bring it to room temperature.

3.  Don't overbake the cheesecake.  The middle should still jiggle a lot when you turn the oven off.

4.  Some people swear by just reducing the oven temperature and letting the cheesecake bake for longer (with no water bath).  I've never tried this method, but let me know if you do!

5.  Cracks come from quick and drastic temperature changes.  The water bath keeps the cheesecake from baking too quickly, and leaving the cheesecake in the oven keeps it from cooling too quickly.  Placing a warm cheesecake in the fridge may also cause cracks.

6.  Even if it cracks, it still tastes great, so don't worry about it!  And if it really bothers you, make a sour cream or chocolate ganache topping and cover it up.  No one will ever know. 


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  1. WOW! This looks simply amazing! How come the sides are so clean? Mine usually smudges everything up, so I had to cut it clean again. Well the scraps never go to waste of course, lol! I love the fact that it has peanut butter in it. I can't wait to try this one. Thanks for sharing this. Looks really yummy!

    1. I freeze my cheesecakes and pre-slice them with a clean hot knife to get smooth edges. If you want to slice at the time you serve your cake, at least use a knife that you clean and heat with every cut you make =)

  2. how flipping wonderful!? Thank you for all of the tips!

  3. I make a cheesecake (recipe from a friend) and we don't use the water bath. It's baked at 300 for 1:15, then stick a wooden spoon in crack of oven door and turn off and let sit for 2 more hours, then 2 hour on counter before putting in fridge. Haven't had any cracks, but I'm new to all this. Cant' wait to try your recipe!

  4. I found this post though Pinterest. The photo was so beautiful that I just had to come here to read the recipe! Love it! And love your site :-).

    I would like to invite you to share this post (and your other posts :-) ) on a new photo based recipe sharing site that launched in May. The idea is simple: all recipe photographs are published within minutes of submission. And, of course, the images link back to the author's site.

    It's called RecipeNewZ (with Z) -

    I hope you get a chance to visit and to share some of your delicious posts with our viewers. It would be a pleasure to have you on board :-)

  5. yay! it is just coming out of the oven, and i can hardly wait to share it with friends tomorrow! thanks for the tips & recipe!

  6. What happens if you use real peanut butter?

  7. Does the browine not get overbaked and dried out from being in the oven for so long?

    1. No actually the brownie usually ends up a little moist from the batter. Yummy!

  8. Going to try this during the week and see if my grandson will love it. Look so yummy!!!!!

  9. I have cooked a 3# cheesecake at 225 derees for four hours and then turned oven off and let cool. PERFECT!! Everytime. No water or waterbath. And no cracks.

  10. I just made this recipe and it's awesome! I did follow the advice of above and baked at 300 for 1:15 then rested in oven for 2 hours & on counter for 2hours. I didn't want to deal with the water bath. It did crack a little in the center but was covered by the ganache so didn't matter. I also thought the brownie crust would dry out but it didn't! Very tasty dish that my husband agreed is a keeper!

  11. I am making this for my diabetic husband by replacing the sugar with Splenda and using sugar free chocolate chips for the ganache. I also used a sugar free cake mix with sugar free cool whip and an egg for the bottom (brownie part) of the cake.

  12. WOW, looks amazing :) Love your blog

  13. Looks so good... I am sharing it on my FB page and pinning! Thank you for the recipe!

  14. My first time making a cheesecake, I followed the exact recipe and the cheesecake came out looking perfect and tasted incredible! Thanks for sharing your recipe.

  15. I want to make this as mini cheesecakes in regular size cup cake pan with foil liners. How would I adjust the temp and cook time??

  16. I personally do not do the water bath. I have made this about five times and no one cares about the cracks because it is under the chocolate ganache. I also don't chop the chocolate but use chocolate chips instead. Works perfect!

  17. Your cheesecake looks amazing!! I will try this the next time I need a dessert!

    I've baked a lot of cheesecake. I usually start mine out at 425* for 10 minutes and then reduce the oven temp to 225* until done (the center 3" needs to be jiggly). I take it out of the oven and let it rest on the counter for several hours. I do run a knife around the edge after it has set for 10 minutes. This is a process I learned after lots of cracked cheesecakes and lots of research. Also, you don't want to beat the batter much after adding the eggs (add the eggs on low speed). Too much air mixed in with the eggs will cause the cheesecake to puff up and then fall - causing a ridge around the cake and maybe even cracks.

  18. Oh my goodness!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YUM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. Made this for my hubby for his birthday today...turned out perfect! I was worried about the cheesecake portion...but it was awesome! Thanks for the recipe.

  20. WOW WEE! My family LOVES chocolate and peanut butter combination so this was perfect to serve for Christmas. I followed the recipe exactly with the exception that I realized that I did NOT have a 10" springform pan, so I had to use a 9". When the brownie portion had cooked I scooped off some of the top and placed in muffin tins and topped with the leftover cheesecake filling. So, make sure you have a large enough pan before you start!

    The cheesecake was SO delicious and NO CRACKS..
    Will be making this again…. a keeper!

    Thanks for sharing!