Red Velvet Swirl Cheesecake - overhead

I’m mildly ashamed for not bringing you cheesecake until now. This would be the time to admit that I’ve been known to prefer cheesecake over regular cake. A good cheesecake is, for me, like I imagine a glass of fine wine is for most people. And now I’m nervous because I’m a non-alcoholic girl in unfamiliar territory, so maybe I should stop while I’m ahead and just let that metaphor go.

So, red velvet — it’s sort of chocolate, but not quite. It’s just lots of red, and sort of chocolate. As a cake flavor, I’ve never been impressed. But in cheesecake form, it’s divine. Maybe because this recipe calls for melted chocolate rather than cocoa powder? Chocolate flavor win.

I couldn’t resist this cheesecake. It was far, far too pretty and rich and creamy, and I had to make myself send it away before I cleaned the whole thing off. This, my friends, is a queen among desserts.

Did I mention cheesecake is a simple thing to put together? All you need is a springform pan and some stuff. I’ll show you.

Red Velvet Swirl Cheesecake slice

Three cheesecake tips:

1. Your cream cheese needs to be at room temperature. You can’t cheat with this step or you’ll get a lumpy cheesecake. And the microwave isn’t a good way to cheat, either, in case you’re tempted.

2. Before adding the eggs, you can whip the batter to within an inch of its life to make it as smooth as possible. But once the eggs go in? Beat just until it’s all mixed together, and then stop. The air you whip into the batter at that point will stay in the batter, because that’s what eggs do. That incorporated air will make the cheesecake puff up while baking, then fall and crack as it cools. (But hey, if it cracks, throw some toppings on!)

3. Some people use a water bath when they bake cheesecake, but I’ve found that I can get good results without one, if I use a lower temperature (like with this recipe). To tell when your cheesecake is done, gently tap the side of the pan with your oven mitt. A bit of jiggling is all right, but if the center still acts liquidy, it needs a little more time in the oven.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. Love you all.

Graham crackers

Red Velvet Swirl Cheesecake

adapted from Lion House Bakery

Crust:

1-1/2 cups finely crushed graham cracker crumbs (about 9 graham crackers)

3 tablespoons sugar

6 tablespoons butter, melted

Filling:

1 ounce bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 tablespoon butter

3 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 to 2 teaspoons red food coloring, depending on how “red” you want it.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Prepare crust: In a small mixing bowl, thoroughly mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Press firmly onto bottom (and up the sides, if you want) of a greased 8-inch springform pan; set aside while preparing filling.

Filling: Partially melt the chopped chocolate and butter together in the microwave on LOW (or in a double boiler on the stove). Stir until completely melted. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth; add sugar and vanilla, and beat until completely incorporated and all lumps are gone from the mixture, scraping the sides frequently. Add the eggs all at once and beat just until the eggs are incorporated, no more than about 10 seconds.

Remove about 1/2 cup of the batter into a small mixing bowl, and fold in the melted chocolate mixture and the red food coloring, until completely incorporated.

Pour the white batter into the springform pan, and spoon the red batter in a few dollops over the top. Using a knife, gently make a few swirled patterns in the batter. If you swirl too much, you’ll lose the patterns you’ve created.

Bake for 60 minutes, or until the center no longer looks liquidy when the pan is gently moved (checking it too early can cause your cheesecake to crack).

Remove from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack. After 10 minutes, gently run a knife around the side of the pan to help release the crust. Let the cheesecake sit at room temperature for one hour. Do not release the springform pan yet. Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. When you’re ready to serve, release the springform pan and slice with a warm knife.