I was in a melancholy mood the other day. I didn't feel like doing much of anything because I had been so busy in previous days and I was tired, yet, was committed to making this cheesecake for an event. It had to be done. So, I had two choices. I could either buck up, put my big girl panties on and get it done with a "can do" attitude or I could wallow in self pity. While the first choice would have been taking the high road, I was just too tuckered out for it. I chose to wallow on purpose. I turned my itunes on and downloaded a few dramatically appropriate songs. Then I went about making the cheesecake while blasting some oldies. Namely, "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to", "You don't own me" and finally "Are you lonesome tonight". I was feeling pretty soothed between the music and the heavenly aroma from scraping fresh vanilla beans into the creamy, thick batter. Since Elvis was on, I decided to search for some more of his songs. I guess you could say I was feeling it. "All shook up" started playing and all I could think of was that scene from "Look Who's Talking" where John Travolta is dancing around the baby gym to the song. It made me happy. John Travolta has that effect on me. Especially John from 1991. "Hound dog" started up and they play that song in the dance scene in "Grease", so I had another lovely Travolta moment. Before you know it, the cheesecake was in the oven and I was singing "Viva Las Vegas" at the top of my lungs, alone in my kitchen. It would do you well to knock before entering my house. This is a rather normal scene here, although the songs vary. By the end of it, I had knocked that melancholy mood out on it's butt. Ah, the power of music.
I saw this cheesecake in a special publications magazine a few months back and have wanted to make it ever since. I'm glad I did. It was really good. I'm not a huge cheesecake fan because I find it to be boring most times. There is a lot of bad cheesecake out there. This cheesecake was anything but. It had personality and originality galore. The filling was creamy and slightly tangy and perfumed with all those specks of vanilla bean. It really makes a difference when you use an actual vanilla bean to flavor things as opposed to extract. It's more intoxicating, more delicate yet more pronounced at the same time. I buy mine wholesale and pay way less then you would in the grocery store. You can find them on amazon in packages of about 10-15 beans and they keep forever as long as they are sealed properly.
The chocolate ganache that goes on top of this is the perfect sweet compliment and balances the flavor of the filling very well. The only thing I would say to be aware of is, make sure you top this cheesecake with the ganache right before serving it. The chocolate sets up right away and if you refrigerate it, it becomes very hard and difficult to cut. The next time I make this I think I'll use a different chocolate ganache recipe. One with a larger ratio of liquid to chocolate so that I can safely refrigerate the whole thing, assembled without the risk of the chocolate setting up hard as a rock. If you make this and try another ganache, let me know what you did. This ganache is a bit out of the ordinary in that it uses chocolate and sweetened condensed milk. Most ganache is chocolate and cream. Either will work. When making this particular ganache, it might be grainy or slightly thick and lumpy when melted together. Just whisk it to smooth it out all the way so it is spreadable. Make sure to start this cheesecake the day before you need it as it will need to sit in the refrigerator overnight (without the ganache).
Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Chocolate Ganache
adapted from Jenn Tidwell from MixingBowl.com, A Better Homes and Gardens Publication
2 cups finely crushed chocolate teddy grams (I do this in a food processor)
zest from one orange (optional)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
2 cups sour cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. For the crust, in a medium bowl, combine crushed teddy grams and orange zest. Stir in melted butter and stir to combine. Press the crumb mixture onto bottom and up sides of the prepared pan. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes and set aside to cool.
For the filling, in a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined after each addition. gradually add sugar, beating until filling is creamy. Beat in sour cream and vanilla bean seeds. Scrape sides of bowl throughout mixing to prevent any lumps, but do not over-beat.
Pour filling into cooled crust; use a spatula to smooth the top. Place in a large roasting pan. Carefully pour enough boiling water into roasting pan to reach one-fourth of the way up the sides of the springform pan. Bake 1 hour. Turn off oven; leave cheesecake in the oven for 1 more hour with the oven door shut or until cheesecake jiggles slightly. Remove cheesecake from the roasting pan to wire rack. Using a small sharp knife, loosen the crust from pan sides. Cool for 1 hour. Chill, loosely covered for at least 5 hours or preferably, overnight.
Prepare ganache up to an hour before serving. In a small saucepan, combine the chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk. Cook and stir over low heat until smooth. Beat with a whisk if needed. Spread evenly over cheesecake. Let it sit until set, about 5-10 minutes before cutting. Once ganache is put on do not refrigerate the cheesecake again. (You can, but the chocolate will get very hard. If you use another, looser ganache recipe you can refrigerate the cheesecake because it will not harden up as much)
I had parchment paper lining my cheesecake pan because I needed to transport this and didn't want to leave my pan base. If you line your pan you can slide the cake off of the parchment and set the whole thing in a box to take somewhere else and don't have to worry about losing the base. When you go to cut the cheesecake, make one cut and then wipe your knife off with a paper towel. Repeat until the whole cheesecake is cut. This way you will get clean slices.