Great little recipe has the smallest ingredient list possible and big on everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. That means five ingredients or less — not including water, salt, black pepper, and some fats (like oil and butter), because we’re assuming you’ve covered them. Inspired by the column, the Big little recipes recipe book is available now.
When it comes to baked goods, cheesecake is known to be unstable.
Books and blogs are full of tips and tricks to foil a cracked top: Add flour. Add cornstarch. Add the eggs one at a time. Add the eggs at the end. Cook in a bain-marie. Bake covered with aluminum foil. Cook at low temperature. Cook at very low temperature. Cook until the center shakes a lot. Cook until the center jiggles a little. Leave to cool in the oven off. Let cool to room temperature.
I have a simpler idea: skip the oven altogether. And, while you’re at it, skip most of the grocery list, too.
In the refrigerator, nothing can go wrong. While the difference between undercooked and overcooked cheesecake is only a matter of minutes, the difference between undercooled and overcooled – are these real words? – it’s hours.
Which means you can throw the cheesecake in the fridge and then forget about it. Get out, walk the block, soak up the sun. This is possible because all the ingredients needed for cooking, such as raw flour and eggs, are not there.
The filling is just chocolate and cream cheese. And the crust is just crackers and butter. I know it sounds too good to be true. It’s not.
Instead of looking for inspiration in other no-bake cheesecakes, I turned to ganache. This two-ingredient model – chocolate and heavy cream – could turn into icing, truffle, pie, or icing, depending on ratio and use. We just swap cream cheese and a springform pan.
The result is intensely chocolaty, with an assertive flavor and a melt-in-your-mouth bite. Extra sugar is not necessary because semi-sweet chocolate is exactly that – just a little sweet. And resist the temptation to add vanilla extract or espresso powder. These ornaments slip into many chocolate cheesecake recipes. But like a reflection on a TV screen, they distract from what we’re trying to focus on: the bitterness of chocolate, the funky of cheese.
The base also does not need sugar. While many crumb crusts require a dollop for flavor and binding, you won’t notice its absence. In fact, it makes for a less cloying, more balanced, more nuanced dessert. Whatever crackers you use, they probably already contain sugar.
Which reminds me: Crackers depend on you. There are no wrong answers. The Ritzs are buttery. Saltines are salty. Graham are classic. Or try graham chocolate for a double chocolate cheesecake. I could take a big slice of it now.
Recipe: Salted Chocolate Cheesecake