Sunday, July 17, 2016

dn's No-Bake Chocolate Cheesecake Squares

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a tweet from Grant Melton who is part of the culinary production team on The Rachael Ray Show - and baker extraordinaire! He was doing a no-bake dessert segment on the show that day and asked what your go to summer sweet was.

I was going to just send a link to this recipe - then realized that I had yet to put it on the blog! OOPS!

So, I just gave a brief description. He liked the idea so much, he retweeted it!

For me, this is a go to recipe almost any time of the year. It's simple to make, can (and should) be made ahead - except for adding the fruit on top!) and isn't nearly as expensive to make as a full out cheesecake! It's also a bonus that I almost always have all the ingredients on hand!

I've been making this recipe for well over 20 years. I don't recall exactly HOW or WHEN I came up with the basic idea. However, I do recall that I started playing with this idea after a few attempts at making cheesecake. I tried several so called "can't fail" recipes. The baked ones used a lot of cream cheese, eggs and cream. No matter how careful I was, they always fell. The non baked ones also used a lot of cream cheese, cream and usually unflavoured gelatin - an ingredient I've never had any luck using!

Let's be honest here - as delicious as cheesecake can and should be, it is also expensive to make! By the time you buy all the cream cheese, cream and whatever other ingredients the recipe calls for, you feel like you've made a financial investment. If it doesn't turn out, it feels like a waste of time and money! Not to mention it can look really bad when you try to serve it to even the most forgiving and understanding of family and friends!

I figured there had to be a simple way to replicate a cheesecake like dessert without all the expense and worry of how it would turn out! It took a few tries to figure out what ingredients to use, get the quantities to the right proportions and the method to the point where there weren't hunks of chocolate in the cream cheese - though that wasn't so bad either - but I just wanted a really dark creamy chocolate cheesecake on a chocolate crumb crust!

Well, eventually my attempts paid off and I had my No Bake Chocolate Cheesecake Squares! 

Over the years, I've also developed some other no bake desserts including: Orange And Chocolate Cream Pie; LemonCloud Pie; No Bake Chocolate And PBSlice and some variations to Janet & Greta Podleski's Jollygood Squares. You'll find those and just over 100 other recipes in a variety of categories on my recipe index! (Or you can just click on the pic of Sylvester wearing the chef's hat on the right side of the page.)

dn's No-Bake Chocolate Cheesecake Squares

8 ounces bittersweet or dark chocolate
1 1/4 cup chocolate cookie crumbs
1/4 cup block margarine
8 ounces (250 gram) light cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 Litre (4 cups) light, whipped topping, thawed

Spray a 8" square pan with nonstick cooking spray such as Pam. Set aside.

Place the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. (NOTE: I generally use chips but if using squares or large pieces of chocolate, I cut them into smaller pieces first for more even and faster melting.) Melt on medium power for about 2 - 2 1/2 minutes, stirring after a minute then every 30 seconds or till the chocolate is completely melted and no lumps remain. Set aside to cool a bit before adding to the recipe.

Place the cookie crumbs in a small bowl. Place the margarine in a microwave safe bowl and melt on medium power in microwave - about 45 seconds depending on how cold the margarine is and the power of your microwave. Add the melted margarine to the crumbs and mix thoroughly. Spread the mixture evenly over the bottom of the prepared pan. Lightly pack the crumbs with the back of a fork or spoon to form an even, slightly firm layer (Don't press in too firmly or the crust will be rock hard and difficult to cut once chilled.) Place the pan in the fridge so the crust can set while you prepare the filling.

Cut the cream cheese into small pieces and place in a medium sized bowl. (NOTE: Cutting into smaller pieces makes it easier for the mixer to whip the cream cheese as it isn't trying to work with one giant piece.) With an electric mixer, whip the cream cheese to light and very creamy. Mix in the almond extract. Add the cooled, melted chocolate and mix thoroughly with the cream cheese. Don't worry if there seems to be some tiny amounts of solid chocolate. It is most likely just the difference in temps between the chocolate and the cream cheese!

Blend the thawed whipped topping into the chocolate cream cheese combo and mix thoroughly. Pour the creamy mixture over the cookie crust and spread evenly. Chill several hours or overnight before serving.

To serve: Cut into 8 or 9 pieces and add a topping to individual servings if desired. Topping suggestions: toasted almonds; sliced strawberries; fresh fruit salad; fruit preserve.

Cover and refrigerate any leftovers.

- Add 2 Tablespoons of toasted almonds to the crust mixture (reduce cookie crumbs to 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons)
- Switch out the almond extract for vanilla or orange.
- Sprinkle some toasted almonds, cookie crumbs or finely chopped dark chocolate over the finished dessert before chilling.

NOTE: It is better to add any fresh fruit or preserves to individual servings rather than to the top of the entire dessert as the fruit can get soggy and not look nearly as nice if left sitting for awhile.