Rather than battling crowds and spiked restaurant prices, Ryan and I have a tradition of celebrating Valentine’s Day with a special meal at home. We love our time cooking together and savoring every course of our meal. Historically, our favorite Valentine’s dinner has had two consistent elements: 1) Seafood. We boil as many crab legs as we can eat, and give ourselves a free pass to ignore how much butter is consumed in the dipping process; and 2) The dessert must be chocolate and it must be something new.
Unfortunately, our traditions have been on hiatus the last couple of years. Two years ago, I was suffering from awful first-trimester nausea with Clark. So, while lying on the couch in my sweats, I groaned something like, “We always make crab! We have to make it! I just can’t eat it. Or smell it...” Like the good husband he is, Ryan told me not to worry. He would make himself a frozen pizza and we could eat crab when I was feeling well again. Last year, Clark was just a little guy and we hardly knew which way was up, so the three of us went out for dinner together a couple of weeks after Valentine’s Day. We were just proud of ourselves for celebrating in the right month.
But this year, I am bringing the tradition back! Clark is visiting his Grams, candles will be lit, crab will be eaten, and I have already found my amazing new chocolate dessert: I am wowing Ryan with this decadent New York-Style Red Velvet Cheesecake. In addition to having the crucial chocolate element, this cheesecake is rich, creamy and it’s red! What could be more perfect than sharing a slice with your Valentine?
This dessert does require some planning – make it the day before so it has time to cool overnight. Also, you will want to be certain that your ingredients are at room temperature before you begin. The cream cheese, in particular, needs to be at room temperature so it’s creamy and blends together smoothly. Just set your ingredients out on the counter for an hour. If the cream cheese is still a little too cool, you can microwave it for a few seconds.
When you’re ready, preheat the oven to 350°F.
Since the point of the Test Kitchens blog is to be transparent about our recipe experience, I have to confess that I messed up on the very first step. I lined my entire springform pan with two sheets of aluminum foil. I thought that seemed a little strange since it might make the sides of the cheesecake less smooth, but I was trying to be careful and follow directions. I was mistaken! Springform pans have two parts: the flat bottom piece and the outside ring. Separate the two pieces and just line the bottom of the pan. Now reattach the outside ring.
The crust calls for crushed chocolate wafer cookies (the ones in this photo are my favorite for baking!), so I threw the cookies in my blender and they were smooth crumbs in no time. A food processor would be another fast way to accomplish this task.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the cookie crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup melted butter.
When those ingredients are well combined, pour them into the springform pan. Use your fingers to press the crust into the bottom of the pan and about an inch up the sides of the pan.
Place the crust in the oven and bake it for 8-12 minutes, until the crust is set. Honestly, since the crust is dark, I found it hard to tell one way or another how “baked” it was, so I thought 10 minutes was a safe middle ground. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the crust to cool completely.
Meanwhile, melt the milk chocolate chips in a two-quart saucepan over medium heat. Use a spatula to keep the chips moving so they don’t burn.
When the chocolate chips are melted, remove them from the heat and allow them to cool for 15 minutes.
In a medium bowl (or stand mixer), combine the softened cream cheese, 3/4 cup sugar and red food coloring. Beat it all together at a medium speed until it is nice and creamy.
My grocer only carried food coloring gel, so that’s what I used. It turned out rather pink. In the future, I will try to use more food coloring or a different type.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
Add the cooled, melted chocolate. Mix in 1/2 cup sour cream and two teaspoons vanilla.
Pour the filling mixture into the cooled chocolate crust.
Bake it in the oven for 80-90 minutes or until two inches from the edge of the pan is just set (meaning that the center will still be wiggly).
While the cheesecake is baking, combine the last few ingredients in a small bowl: sour cream, sugar and vanilla. If the cheesecake is nowhere near being done, just place the bowl in your refrigerator while you wait.
When the cheesecake is at that nicely-set stage, remove it from the oven and immediately spread the sour cream mixture over the top. The good news is that this layer will help smooth over any imperfections in case, like mine, your cheesecake cracks around the edges. However, it’s important that this layer is smooth, because it will set, not melt. Place the cheesecake back in the oven and bake for five additional minutes.
Remove the cheesecake from the oven, then allow it to cool completely.
When the cheesecake has cooled, run a knife along the edge of the pan to loosen the cheesecake. This is where my pan-lining mistake was a hindrance. It would be much smoother if you were just separating the cake from the smooth edge of the pan. Loosely cover the cooled cheesecake with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.
I wanted to give my cheesecake some extra flare, so I made chocolate curls for the top. I looked online for directions and it’s surprisingly simple! Just melt together about 1/3 cup chocolate chips (I chose semi-sweet) with a tablespoon of shortening. Flip over a baking sheet and pour the melted chocolate on the top.
Use a flat spatula or knife to spread the chocolate really thin.
I placed the pan of chocolate in the freezer for two minutes and it seemed firm (when I touched it with my finger, it only lightly smudged). However, when I used a sharp edge of a spatula to scrape the pan, it piled up like this. That meant it was still too soft. So I put the pan in the freezer for another two minutes.
This time when I used the spatula to scrape the pan, the chocolate curled up like this!
Lots of beautiful chocolate curls! Who knew these garnishes were so easy to make?
I say you can never have too much chocolate, so I spread chocolate fudge on top and added a few gorgeous chocolate curls to the center. Again, just refrigerate the cheesecake until you’re ready to serve it.
As our first few courses come to a close, it’s time to enjoy our New York-Style Red Velvet Cheesecake. Turn the lights down low and savor every bite.
Amanda is paid to write for the Recipe Buzz® Blog.