Oh, winter! How fleeting a memory you were! Alas, the time has come for me to avoid all traces of outdoor life with my very country, very “nature-y” family. They want me to “camp out”, i.e. sleep outside when I have a perfectly functional Tempur-pedic mattress in a perfectly safe bedroom inside of a perfectly locked and temperature-controlled home. Yeah, no. I’ma go ahead and make a s’mores cheesecake and play the “Campfire for Your Living Room TV” movie that’s on Netflix. They’d better settle for that and be happy.
Me? I don’t do “camping”. Things like s’mores I like, don’t get me wrong, just make sure it’s in the form of my s’mores cheesecake. I don’t like bugs…or poisonous plants…or… the outside. I just don’t like it.
Seems to me that there are plenty of women all over the world who get enthusiastic at the mention of a camping trip. I am, beyond a shadow of a doubt, not one of them. And I don’t need to be, do I? The world doesn’t need another lumber-Jill. It needs a Waldorf-Astoria-Jill. That’s me; gimme a spa and a shopping excursion and I’ll cook until you explode. Force me to endure ticks and bears, and I’ll poison you faster than you can catch a tapeworm. Let me revel in my strengths. Cheesecake is one of my super-powers.
I come from a long (one generation) line of New Yorkers. My mother, after emigrating to New York with her parents from Puerto Rico in the mid-fifties, became a typical Brooklynite who knew a thing or two about great NY-style cheesecakes. Most people swear the original Junior’s Cheesecake on Flatbush Ave. is the best cheesecake in the world. I will plead the fifth. Bad juju, you know? I will say that I think they’re deprived. I’m just not that big a fan.
Cheesecake has been around for centuries. The Twinks told me of an ancient Greek philosopher that wrote about cheesecake waaaaaay back then. I thought they were trying to pull a fast one to trick me into making them a cheesecake, so I ignored them. After googling, I found out the Twinks had, once again, proven they were smarter than me.
Every culture, it seems, has their own version of cheesecake, and I’ve made it my business to try as many as I can. Germans use quark, or a fermented milk. Quark is kind of like cheese, but its made without rennet, so it’s more akin to a fresh, non-aged cheese (like cottage cheese). Italians love their ricotta and use it quite frequently in their versions of cheesecake. The French use Neufchâtel- probably because they’re the only ones who can pronounce it properly- it’s lower in fat and tends to be saltier than cream cheese. I’ve had cheesecakes in each of these countries, as well as a Japanese variety here in the states, and I still feel the New York style cheesecake is top-dog.
Even among NY-style cheesecakes, there’s variety. Sponge cake base vs. graham cracker crumb base, fruit topping vs. plain; there are so many variations one could make a cheesecake a week and still have an assortment go unbaked! My S’mores cheesecake is, no lie, one of fifty that I make. Bad news: I can’t bake them all for you. Good news is I have plenty of blogging ahead of me, so we’re likely to hit all fifty.
This is a classic, NY-style cheesecake. Graham cracker crumb crust, cream cheese and heavy cream filling which is baked in a springform pan and a bain-marie (or hot water bath) to ensure a constant, even temperature. It’s a creamy, yet dense, dessert which is rich by any standard, but made even more so with the addition of a chocolate ganache layer and a swiss meringue garnish. The secret ingredient? Melted toasted marshmallows folded into the cheesecake batter.
Who the heck wants s’mores singed over a campfire when this s’mores cheesecake is in your repertoire?!?! I mean, c’mon!!!
Two things to bear in mind, don’t get too happy when adding the melted ‘mallows. I was so excited to get it into the oven that I blasted into the batter with my mixer at the highest speed and had the marshmallows climb onto and OVER my mixer’s beaters. Slice of humble-pie served up nice and hot. I turned down the speed while simultaneously scraping off the marshmallow blob. You can’t be a glutton either…well, any more of a glutton than one already is making this cheesecake; so, don’t greedily blanket the top of the cheesecake with the ganache. It’ll create an impenetrable forcefield which will repel your fork’s advances…not that I’ve been that greedy…who am I kidding. I AM that greedy y’all. I really, really am!!!
As far as the marshmallow-like garnish of Swiss meringue rosettes, they’re totally optional. Sure, the meringue is an additional step, but a decadent one which you won’t regret. You could, most certainly, top the cheesecake with pre-made marshmallows, but this cloud-like topping looks and tastes so much better. Not only can you use the meringue as a topping here, one could also bake the leftover meringues as I did here.
As a result of the separate, individual parts, you’re able to create something close to nirvana. Without driving to the nether regions of the planet and scavenging for roots and berries. This s’mores cheesecake will never attack you because you came between it and her baby cheesecakes. Quite the contrary, you may become the aggressor if someone gets a bit too friendly with your masterpiece.
Pin this recipe for later and tell me, are you one of those “nature people”? Confess in the comments!
Yield 10 servings
Who needs campfires, stale graham crackers and the all-too-common singed marshmallows, when this is begging to be prepared and devoured?
Graham Cracker Crust
14 oz (about 2 cups) graham cracker crumbs
5 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
8 toasted jumbo marshmallows (or 1 bag of regular marshmallows) *see note*
2lbs (4 8 oz bricks) cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
Chocolate Ganache Topping
12 oz (or 2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Swiss Meringue Topping (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Double wrap the bottom and sides of a 10"springform pan in aluminum foil. Place a large baking pan or casserole (the springform pan needs to fit into this), with three inches of water, into the oven.
In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs and the melted butter. Press the graham cracker mixture into the springform pan, pressing down to create a level crust. Bake in the oven for 10 min (on a different rack than your heating water). Remove and allow to cool.
In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the toasted marshmallows on 30 second bursts until the marshmallows are runny.
In a large mixing bowl, whip the cream cheese until it is smooth. Scrape down the bowl often to eliminate any lumps. Add the granulated sugar and cornstarch and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure to mix well after each addition and scrape down the bowl frequently. Add the vanilla extract, sour cream, and finally your melted marshmallows. Beat on low speed to avoid the marshmallows swallowing your mixer! Pour the cheesecake batter into the prepared pan and set the pan into your hot water bath, carefully. Avoid getting any water into the cheesecake pan. Bake for 1 hour or until the cheesecake wiggles slightly when touched.
Once the baking time has elapsed, turn off the oven and prop open the oven door. This will allow the cheesecake to cool slowly and, thus, should prevent any cracks in the cheesecake's surface. Allow the cheesecake to cool, in the oven, for another hour. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and place in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight.
To prepare the chocolate ganache, put the chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl. Pour the cream over and heat, in the microwave, on high, for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and stir. Return the bowl to the microwave and heat another minute. Stir again. Continue heating, in 30 sec intervals, until the ganache is lump-free and smooth.
Make the Swiss meringue topping (link in Ingredients)
To assemble the cheesecake:
Remove the cheesecake from the pan and smooth any rough edges with a spatula.
Ice the top with chocolate ganache.
Pipe rosettes or dollops of Swiss meringue onto the outside of the cheesecake to form a decorative border. Caramelize with a butane torch, is desired.
Keep refrigerated until ready to eat. Cut the cheesecake with a warmed knife to get through the ganache without too much mess. Enjoy!
To toast marshmallows:
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
Lay the marshmallows in a single layer on the sheet pan.
Toast the marshmallows under a broiler set to "low". It will only take about 30 seconds for the marshmallows to start browning. One the side has browned, turn the mallows over and brown the other side. Continue flipping the marshmallows until all the sides are toasted.
Try these other homebody desserts: