Key word: Chocolate or Cheesecake?

Or maybe it’s “horses”.  I like that I can post in a not-so-regular fashion, mention chocolate and cheesecake, and get a bunch of hits.  Kids, don’t try this at home.

Chocolate cheesecake in progress

From now on I’m gonna mention those three magic words in all my posts, just for fun, just for the thrill of seeing my stats hop like the Easter bunny.

So I made this cheesecake, brought it to the Italian restaurant where a gang of friends and I drank pink champagne, ate dinner, lit candles, sang the song, ate chocolate cheesecake and moaned with pleasure.

We offered a slice of said cheesecake to the couple sitting nearest our loud and raucous party after they offered to take a group picture for us.  They accepted and said it was delicious.  Then the guy asked who made it and gave me his business card.  Turns out he owns the swank new restaurant in the next town.  He told me he would buy chocolate cheesecakes from me.  That it was light and delicious and he was sure it would be a hit.  Hmmmm….yeah, in my spare time.  Of which I have zero, typically, lately.  Nineteen units and all. 

Delicious and Delightful

So here’s the recipe in case you want to make friends and strangers swoon someday soon…..

This recipe was adapted from a Reader’s Digest cookbook called “Chocolate Sensations”, a cookbook  that my ex-future-in-laws gave me for Christmas a while back.  They’re sweet.

Rose Levy Berenbaum, author of “The Cake Bible”, (a book any serious home baker must own), taught me to bake a cheesecake in a water bath to ensure creaminess from “stem to stern”. 

Be prepared.  This cake is not for the faint of heart.  It takes a couple hours to make it and bake it and cool it.  You should bake it the day before you need it, ’cause it works best if you can refrigerate it overnight before unmolding and decorating.  A true labor of love.

If you want creaminess through and through, use a water bath, which means simply setting the pan of unbaked cheesecake into a larger pan and adding about an inch of very hot water to the outer pan before putting it in the oven to bake.  I recommend using a  3-inch deep, 9-inch diameter, round cake pan, or something similar for the cheesecake.  You can use a springform pan, but you’ve got to wrap the sides and bottom with double layers of heavy duty tin foil if you’re gonna set it in a water bath.  You don’t want the bath water to seep into the cheesecake.  For the water bath I used a 3-inch deep, 12-inch diameter cake pan.  You can use any deep pan for the bath ( a rectangular roasting pan works nicely) as long as it’s bigger than the cheescake pan.

If you don’t do the water bath, you are forgiven.  Just line a deep 9-inch cake pan or springform pan with parchment, and butter the sides.  Leave the parchment hanging over the edges slightly so you’ll have something to grab hold of when it’s time to unmold.

Are you still with me? 

Without further ado,

Luscious Chocolate Cheesecake

Bottom Crust:

1 3/4  cups of chocolate wafer crumbs.  Place the wafers between 2 sheets of parchment and crush with a rolling pin or use a food processor.

7 Tablespoons  melted butter

Mix together and press into bottom of pan.


Three 8-ounce packages of Philadelphia brand cream cheese.

1 1/4  cups sugar

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup sour cream (one 8-ounce container)

8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate.  I used Valrhona bittersweet.

1/2 cup heavy cream


4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

2 Tablespoons melted butter

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons light corn syrup

Fresh strawberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.  Arrange oven racks so that cheesecake will bake in the center of the oven.

If you’re using a water bath, put some water on to boil.

With an electric mixer,  preferably using the whisk attachment, beat cream cheese until smooth.  Beat in sugar.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each and scraping the bowl a time or two.  Beat in the vanilla and the sour cream.

Chop the chocolate into small pieces.  Heat the cream just until it’s steaming and little bubbles form around the edge.  Do not walk away while it’s heating 🙂  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until smooth.  Let it cool slightly before adding it to the cheesecake mixture.  You can either mix it in thoroughly or just kinda lightly swirl it in for a two-tone look.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

If you’re using a water bath, place the pan containing the batter into the larger pan, then carefully pour the very hot water into the larger pan, surrounding the smaller pan with about an inch of water.  Using potholders, carefully transfer the whole shebang to the middle rack of the preheated oven.

Bake for 45 minutes, then without opening the oven door, shut off the oven and let the cake remain inside for another hour.  Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for another hour before covering with plastic wrap and refrigerating overnight.

The next day, remove the cheesecake from the fridge, warm the bottom of the pan for just a minute by waving it over a hot burner, and then grab the parchment liner on either side and gently lift the cake out of the pan.  You might need a friend to pull the pan away if you don’t have a third hand.  Peel the parchment away from the sides of the cake and use a pancake turner to lift the cake off the parchment and put it onto a serving plate.  

Make the glaze.  Chop the chocolate and put it into a bowl with the melted butter.  Heat the cream,  just to the boiling point.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate/butter.  Stir ’til smooth and add the corn syrup.  Stir again til completely smooth.  Cool ’til thickened enough to spread over the cake, maybe ten minutes.  Spread it over the cake.

Decorate with fresh organic strawberries.  I added a bit of stabilized whipped cream and some fresh mint leaves.


Posted in Amazing Stories, posts with photos, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | 29 Comments

On chocolate and cheese and rolling around in the grass

Tomorrow is Chantal’s birthday, so naturally I had to leave the house early this morning and buy some chocolate for the cheesecake, I mean the “Luscious Chocolate Cheesecake”, that is in the oven as we speak.  Yes, you can be my friend too, if you want.

On the way home a lone black cow grazed in a green field speckled with yellow flowers under a teal blue and white sky.  RRRrrrrrr….sound of tires squealing to a stop.

I pulled into a driveway to turn around and spyed 4 horses in a similarly picturesque field.  Pulled way over, grab camera, hop out.

Click, click, click.  Lay in the lush grass and snap away.   

Posted in animal stories, daily Life, posts with photos | Tagged , , , | 19 Comments

Turn it up loud and twice

All week this song has been stuck in my head and occasionally belted out for all the  bottles of shampoo in the shower to hear. 

May it get stuck in your head for a while, too.

Posted in Love | Tagged , , , | 15 Comments

The pendulum has swung

The pendulum has swung so hard to the left that I am now skipping around in the sunshine, hoping that it will not hit me in the back of the head anytime soon as I deliriously enjoy it’s latest bounty.  


Last two weeks: endless rain, cold, mudslides, trees crashing to earth, bringing power lines with them, earthquakes and tsunamis causing a change in the force, thousands of my fellow earthlings suffering.  Deep inside my cave I juggled mid-terms, a teenager, and a breaking heart.  Boo Hoo.

But now Spring has Sprung.  This week opened with a huge splash of blue skies and sunshine.  It is as if somebody decided enough was enough.  Out with the old, in with the new, a clean slate, it’s Springtime!  Bring on the big fuzzy bunny and some dark chocolate! 

Goodbye winter! See ya!  Thanks for all the rain, now don’t let the door hit you in the ass on way out!  Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry?  Bye-Bye now.

The forecast is for sun, sun, sun, from now until November.  That’s what I’m talking about.  Put the galoshes in the closet and the raincoat in the garage.  The umbrella needn’t ride shotgun any longer.

And as if the weather weren’t lovely enough, guess who got accepted into the Nursing Program at San Francisco State University for Spring 2012! 

I am beside myself.

And, in exchange for one measly forty-dollar video game, my almost-fifteen-year-old boy, has agreed to join a Saturday hiking class with me; six Saturdays, six different 4-6 mile hikes, led by a local naturalist.

Life is good and I am grateful.

Posted in Amazing Stories, college, daily Life, Mother Nature, teens | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

bright shiny thing in the sky

It’s an orb, it has bright lights, it’s hovering over the neighbor’s house, it’s blinding me!  HELP!

The entire neighborhood is illuminated!  NO, NO!  People are coming out of their houses to stare at it, they’re being blinded too!  Fools!  Go back inside!  Call 911, Call the Air Force, Call your congresspersons!  Call your mother!

Oh, no, wait.  It’s the sun.  My bad.

Posted in Amazing Stories, daily Life, Mother Nature | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments

She drove to her old neighborhood to visit her dog

She drove to her old neighborhood to visit her dog.  Her sweet little Feather-Foo who now lives with her ex.  Her sweet little Feather-Foo who broke into the ex’s tenant’s cabin three days ago and stole a pot cookie.  A marijuana cookie.  She didn’t just steal it, she ate it.  Poor little Feather Foo has been in bed ever since.  Day one she was very near comatose, could barely lift her head.  Day two slightly better.  Day three she is more energetic, can wag her tail again, but will not get up when asked if she wants to go for a walk, a question which normally sends her into spastic furry circles.  The internet says she will survive, she will be fine, give her time and water. 

She gives Feather lots of pats and sympathetic words, says goodbye to the teenager, and walks south.  Two houses down, old Mercedes station wagon out front, she opens a little half gate, knocks on a door.  Raucous laughter, greetings.  Mobiles hanging, seaweed, rocks, pinecones.  Wild mushroom soup, hot and spicy, broccoli and red peppers.  A mushroom cookie, Candy Caps, not psychedelic, sweet and earthy.  More laughter, warm by the fire.  Stories of dogs they’ve known who survived eating marijuana.  Don’t worry, they tell her, she’ll be just fine.  She is given a necklace, made of abalone shell, seaweed, and purple glass beads.  “I’ll wear it every day.”

Posted in daily Life, food, Mother Nature | Tagged , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

blogged out

I’m blogged out and rained out and sold out and I’m a hold out.

Raining all weekend. Rain, rain, rain.  Rain in the forecast.  Can you hear it hitting the pavement outside in the dark?  Can you feel the dampness in the air?  Can you smell the giant pair of teenager sneakers by the door? 

Almost eleven, up since six, three classes, no nap, wide awake.  One cup of tea all day.

Wide awake.  Chicken in my teeth.  Salt on my lips.  Trouble on my mind.


Posted in college, daily Life, food, teens | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

When I grow up I want to be a crossing guard

It takes a certain type of person to be a crossing guard. 


First of all, you have to look good in orange.  Check.

Gotta like kids.  Check.

Gotta be reliable.  Check.                         

Gotta be willing to get up early, and then leave your afternoons free.  Hmmmm….                                       

Most importantly, you have to be willing to throw yourself out there in front of five thousand pounds of hurtling , caffeine-driven, steel,  plastic, and glass, armed only with a wispy little stop sign on the end of a stick.  I could do that.


I have a favorite crossing-guard.  Twice in the last month I have parked my car near her cross-walk with the intention of asking if I could take some pictures of her.  Twice I wimped out.  OK, one of those times it was raining.  Plus, I’m shy.          

So I’ll paint you a picture.  She’s in her sixties at least, probably older.  She wears a baseball cap over what appears to be a wig.  Either that or she has some unnaturally thick hair of an  indescribabe color.  Ok, it’s the color of tuna fish.  The cheap kind.  Not albacore.

She has jowls that would make Walter Matthou jealous.  But they look good on her.  She’s plump, like any respectable grandma.  She wears sneakers.  But my favorite thing about her is that she often wears pink pants.  And they look amazing with the orange vest.

What can I say.  Every time I drive past her spot, early morning or mid-afternoon, rain or shine,  she’s there.  I wonder what her name is.  She looks like an Edna.  Yup, definitely an Edna.  Or Dora.

She must have seniority among the crossing-guards because she has the best spot, with the public library on one side and a beautiful old church on the other.  Warning lights flash when someone wants to cross.  Good back-up.  She has a folding chair set up on each side.  This morning she was sitting propped against a telephone poll, lost in thought, umbrella at her side.  Across the way she sits beside a huge planter that is currently in bloom with yellow daisies and purple rosemary, the church towering behind her.  Go ahead and picture it. 

Someday, hopefully not too soon, Edna will get a promotion and find herself guarding that big cross-walk in the sky.  By then I should be ready to wear pink pants.


Posted in daily Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Thursdays are my Friday

Good Lord!  I’m out of town for one night and I come back to an overflowing in-box.  You people are maniacs. 

Two hours later I’ve caught up on my fav-o-blogs and I’m ready to fill your in-box with wit.  Right back at ya.

Yesterday the Spring semester began, and tomorrow we have mid-terms.  Whoa!  Where did the last 8 weeks go?  I don’t even want to know…

Anybody wanna come into the city with me tomorrow?  San Francisco?  I have to visit an art gallery there and view some photos for my photography class. 

As long as we’re in the city, we might as well visit the best bakery on the planet, Tartine, stand in the line that inevitably winds it’s way out the door and down the block, and then gush with mirth and disbelief as we sink our teeth into pillowy pastries and sip steamy, creamy lattes from bowls.

Come with me.   I’ll take a picture of you with a latte mustache, then we’ll walk over to Dolores Park and people-watch.

Posted in college, daily Life, food, Travels, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

study, eat, delete

Rainy Sunday passes quickly.  Been sitting at the keyboard for most of the day so far, moving pictures around, deleting the dumb ones, pushing the old ones onto the external hard drive to make room for more….

Walk around the block in the drizzle.  A slug is crossing the road.  A worm is crossing the road.  Why?  They’re probably wondering the same thing about me.  No doubt they too are just out for a little fresh air, some exercise to keep their wormy-sluggishness in order. 

Leftover Chinese take-out in the microwave.  Roof of my mouth tender from last night’s too-hot-no-patience pizza fest.  Immediately after warning the teenager to let it cool before scarfing, this wonderful role-model sat silently cursing herself.  Granola for breakfast was a bad choice.  May need to medicate myself soon with some ice cream.

Join me.   

Posted in daily Life, food, Not-so-amazing stories, teens, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 21 Comments