Choose Your Own Adventure Cheesecake
I’ve always been a sucker for decadent desserts, spicy food, and choose-your-own-adventure-novels (and handsome men, but that’s a whole other blog post). This recipe combines the best of all worlds – even the handsome men thing, but that’s my husband and you’ll kindly keep your hands off.
We’re off to choose our own adventure (you used to read those books, right?!), so buckle up your tastebuds. This is going to be a wild spicy ride.
Let’s start from the beginning.
One day I got an email from the CEO of Marx Foods asking if I’d like to take part in the Recipe Challenge: A Chile and a Spoon. Um, yes please. I faced my first choice: do I make a breakfast cereal (chilies with milk and bran?) or do I make a cheesecake (chilies with cheese?). Obviously I chose the road paved with cheese.
My Aunt Cheryl makes a fabulous cheesecake and I modified her recipe to make this one a reality. The lovely folks over at marxfoods.com mailed me a package filled with dried chiiles and the challenge was on. I faced my second choice: do I use Tepin, Thai, Puya, Cascabel, or Guajillo Chilies?
I went with the Puya Chilies because of their potent, spicy, yet sweet flavor. With a few tweaks to my Aunt Cheryl’s recipe, and several Puya Chiles, I had my recipe for the competition.
The results? Creamy, light cheesecake cups, with a spicy cream top.
Sound crazy? Perhaps. Sound delicious? You, my friend, are absolutely right.
Here’s what you’ll need to make this adventure happen:
1 or 2 muffin tins
24 baking cups
Graham cracker crust:
1 ½ cups finely crushed graham crackers
3 tbs. sugar
1/3 cup melted butter
2 8 oz. cream cheese packets, softened
1 can sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup sour cream
3 tbs. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
4 dried Puya Chilies
1 tbs. grapeseed oil
2-4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, such as Ghirardelli’s
Start off by heating your oven 350 degrees, then line your muffin tin with baking cups.
Make your graham cracker crumbs. Drop a few grahams in the blender or food processor (I used the blender, but either would work well), and pulse until finely crushed. Measure and pour into a small bowl.
Add in the sugar and the melted better, then mix to combine.
Press about a spoonful of crumbs into the bottom of each baking cup. Set aside. Rinse out the blender or processor – you’ll use this again in a bit.
In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, condensed milk, eggs, and fresh lemon juice.
Use a handheld beater to beat well. You’ll need to beat for 3-5 minutes; you want the filling to be smooth and mostly chunk-free.
Pour filling into the baking cups.
Place on middle rack of oven and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until tops of cakes are lightly golden brown.
While cakes bake, rehydrate chilies. Remove them from packaging and rinse with warm water. Place chilies in a large drinking glass, then pour hot water (I microwaved the water for about 2 minutes, then poured it into the drinking glass) over the chilies. Place a smaller glass on top to keep the chilies from rising out of the water.
Cut each chile in half and remove seeds and ribs. You are removing these so that the topping does not become too hot; you want it to have a nice strong flavor without being unbearably hot. I recommend using your knife to remove the seeds and ribs, as chilies can burn and you want to keep your hands away from the hottest stuff as much as possible.
Roughly chop chilies, then drop into your rinsed out blender or food processor – whatever you used for the graham crackers. Add in the grapeseed oil and puree. You’ll still have big chile chunks at this point: that’s okay. Now add in the sour cream, sugar, and vanilla. Pulse to combine and to completely break up chilies.
Remove cakes form oven once cooked. Spread a layer of the chili topping on each cake, then return to oven and bake for another 8 minutes.
(The cakes with the white tops are regular, chile-less cheesecakes. You can make these by following the exact same recipe, but leaving out the chilies and the grapeseed oil.) Remove from oven, transfer to plate, and allow to cool. Once cakes are cooled, place them in the refrigerator. Allow to chill for at least an hour before eating.
Now, here’s where it’s your turn to make a decision. You can remove the baking wrapper and either a.) grab your spoon and dig in immediately or b.) top these with melted chocolate. I know, even giving a chocolate-less option sounds as if I’ve lost my mind. Please forgive me – I breathed in a lot of chile fumes last night.
But really, you might be interested in leaving these chocolate-less, as this just might be one of those times when less is, in fact, more. If you’re anything like me (and I pray to God you are so that my nonsense actually makes sense to you) you’ll want to try them both ways.
To make this happen, melt 2-4 oz. of chocolate (I used Ghirardelli’s semi-sweet chocolate) in a microwave-safe dish.
Heat it on medium-heat for 1 ½-2 minutes until melted. Be careful not to overheat, as this will cause the chocolate to over-thicken. Drizzle melted chocolate over the cakes.
Benefits to going down the chocolate road? The chocolate provides a rich counterpart to the spicy creaminess of the chilies and cheese. It’s delicious, like mole sauce. The benefits to skipping the chocolate are that you can taste the sweetness of the chilies more and they truly do shine on their own.
I told you it was a choose-your-own-adventure recipe.
*Be sure to stop by and check out marxfoods.com for amazing foods and recipes!