When you live in Morocco, it’s handy to have a few super powers. Driving stick shift…is not a super power. It’s a plain old power. Driving stick shift, during rush hour, behind a mule cart and right up next to a flashy 4×4, a guy trying to sell you box of tissue while the light is red, while tuning out the arguments of 3 or 4 kids (is it pronounced pokemon or pokeman? No! It’s not a man, it’s a monster)… is a super power, one that few give credit to.
Another, much less vital super power I’ve discovered I possess is the ability to bake any American dessert with Moroccan ingredients. I have cracked the code on many classics, such as Chocolate Chip cookies, for which I have sourced actual chocolate chips in both dark, milk and white chocolate (you can only find them in the deep recesses of the medina, at a professional baker supply store). I’ve also discovered a decent substitute to brown sugar, which is cane sugar (Marjane) mixed with a few spoons of sugar honey (Miel de glucose). Works like a charm to give that must-have butterscotch flavored chewiness to the cookies. No need to thank me, frustrated fellow bakers, it’s just what I do. I find this super power useful when my American friends complain about the food here. I just say, man up and make it yourself! If you’re gonna make it around these parts, you better crack the code too. That’s my PSA for y’all.
One strange thing about my super power is that I can never outpower my sister. Just when I’ve reached a new level, she’ll show up with like, oh, Cinnamon Rolls from scratch (I’m not gonna write from scratch anymore during this post, because there’s no other way to bake around here). Funny story about that, once my sister was over and we made brownies. That day my husband had a guest from the states and we served the brownies for dessert. The guest said “so you guys brought the box of brownie mix over from the states?”. And we were like “are you kidding me?”. There’s like 5 ingredients in brownies, all available from the local store and they take about 10 minutes to mix. Box mix is for sissies
That said, there are some things that I like to have from the states. One is a set of measuring cups, since most American recipes are measured in cups, not grams (there are ways to convert between the two, some websites, don’t get me started). Anyway, I have my measuring cups. Another is some good quality vanilla extract. I like the Trader Joe’s brand that is alchohol-free. That’s about it, seriously. 2 things. As far as cooking in general, I like spice mixes like Mrs Dash. I stock up on those if I get to the states, or my family and friends bring them over.
Everything else I can either make, find or do without.
So, this past Eid, I decided to put a new twist on my Moroccan-made cheesecake. (My sister did, and since I can’t get ahead of her, I have to at least keep up). Chocolate Cheesecake!
1. I think the ingredients speak for themselves here, but just in case not, let me introduce them. Sable are our Graham Crackers, Carre creme (the squares) is our cream cheese, Perly is our sour cream/yogurt, Nestle is sweetened condensed milk. That Choco Pasty stuff is dark chocolate, the real kind, don’t go for “Sucre Chocolate” which only has 5% cocoa. Eggs and butter are, naturally, universal.
4. Pat the crust into the pan like so. It’s classier to just cover the bottom and not try to go up the sides:
6. This is how chocolate looks when you’ve done absolutely nothing to it:
7. Now melt it. I ended up using 200g, almost the whole pack but not quite. I wanted it chocolaty enough to overpower the cream cheese, but not so chocolaty that it’s bitter. This is where you gotta love microwaves. Sure we don’t know what the long-term effects are… but you make it up in clean dishes!
8. Let the chocolate cool for a minute and blend it into the cream cheese mixture. I love that this whole recipe take place in the food processor and you hardly have to do any work. When you pour it over your crust it should look like this and very liquidy:
9. It takes a good hour to cook on low heat. Once it’s set, don’t let it overcook or it will dry out. I went ahead and made a lemon cheesecake too. I was interested to see that they behaved very differently in the oven, the lemon one really puffed up and the chocolate one stayed low. I realized that the lemon juice I used to flavor the lemon cheesecake actually curdled the milk ingredients and gave a whole other texture, it was grainier. The chocolate one tasted smooth as mousse. Of course when I mentioned this to my sister, she’d already encountered the same phenomenon and solved it by using only lemon zest (not juine) to flavor it, and it didn’t curdle. She’s so Obiwan to my Luke. Yeah, yeah, we watched Star Wars and now every metaphor or simile is Yoda this, Darth Vader that.
11. My attempts at food styling. Couldn’t think of anything to top this with except for a blue morning glory. The teapot is a bit of a show-stealer, all shiny and symbolic of Morocco. Enjoy and remember, I’m not legally responsible for the 5 pounds you gained while reading this post.