Death by Chocolate, the Cheesecake Version

 

 

 

 

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.

2. Put the Sable biscuits in the food processor.  My food processor is about 13 years old.  Every time a new piece breaks of and I think about springing for a new one, I’m like, nah, just superglue it:

3.  Process till they look like sand.  Add about 50-100 grams of melted butter (1/4 to 1/2 cup):

 

 

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:

5.  Food process the rest: the Kiri, Perly, Nestle, eggs.

 

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.  

 

 

10.  Ta da!

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.  

The best, easiest cheesecake. Step-by-step recipe with photos.

lemon cheesecake with strawberries, Marrakesh, Morocco

It’s recipe time!  When I was growing up, my mother had Francis Moore Lappe’s book Diet for a Small Planet.  It’s a book about moving towards a diet that’s both nutritious and sustainable for the whole planet.  We learned a lot about how to combine vegetarian foods to get complete proteins.  One of my favorite recipes in that book was/is Ricotta Cheesecake.  My mother made a lot of nutritious desserts, but for me, cheesecake was the ultimate.  It’s so delicious, smooth and creamy and lemony.  And hey, if this is what it takes to save the planet, then so be it!

And I’m keeping up the tradition in my own family, although my kids are still fairly suspicious of the oxymoron “cheese cake”.  Chocolate cake is much more natural collocation.  I’ve made cheesecake many times for my Moroccan friends, and it’s been very well-received indeed.  I’d like to get at least some credit for this important cross-cultural contribution.  In fact, this recipe is mostly for those living in Morocco, as you’ll see from the ingredient list.

The ingredients. Now if you live in Morocco, you’ll know exactly what each of these things are.  My secret about cheesecake is that I never make it the same way twice.  I throw in a combination of whatever I have in hand.  These ingredients are enough to make a large sized cake, enough for 24 people.  I made it recently for a potluck at work, and managed to photograph all the stages of the making.  I didn’t even get that much cheesecake filling on my camera.

Ingredients for Cheesecake:

Crust:

4 packets Sable biscuits

100g of butter

Filling:

24 kiri (about 12 ounces of cream cheese)

1 can Nestle sweetened condensed milk

4 perly yogurts

4-6 eggs

1 lemon, zested and juiced

Garnish:

Strawberries/a little sugar

cheesecake ingredients from the hanut, Marrakesh Morocco

Here’s the thing about the ingredients, you can make infinite substitutions.  There’s no perfect recipe.  If you don’t have Nestle for example, just use about a cup of sugar.  If Kiri is too fattening, you can use ricotta or white cheese (jben).  Perly is also not necessary, you can use any plain yogurt.  I chose a lemon flavor here, but you can put in vanilla instead.  The eggs can also be increased, I used 4 here, but I think the original recipe has more than that.  So there is a lot of choice in the matter of ingredients.  As they say in Morocco, 3aynek meezanek (measure with your eyes).   And of course taste it and adjust the flavor to your liking.

Method:

1-Pulse the biscuits in a food processor:

making cheesecake crust

2-Melt the butter and add it to the biscuits.  Mix again:

pulverizing the cookies for cheesecake crust

3-Pour the crumbs into a glass pan and pat them down with something flat.  Bake for 10 minutes:

pat down the crust

4-While the crust is baking, prepare the filling.

Pour ALL the ingredients into the food processor: kiri, perly, eggs, lemon juice and zest, and the can of nestle.  You can taste it now to see if it’s sweet or lemony enough.  In this recipe I actually added another half a can of nestle.  The filling will be very liquid:

5-Remove the crust from the oven after 10 minutes.  Don’t burn it!  Pour the filling in.  It should look like this:

cheesecake for 24

6-Bake on VERY low heat for about 45 minutes to an hour.  It should feel firm and set.

Prepare the strawberry garnish: slice the strawberries, add some sugar, and set them in the fridge to chill and become syrupy.

7-Remove the cheesecake from the oven and allow it to cool.

Once it’s cool, it needs to be chilled in the fridge.  It’s best to make it about 4 hours in advance or even overnight.  The longer it sits before eating, the better it tastes.  (Don’t do what I did and serve it lukewarm.  That’s not cool, literally).

Enjoy it if you manage to get a slice.  It goes fast!