Coffee-and-Espresso Layered Cheesecake

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Last week was my sister’s birthday, and she spent it living it up out in Chicago, so this was a somewhat belated celebration. Last year for her birthday she asked me to make a Vanilla Cake with Chocolate Hazelnut filling, so this year while trying to think of a dessert that she would enjoy, something that was different and unique, all I could keep thinking about was making something with coffee in it. (I think my sister would become legally wed to Starbucks if she could!) I, of course, love cheesecake so I started searching around for some type of coffee and/or espresso flavored cheesecake. I found a few recipes floating around out there, but none that I was crazy about, so I went about creating my own.

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This is essentially a graham crust, and a classic cheesecake recipe with half of the batter flavored with Starbucks Coffee Liquor and the other half flavored with a serving of espresso, topped with chocolate ganache and garnished with chocolate covered espresso beans (thanks to my Chief Culinary Consultant for suggesting the chocolate covered beans – definitely a great finishing touch!). I think the balance of flavors in this cheesecake is perfect:

A subtle hint of the coffee liquor paired with an espresso flavor that was not too overpowering, and a bittersweet chocolate ganache that ties it all together.

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I used the standard graham cracker crust, but I am willing to bet that a chocolate crust would be fabulous with this cheesecake. Really – when is chocolate NOT great?? Exactly. Although I used Starbucks Coffee Liquor you could use any coffee-flavored liquor you  like (Kahlua would be a good choice). Alternatively, if you’d rather not use alcohol, a coffee-flavored creamer would work just as well.

Now I’d like to talk about water baths. I’m admittedly not really sold on this method. I have made a number of cheesecakes using both methods – water bath and a “regular” bake without one, and I honestly don’t know that there is much difference, aside from the fact that the “regular” baking method is easier and less messy and the chances of my crust getting soggy decreases dramatically. I’m a crust girl, so I don’t like bad things to happen to it. I’m curious to know what method you use and why you think it’s better.

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Some Favorite Cheesecake Recipes:
Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake
Cheesecake Truffles
Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte
Oreo Cheesecake

Coffee-and-Espresso Layered Cheesecake

Yield: 12 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

Ingredients:

For the crust
1¾ cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter

For the cheesecake
2 pounds (four 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
½ teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sour cream
1 teaspoon Kahlua (or other coffee liquor)
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon boiling water

For the chocolate ganache (originally used on the Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake)
1.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
¼ stick (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/8 cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ tablespoon powdered sugar

Chocolate-covered espresso beans, for garnish (optional)

Directions:

1. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil.

2. Stir the graham cracker crumbs and sugar together in a medium bowl. Pour over the melted butter and stir until all of the dry ingredients are moist. Turn the mixture into the springform pan and pat an even layer of crumbs over the bottom of the pan and halfway up the sides. Put the pan in the freezer while the oven is preheated.

3. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place the springform on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Set the crust on a cooling rack.

4. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

5. Put a kettle of water (or medium saucepan filled with water) on to boil.

6. Beat the cream cheese at medium speed until soft and creamy, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat for another 4 minutes, until the cream cheese is light. Add the eggs one by one, beating for one minute after each addition. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the sour cream.

7. Put half of the batter into another bowl.

8. To one half of the batter, add the coffee liquor and gently mix with a rubber spatula until thoroughly combined.

9. Dissolve the espresso powder with the boiling water and add to the other half of the batter. Again, use a rubber spatula to gently mix in the espresso until thoroughly combined.

10. Put the foil-wrapped springform pan in a roasting pan that is large enough to hold the pan with some space around it. Pour the coffee liquor-flavored batter into the prepared crust and spread into an even layer. Very slowly, pour the espresso-flavored batter over the coffee batter.

11. Pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

12. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Leave the cheesecake in the oven with the door propped open for one hour.

13. After 1 hour, carefully pull the roasting pan out of the oven and lift the springform pan out. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours (overnight is better).

14. To make the chocolate ganache, place finely chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Microwave the butter and heavy cream on HIGH for 1 minute. Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is completely melted. Whisk in the vanilla and then mix in the powdered sugar until smooth. Spread over cheesecake while ganache is still warm. Chill until ready to serve.

(Base cheesecake recipe adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)