But more often than not, we find ourselves eating mediocre cheesecake. The reason for its mediocrity is most often the texture of the cake. Too dry, and you find yourself nudging bits of cake from the roof of your mouth; too soft, you feel like you're eating cream cheese pudding.
Cheesecake, if done right, should be a very balanced dessert in every sense of the word. Tangy, sweet, smooth with a slight resistance from its graham cracker crust - it should be a culmination of contrasts that just work well together.
Now if the cheesecake recipe below could afford to be any more decadent than it already is, it would have to be escorted out of the room. So I decided substitute half of the cream cheese for neufchatel cheese. Neufchatel has about 1/3 less fat than regular cream cheese, and honestly, after a series of taste tests I really couldn't detect a significant difference. So why not?! Plus, it has a higher moisture content than cream cheese which makes the texture of this cake nothing less than awesome.
Beyond Ultimate Cheesecake
(yield: 10-12 servings)
4 tbsp butter, melted
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (14 crackers)2, 8 oz pkg cream cheese, room temperature
2, 8 oz pkg neufchatel cheese, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup sour cream
1 tbsp almond liquor
1 oz bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
Grease a 9" spring-form pan with 1 tbsp of butter. Combine remaining 3 tbsp of butter with graham cracker crumbs. Reserve 3 tbsp of graham cracker mixture for topping, and press remaining portion into pan. Bake at 325°F for 10-12 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
Combine cream cheese and neufchatel cheese with sugar. Using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat until completely softened. Add eggs, one at a time, and continue to mix. Add sour cream and almond liquor. Mix until completely smooth. Pour mixture into the cooled graham cracker crust.
Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.
Wrap pan with two or three layers of aluminum foil to completely cover any cracks. Place into a large roasting pan and fill with boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the spring form pan. Bake 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn oven off and let cake cool inside for another hour.
Place chocolate into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for about 1 minute, mixing every 15 seconds, until chocolate is melted. Using a spoon, drizzle the melted chocolate over the top of the cheesecake, and sprinkle with reserved graham cracker crumbs. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.