I’m a Spider for life. Though I only spent three years at the University of Richmond (after transferring from Chicago), that school, that town, for me, it’s home.
When I graduated, I was far from jazzed. Truthfully, I wasn’t even remotely happy. I didn’t want to leave the creepy little single dorm that had been my snug residence for two years. The thought of giving up my morning run around the lake was devastating. More so, the reality of finally becoming an adult, of trading academic exploration for pencil pushing and rent paying, was starting to sink in and give me cold sweats. (As some of you know, I avoided adulthood by going to culinary school. Sadly, I have now run out of schools to attend but I continue to dodge being a grownup with a passion for pajama clad pizza nights in my parents’ basement and an intentional ignorance about nonsense like W-2s and health insurance.)
Not to be dramatic, but as I navigated the graduation stage with a forced smile, I died a little.
For my post-ceremony festivities, my mom and dad managed to book The Jefferson Hotel – very swanky, very special. My family gathered around a huge white cloth draped and rose adorned table, laughing, joking, all glad to have a reason to be together. Delicious dishes started to appear.
My mom had worked with the staff to create a menu highlighting all my favorites. She must have known I’d need a morale booster when she selected the Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cheesecake for dessert, because with one bite all my graduation gloom disappeared. Crunchy chocolate crust, silky smooth peanut butter filling and a dreamy dark chocolate glaze. I finally felt calm, at peace. As long as I had this crew and this cheesecake nearby, I could handle adulthood – no problem.
Yeah – cheesecake. Begin by making the crust. Stir together cookie crumbs, butter, and brown sugar. Press into a lightly greased spring form pan that has had it’s bottom and sides double wrapped with aluminum. Place in the fridge and chill until ready to fill.
Next, make the filling by creaming together the cream cheese, peanut butter, and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Once the cream cheese + PB mixture is smooth, add the crème fraîche. Mix that in.
Next add the eggs one at a time until each is fully incorporated. Finally add the vanilla.
Make sure all ingredients are nicely combined, no streaks of peanut butter or pockets of crème fraîche – just one smooth, velvety batter.
Pour cheesecake batter into prepared crust. Place the cheesecake in a large roasting pan filled with about 2 inches of hot water. This is a water bath!
Bake at 325° F for 75 – 80 minutes. The filling should be almost completely set except for a little wiggle in the very middle. Remove the cheesecake from water bath, discard the tin foil and chill completely, about 3 hours.
Once the cheesecake has cooled, carefully remove it from the spring form pan and make the ganache topping.
Place chopped chocolate in a small bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan over medium heat until it nearly reaches a boil. Pour cream over chopped chocolate and let sit for 1 minute.
Stir cream and chocolate together until the chocolate is melted.
Glob that ganache on top of the cheesecake.
Smooth it out real nice.
“Spiders (and Peanut Butter Cheesecake) 4 lyfe.” I’ve got that tattooed on my body but I won’t say where…. or do I? Or don’t I?
Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake
For the Crust:
18 oz chocolate wafer cookies, pulverized in a food processor
2 sticks butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 – oz packages of cream cheese, room temperature
340 grams peanut butter
1 cup of sugar
1 cup creme fraiche, room temperature
1 tablespoon of vanilla
4.5 oz of dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup of heavy cream
Wrap the bottom and sides of a spring form pan with two layers for aluminum foil. Lightly grease the pan.
Make the crust by mixing together, cookie crumbs, melted butter, and sugar. Press into the prepared pan. Place in the fridge to chill while you make the filling.
To make the filling, cream softened cream cheese, peanut butter, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Once fluffy, add the eggs one at a time, followed by creme fraiche and vanilla. Mix until completely incorporated.
Remove crust from the fridge and fill with cheesecake filling.
Place the cheesecake into a large deep pan and fill the pan with water. The water should come up the sides of the cheesecake about 2 inches.
Bake for 75 – 80 minutes until the cheesecake is mostly set except for a little wiggle right in the center.
Remove from water bath, discard the tin foil and set on a rack to cool completely – 3 or so hours.
Right before you are about to serve, make the ganache. Place the chopped chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. Warm the heavy cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat until it just reaches a boil. Pour the heavy cream over the chocolate and let sit for 1 minute. Stirring to a smooth consistency. Let the ganache cool for 5 minutes before spreading over top of the cheesecake.
Slice the cheesecake and serve!