Pumpkin pie may be the traditional finish on Thanksgiving, but it's not my favorite dessert. Doesn't a food-centric holiday deserve something more spectacular than humble old-fashioned pumpkin pie?! Since it's the last thing your guests are going to eat, why not take the time to make a dish that's truly memorable?
This cranberry chocolate cheesecake is sure to stun and impress. It's absolutely amazing. The crust consists of crushed chocolate wafer cookies that are laced with cinnamon, the filling is a classic and incredibly creamy vanilla cheesecake, and the topping is a fruity, tart, and sweet cranberry syrup. If you're a cheesecake lover, this dessert is a must make. Get the make-in-advance recipe after the jump.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 cups finely ground chocolate wafer cookies (about 7 ounces)
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt Filling
3 packages cream cheese (8 ounces each), at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream Topping
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1 package (12 ounces) fresh cranberries, picked over and stems removed
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
To make the crust, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Using a pastry brush, butter a 9- or 10-inch springform pan with 1 tablespoon of the butter.
In a medium bowl, combine the chocolate wafer crumbs, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Blend in the remaining 5 tablespoons melted butter. Press the crumbs into the bottom and about 1 inch up the side of the prepared pan (you can use a 1/2-cup flat-bottomed, stainless-steel measuring cup to help press the crumbs into the bottom and sides of the pan, which helps prevent the corners from being thicker than the sides.) Bake the crust for about 8 to 10 minutes until crisp. Transfer to a wire rack to cool while you prepare the filling. (Press the bottom crust with the measuring cup again to gently smooth it.)
To make the filling, in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the cream cheese until smooth. Mix in the sugar, then add the eggs, one at a time, and continue processing until the mixture is thoroughly combined and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Add the vanilla and sour cream. Process until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined and the mixture is completely smooth. (Alternatively, beat the ingredients in a large bowl using an electric mixer.)
Gently pour the cheesecake filling into the prebaked crust. The filling will likely rise above the crust, which is not a problem. Bake the cheesecake for about 40 minutes until the sides are slightly puffed. The center of the filling will still be very soft and will jiggle when you shake the pan gently. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake, undisturbed, in the oven with the door ajar, for 40 minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or preferably overnight.
To make the topping, in a 2 1/2 quart saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the water to boil. Add the sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat to medium and add the cranberries. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes just until the berries begin to pop. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and simmer for 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving to allow the sauce to set.