It will come as no surprise to you, then, that I think the best candy you can score when trick-or-treating is a Reese's peanut butter cup. Halloween always makes me think of the commercials where vampire bite marks appear on the peanut butter cup and the peanut butter gets sucked out. If there was a way to do that, I totally would. And then eat the hollow chocolate shell. That said, I am not planning to eat any Halloween candy this year. I didn't eat any last year and I'm determined to do it again. So, in retrospect, buying Reese's to hand out to trick-or-treaters may not have been the best idea.
But cheesecake is not Halloween candy, so that's how I'm getting my peanut butter cup fix this October. (And yeah, I realize this defeats the purpose of not eating the candy.)
The instructions for making this luscious cheesecake follow and it's a long list, but don't be intimidated, it's totally doable. If you would rather, click here to print the recipe.
peanut butter cup cheesecake
Makes: one 9-inch cheesecake Total Time: about 3 hours (15 minutes active)
2 pounds full-fat cream cheese (4 blocks), room temperature
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
3 tablespoons Dutched cocoa powder
4 tablespoons corn starch, divided
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, divided
3/4 cup chocolate chips
3/4 teaspoon instant espresso
1/2 cup peanut butter (natural, unsweetened is what I used)
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chocolate chips for decoration (optional)
For the chocolate shortbread crust:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
Pinch kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and then line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. The best way to do this is tear off a large square of parchment, set it over your pan and use your palm to push it straight down into the pan. Use your fingers to push it into the bottom edge of the pan and smooth the side pleats flat. Tuck the overhang into the curled top edge of the pan and this will hold it reasonably well. Next tear off four long sheets of foil (about twice the width of the foil). Stack two sheets together and fold the long edge over 1/2 inch a couple times. Open the foil and you should have a large square. Repeat with the other two sheets and stack the two squares on top of each other, with the seams going perpendicular to each other, and place the pan in the middle of the foil. Starting at one corner, fold and pleat the foil tightly up around the pan.
2. Make the crust. In one small bowl, add the 1/4 cup chocolate chips and microwave one minute or more until mostly melted. Stir with a fork until no lumps remain. Set aside to cool. In another small bowl, mix together flour and salt.
3. Place the butter and sugar for the crust in a large bowl and mix with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix, then add the melted chocolate and mix that. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and mix until a dough forms.
4. Turn out the dough into the pan and spread evenly on the bottom of the pan. The dough is quite sticky, so an easy way to do this is cover the dough surface with plastic wrap and push on the plastic until the dough is spread, then peel off the plastic and discard.
5. Bake the crust for 15 minutes, and then remove the whole pan to a cooling rack. While the crust bakes, make the batter.
6. In a large bowl, add 1/3 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons corn starch and mix until combined. Add one block of cream cheese and mix with an electric mixer until the sugar mixture is fully combined with the cream cheese—it will form small pebble-sized pieces first, then one smooth mixture.
7. Add the remaining cream cheese and mix until fully incorporated.
8. Place chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl and microwave in 45-second increments until slightly melted. Meanwhile, measure heavy cream into a small bowl and add instant espresso and let it sit. Stir chocolate chips with a fork until no lumps remain.
9. Scrape melted chocolate into the cream cheese mixture along with remaining sugar and vanilla. Mix until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl at least once. Add two eggs, mixing thoroughly between each addition and scraping down the bowl again.
10. Pour the cream-espresso mixture into the cheesecake batter and mix only until incorporated, do not over mix.
11. Pour the batter into the pan on top of the crust and smooth the top. Now repeat steps, adding peanut butter instead of chocolate and not adding espresso to the cream. Pour this batter on top of the chocolate batter and smooth the top.
12. If decorating, melt chocolate chips in the microwave and stir until smooth. Open a freezer-weight zip-top bag and place it with one corner down into a drinking glass, folding the edge of the bag over the edge of the cup. Scrape the melted chocolate into the bag and seal the bag, squeezing out the extra air, remove it from the cup, and cut 1/4 inch off the corner. Pipe hexagons in decreasing size, starting on the outside edge and working your way to the middle—try to get at least five. With a knife, start in the middle of the cake and draw it to the outside going through the same point in each hexagon to make the spokes of the web. Use extra chocolate and sprinkles to make a spider on parchment to add to the cheesecake once it has cooled.
13. Place a roasting pan in the oven and set the cheesecake in the pan, then fill the roasting pan with very hot water half-way up the side of the springform pan to make a water bath.
14. Bake the cheesecake for exactly 75 minutes and then remove the cheesecake from the roasting pan and place on a cooling rack. Let the cheesecakes cool to room temperature for two hours, add the chocolate spider and then refrigerate at least one hour before serving.
What's your favorite candy to get trick-or-treating? If you have kids, do you enact a "Parent Candy Tax" with their knowledge, or do you wait until they go to bed to pick out your favorites?
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