The last time I attempted a cheesecake recipe, I served it on a torn-up paper bag, the height of rustic-eco-friendly-chic sophistication. (That, or we were at a picnic and forgot to bring plates.) My second cheesecake-like concoction was served in much more cheesecake-friendly environs—indoors, on a table, bathed in soft mood lighting and the wafting strains of an excellent playlist. Yet I still managed not to take a single decent picture, because even in my third (!) year of food blogging, I have yet to figure out how to make brown, crumbly things look tasty in photographs.
All of which is to say this: both the title and look of this dessert are unappetizing. “Chocolate cheese pie” sounds like a mistake, or a gross idiom I’d rather not try to define; when sliced, the pie looks not like this, but like a particularly heinous Pinterest fail.
And yet! Like so many Nonnie recipes, particularly the desserty ones, this ended up being much more than the sum of its parts, not to mention a lot more delicious than it looks. (To be fair, it looks about as delicious as this absolutely horrifying picture of wet dates I thought it’d be a good idea to post in 2016.)
Basically, what you have here is a graham cracker crust filled with cheesecake filling, then topped with a sort of homemade chocolate Cool-Whip situation and refrigerated until firm. It’s not exactly cosmopolitan, but even your schmanciest friends won’t care about that when they’re shoving it into their own pie-holes; trashy but scratch-made Betty Crocker-esque desserts may just be the great equalizer.
So please, don’t let my awful pictures deter you from sampling this enormous crowd-pleaser—a homely meal-ender that still deserves its close-up. We begin the way most things should: with pulverized graham crackers mixed with butter.
Graham Cracker Crust [This recipe is slightly different than the graham cracker crust recipe Nonnie uses for her cheesecake, maybe because she figured a springform pan is bigger than a standard pie plate. Don’t sweat the difference too much, though; both methods work]
1/3 cup melted butter or margarine [use butter, duh; this isn’t going to be parve either way]
1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs [I used about 9 graham crackers total]
2-4 tablespoons sugar [I’d err on the lower side, since the filling isn’t exactly unsweet]
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pour crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon into a 9″ pie plate and mix with a fork. Pour melted butter over crumb mixture and mix with a fork until all crumbs are damp. Spread mixture over bottom of pan, and up sides if there is enough [I had enough, but only just barely], and pat down, evenly, with the back of a spoon. Chill thoroughly before adding filling. [Half an hour in the fridge should do it.]
If adding a cold filling, bake in a 375 oven for about 5 minutes. [You’re not doing that here—so don’t!]
Chocolate Cheese Pie
3 three oz. packages cream cheese, softened [They used to sell cream cheese in 3-oz. packages? Well, not anymore; I couldn’t find anything but eight-ounce blocks, which meant I had almost an entire brick left over after following this recipe to the letter. Next time, I’d just use eight ounces total and hope for the best]
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat cream cheese, eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla togther until smooth and creamy. Pour into chilled graham cracker crust and bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Cool.
Blend together the following:
2 oz. sweet milk chocolate, melted and cooled [yeah, no, I used bittersweet chocolate chips instead—I think milk chocolate would be way too sweet here, considering the amount of sugar in the cheesecake base, and the additional sugar in this topping. Yes, what I did goes against my rule about following Nonnie’s recipes exactly; what do you want from me?]
1 cup dairy sour cream [Don’t use sour cream fresh from the fridge, especially if blending it with melted chocolate that hasn’t totally cooled to room temp—because if you do, it’ll seize up a bit and make the topping gritty. As you can see from my photos, I learned this lesson the hard way. Nobody really ended up minding, but it did make for a slightly less pretty finish]
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix thoroughly and pour over cheese mixture. Bake in 350 oven for 10 minutes. Cool and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
The verdict: Tangy and creamy and cold and not too sweet—and surprisingly light, considering the metric ton of dairy fat this pie contains. I served it at a winter dinner party, but this is a cheesecake riff that’d taste just as good in warmer weather; it’s almost refreshing, or about as refreshing as cream cheese, chocolate, sugar, and butter can be.
In other words, she may not be beautiful—but she’s got a great personality.