I stole this adaptation from Smitten Kitchen, but I adapted it further, using a different (and easier) ganache than she did. I'm not a huge fan of very sweet things, but this cheesecake was devoured at the potluck.
This recipe has many parts: you make the brownies, the crust, the cheesecake and the ganache, but every part is easy on its own, and people will be so impressed that they'll tell you to open up a bakery, graduate school be damned.
Phase I: Brownies
Adapted from Baker’s One Bowl Brownies
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate (I <3 scharffen berger for, well, anything)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
1 3/4cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13×9-inch baking pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides of pan. Grease foil.
Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwaveable bowl on HIGH in 30-second increments until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in sugar. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Add flour and salt; mix well. Spread into prepared pan. The batter may look precariously thin over the 9x13 pan; don't worry.
Bake 30 to 35 minute or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudgy crumbs. (Do not overbake.) Cool in pan on wire rack. Remove brownies from pan, using foil handles. When I did this, 30 minutes was overbaked. But no one noticed or cared. Check yours at 20 or 25 minutes.
Cool brownies, then cut them into 3/4- to 1-inch squares for use in the cheesecake. You need 2 cups of cubes for the cheesecake, and you will have at least twice that. Save some to pulse in the food processor for decorative topping; the rest make an excellent snack while you're waiting the interminable million hours for the cheesecake to chill to done-ness.
Phase II: Crust
Recipe adapted from Gourmet, 1999
I'm with smitten kitchen here-- I used the doubled amounts in parentheses. Who doesn't like extra crust? It also makes patting the sides and bottom of the pan easier, as you're not worried about running out of crust because you've made the sides too thick. That's, um, never happened to me.
1 1/2 cups or 5 ounces (3 cups or 10 ounces to double) finely ground cookies such as chocolate wafers. Or Chocolate Teddy Grahams. (I use the teddies. A bit cheaper.)
5 tablespoons (10 tablespoons to double) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup (2/3 cup to double) sugar
1/8 (1/4 teaspoon to double) teaspoon salt
Stir together crust ingredients and press onto bottom and 1 inch up side of a buttered 24-centimeter (~9.5") springform pan. Fill right away or chill up to 2 hours.
Phase III: The Cheesecake
Part Three: Cheesecake
Three Cities of Spain Coffeehouse
3 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, softened
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
Make crumb crust as directed above for 24-centimeter cheesecake. Preheat oven to 350°F.
Make filling and bake cake: Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy and add eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla and sugar, beating on low speed until each ingredient is incorporated and scraping down bowl between additions.
Fold brownie cubes in very gently and pour mixture into prepared pan. Put springform pan with crust in a shallow baking pan. Pour filling into crust and bake in baking pan (to catch drips) in middle of oven 45 minutes, or until cake is set 3 inches from edge but center is still slightly wobbly when pan is gently shaken. For me, 45 minutes was too many. 40 would have been also. Check yours at 35.
When completely cool, top with ganache. At this point, I stuck the (non-ganache-d) cheesecake in the fridge and went to bed. I put the ganache on in the morning.
As you can see, my slightly over-baked cheesecake isn't very pretty. A water bath would help, but I'm lazy. Ganache cures all top-of-cheesecake related errors, and it's delicious too. Smitten kitchen claims she's lazy, but her ganache recipe involved a food processor and 5 different ingredients. I'll spare you. Mine has two ingredients and requires a bowl and spoon.
Phase IV: Ganache
from Food & Wine, February 2006
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup heavy cream
In a medium glass bowl, combine the chocolate with the heavy cream and microwave at high power in 20-second intervals until the cream is hot and the chocolate is melted. Stir the ganache until blended, then let cool until barely warm.
Spread the chocolate over the cheesecake and chill.
You can stop here, or do what I did, if you like things pretty:
Pulse some of your leftover brownies (unless you ate them all...I had to wrestle mine away from the mister...) in the food processor until crumby. After the ganache-topped cheesecake has chilled for 15 minutes, pull it out and sprinkle the brownie crumbs around the edge of the cheesecake in a band 1-2" wide. Cover and chill overnight.