Kahlua Triple Chocolate Cheesecake with Oreo Crust (Pressure Cooker/Instant Pot)

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Happy Wednesday!

My brother loves chocolate cheesecake, and my father, once an avid baker, would normally heed the request. However, my father has fallen off the baking trail for a while, and the torch has been passed to me. I was told I needed to make this chocolate cheesecake for his belated birthday celebration, or I would be excommunicated from the family forever.

*Not exactly, but my family’s cunning use of guilt could be perceived as such!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love making cheesecake, but it’s very time consuming. My typical cheesecake takes me a solid 2 1/2-3 hours to prep and bake, and an overnight time for the cake the set up. It’s so hot in July, and I try my best not to turn on my oven unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Luckily, I recently purchased an Instant Pot on Amazon Prime Day, the latest crave in the pressure cooker community. I was hesitant to purchase one because I don’t like to buy gimmicky, unnecessary appliances–ever. But I did enough research and was intrigued with the idea that the Instant Pot could not only expedite cooking though the powers of pressure cooking, but it can also act as a slow cooker, a yogurt maker, and it has a sauté option to help sear meat, and  to help get a kickstart on aromatics. It sounded too good to be true, and although I don’t think it is a machine that would replace my trusty stovetop and oven for good, it’s definitely a winner. Especially for custardy desserts like cheesecake!

When I saw this pressure cooker could be used for cheesecake, I was skeptical. But I was also intrigued because I thought about my cardinal rule for making cheesecake: I always create a waterbath to prevent cracks and general overcooking. The pressure cooker, or in my case, the Instant Pot, is essentially steaming my cheesecake just the same by putting two cups of water underneath the rack-raised cheesecake. Because it’s a countertop appliance, I am not raising the temperature in my apartment one bit! No oven needed! Additionally, because it is a pressure cooker, my cheesecake only needed 28 minutes of active cooking time versus the hours I have wasted before.

If you’ve made cheesecakes before, you know the usual drill: bake the cheesecake for an hour, open the oven door while shutting off the heat for another hour, and then you need to cool it on a rack for some time. With this appliance, or any other pressure cooker, you can make your cheesecake and cool it in under an hour. And if you’re afraid that a pressure cooker is going to texturally change the cheesecake–it doesn’t. It tastes as if you baked in the oven, and this way it is guaranteed to be silky, creamy, and smooth!

My one note of caution is this: remember the inactive times associated with a pressure cooker. Yes, pressure cookers advertise times that seem incredible, like this one–but it takes time for the pressure cooker to “preheat” (about 10-15 minutes), and most importantly, time for the machine to depressurize (super important–you NEVER want to open your pressure cooker prematurely–it’s dangerous!), which is approximately 15-20 minutes depending on what you’re making. Because this cheesecake has two cups of water, it does not take too long at all to depressurize. And whatever you do, don’t rush the process! Do not do a so-called quick release–the cheesecake is continuing to cook as it is depressurizing, and this amount of steam release is not gentle enough for this dessert.

In a nutshell, the convenience of the instant pot and the perfected results is making me forgo the use of my oven for a cheesecake ever again! For this recipe, you don’t even have to bake the crust either as it’s prepared and then set in the freezer for ten minutes!

In addition to having excellent cooking results, this cheesecake is of course powered by great ingredients. I use Kahlua (or any coffee-based liqueur) to enhance the chocolate flavor. I also use my higher end vanilla extract. My favorite is Nielsen-Massey’s  Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract, which you can easily grab on Amazon.

I also believe in using good chocolate, but for some reason, I find this triple chocolate needs the milk chocolate to distinguish itself from the bittersweet ganache topping and the oreo crust. If you prefer a different chocolate, go for it!

Other recommended equipment (helpful, but not necessary): Food Processor (I have an immersion blender, so I have a small hand food processor attachment I use to crush the oreos) and my trusty Kitchenaid Stand Mixer. Also, make sure you know what size pan you’re using because a larger cheesecake cannot be made in the pressure cooker as it is too large. A 7 inch springform pan is a must!

Ingredients

Crust
    • 20 whole Oreo cookies (yes, even the white part!)
    • 4 tbsp of unsalted butter, melted then cooled
Cheesecake
    • 1 lb room temperature cream cheese, room temperature for two hours
    • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
    • 1/3 cup white sugar
    • 1 whole egg – room temperature
    • 2 egg yolks – room temperature
    • 1/4 cup sour cream
    • 8 oz of chocolate (I used Hershey’s milk chocolate, but you can use bittersweet chocolate if that’s your preference)
    • 1 tsp higher end vanilla extract
    • 1 tablespoon of Kahlua or coffee-based liqueur
    • 1 tbsp flour (optional–I did not use this)
    • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
Ganache
  • 3/4 cup  bittersweet chocolate chips (or a bar–you’re just melting it, so it does not matter)
  • 3 oz heavy whipping cream (or half and half)

Instructions

    1. Spray the 7″ springform pan with cooking spray.
    2. Add two cups of water to the instant pot and place the rack on the bottom.
    3. Make a tin foil sling to lift the cheesecake in and out of the Instant Pot or pressure cooker. Essentially, you are folding a piece of tin that’s long enough to be able scoop out your cheesecake.
Crust
    1. In a food processor, combine the whole Oreo cookies and the butter. If you don’t have a food processor, put the cookies in a plastic bag and break them up with a heavy item like a rolling pin, until you have fine crumbs.
    2. Pour the crumb butter mixture into the bottom of the pan and pat until it is evenly distributed on the bottom. Put in freezer for 10 minutes.
Cheesecake
    1. In a food processor or stand mixer (I use my stand mixer for this step), mix the cream cheese with dark brown sugar, white sugar, and cocoa powder.
    2. Once combined, add one egg followed by the two egg yolks.
    3. Add the melted chocolate and sour cream.
    4. Continually scrape the bowl down. Add Kahlua, vanilla, and flour  (flour is optional) and mix until creamy.
    5. Pour mixture into the springform pan and smooth with a spatula.
    6. Place pan on the tin foil sling and slowly lower into the Instant Pot.
    7. Set Instant Pot to maximum pressure for 28 minutes.
    8. Once done, turn machine off and let it return to normal pressure for 15 minutes.
    9. Unlock lid and use sling to transfer pan to cooling rack for an hour.
    10. Chill in refrigerator overnight.
Ganache
    1. Put the 3/4 cup of chocolate in a bowl.
    2. Heat the heavy whipping cream to a simmer. Pour over chocolate.
    3. Chocolate will melt, stir until incorporated. Once incorporated, use a spatula and spread over the top of the cake.
    4. Put back in refrigerator to cool.
    5. If you like, use a vegetable peeler and slide the peeler on chocolate for chocolate curls for garnish and/or crumble some oreos!
Recipe Source (but modified by Lei Mangia): SerenaLissy.com

 

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Dolmades (Stuffed Grape Leaves) with Tahini Sauce

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Happy Wednesday!

I went to a Greek restaurant with my mother-in-law a few weeks ago, and we had Dolmades, stuffed rice grape leaves, as an appetizer. I totally forgot about how much I love these little bundles of joy! A week later, I made them at home. It was a great rainy day project as it took about an hour and a half, but my husband and I have been eating them all week.

I love wine, so grapes and I are definitely good friends, but often the leaf of the grape is forgotten–it is a wonderful vessel for stuffing filling whether it be rice, ground beef/lamb, or an exciting combination of both!

They’re healthy, summery, and versatile. The ones I made have ground beef in them as well, but these are just as good simply with rice. You have the vegetarian/vegan flexibility with stuffed grape leaves. They’re paleo, low-carb, gluten-free, and all other hyphenated diet terms galore. These are good for you and taste good–often times, the both are not possible, but this is one fabulous exception.

Grape leaves are found abound in the Middle East/Mediterranean regions of the world. I’ve had the Greek, Turkish, Lebanese, and Palestinian versions, and they all have the slightest variant that makes the grape leave uniquely their own.

Greek Style (Dolmades, Dolmathakia): Lots of lemon, typically prepared with mint and dill

Turkish Style (Dolma, Sarma): Warmed spices (Currants, cinnamon, all spice) and a bit of sugar

Lebanese Style (Warak akish) : Usually lamb and/or ground beef, lemon juice, tomato paste/pomegranate molasses, some warm spices

Palestinian Style (Warak enab mehshi): Mainly Lebanese style with ghee (butter), sometimes parsley

**And I think Armenians do a stuffed cabbage roll similar to a grape leaf, so it’s an international delight!***

For my grape leaves, I went in the Greek direction with an Indian and Lebanese approach. I know Indians do not make grape leaves, but I decided to add Garam Masala to my sauteed onions to incorporate my version of the aforementioned “warmed spices”.

These are great to make for a party and/or picnic as a make-ahead dish. You can eat these cold, room temperature, or hot. Again, regional approaches vary here–I find that cold is popular among the Greeks and Turkish whereas the Lebanese and Palestinian people tend to serve them warm to hot. It’s totally up to you.

You can use fresh grape leaves if you can find them, but it’s just as easy to use jarred grape leaves. Fresh grape leaves must be boiled, and they must have the main stem removed–this is not edible! If your local grocery store does not carry grape leaves, I ordered mine online through Amazon.

Some people find the preservatives/brine off-putting, which makes some people not want to eat these. But if you properly rinse off each leaf before you roll it, it should take away most of the acidity. Besides, squeezing a lemon right before serving is the right tang it needs–not from sodium benzoate. The fresh lemon really brings it together, and if you make a Tahini sauce (or buy it from a reputable place, such as Trader Joe’s), you’ll get this delicious lemony and garlic combination that is perfect.

Ingredients

  • 7-8 cups of chicken broth (you may use water, but chicken broth will impart more flavor)
  • 3 lemons
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • One 16-ounce jar fresh small grape leaves in brine (about 70 leaves)
  • 1 cup uncooked short-grain rice (I use Basmati–it’s the best!)
  • 1-2 medium-large onions, finely diced
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pounds lean ground beef or lamb (or a mixture of both)
  • 1 bunch fresh dill, chopped (you may add some mint, but I did not)
  • 1 tablespoon of Garam Masala (optional, but it was my own Indian twist)

Let’s get rollin’!

  1. Remove grape leaves out of the jar. Place all leaves in a colander and rinse/drain very well in warm water. In addition to draining off all the liquid, I individually wash off each leaf before I roll it. If you have leaves that are damaged or ripped, set those aside for layering on the bottom of the pot.
  2.  Sauté the onions in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until translucent, not browned. Throw in the rice into the pan and toast the rice a bit. You are not cooking the rice–you are simply imparting flavor. The rice will cook inside the leaf, so you could also not saute the rice and simply mix it with the meat if you’re short on time, but go the extra mile. 🙂
  3. In a bowl, combine the onions, ground beef/lamb (if you’re using) rice, remaining olive oil, dill, juice of 1 lemon, and pepper. Mix well by hand.
  4. Once the filling is well incorporated, gently separate one leaf and place it shiny-side down on a work surface. Place a pinch (up to a teaspoon) of the filling on the leaf at the point where the stem joined the leaf. DO NOT OVERFILL YOUR LEAVES–THEY WILL EXPLODE!
  5. Roll the leaf like you would a cigar.  You are folding the mixture up and then folding in the sides, tucking them in. Fold up the bottom of the leaf over the filling, then each side inward in parallel folds, and roll up the leaf. The roll should be firm, not tight, as the filling will expand during cooking. Repeat until all the filling has been used.
  6. Repeat this about 70 times (I am not kidding–ask for help!)
  7. Layer the torn/damaged leaves until all are in the pot so that the bottom is covered. Place the rolled up grape leaves all along the bottom and stack them in alternate directions for the most support.
  8. Once you have all your leaves in the pot, place a plate on top to keep the leaves from floating.
  9. Add the chicken stock to the pot to cover the leaves. Add more or less as needed.
  10. Bring the liquid to a gentle boil, add the remaining juice from the 1 1/2 lemons, reduce heat to low and simmer for approximately 50 to 70 minutes. Keep the lid on–otherwise, they will not properly steam.
  11. Check to see if done–if the rice has cooked, they are done. If not, continue cooking for another 10 minutes and check again.
  12. Enjoy while they are warm, leave out for room temperature, or refrigerate. My husband and I like them cold for a picnic. 🙂
  13. Serve with a fresh squeeze of a lemon slice, and dip into garlic tahini sauce (or hummus like sauce).

Garlic Tahini Sauce (If you want to make it versus buy it in the store)

Ingredients

 

  • 1 cup tahini sesame seed paste (I prefer the paste made from light colored seeds)
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water, or more for consistency
  • 3 cloves raw garlic (or 5 cloves roasted garlic for some sweetness–mmm!)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (or more to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (or more to taste)

Directions

Combine above ingredients in blender or food processor, adding the liquid gradually to make a smooth consistency.