I love cheesecake. But I hardly ever eat it. When faced with the dessert choices at a restaurant I almost always go with richest, most chocolate-infused item on the menu. The cheesecake always sounds so good to me. But I know myself – and I have that unrelenting chocolate itch that I MUST scratch. Have I mentioned I’m a chocoholic? Seriously, I have issues. I decided to combine my love for chocolate and cheesecake so I never have to go without either again. All my problems are solved now! Isn’t life just great sometimes?!?!
The recipe for the cheesecake layer is one that my mom used to make. It’s everything you dream that a cheesecake should be – smooth, creamy, tangy and simply melt-in-your-mouth irresistible. I wanted to do something a little bit different with the fruit layer and the crust, so I chose apricots and ginger as my flavor components. And I think this combination definitely adds to the overall “zingy-ness” of these cheesecake bites. I used ginger snaps to make the crust (instead of the traditional graham cracker crust) and then topped it with a fresh apricot puree and candied ginger pieces before smothering on the dreamy white cheesecake layer. I made this recipe in a 9 X 13 baking pan so I could cut out small squares for a perfectly proportioned, shareable and satisfying little treat.
Now right here you have something entirely delicious on it’s own: rich and fruity cheesecake bites that everyone will love. But I just couldn’t stop there. I HAD to go the extra mile and make them super chocolatey. So I added on a thick coating of dark chocolate – and let me tell you – this makes them really stand out! I used Theo’s 70% dark chocolate for the enrobing. I’ve all ready confessed my un-dying devotion to Theo Chocolate in a previous post, so I’ll restrain myself from going on about them again here. If you can’t find Theo chocolate, make sure you use something else of very high quality.
These chocolate covered apricot-ginger cheesecake bites do take some time to make. A lot of that has to do with the fact that the cheesecake needs to be really firm before cutting into it and dipping it in chocolate. So you are left with having to deal with some inactive prep time while things rest in the refrigerator and freezer. But these babies are totally worth the wait! Make ‘em and share ‘em. You’ll have new friends real fast if you do!
Chocolate Covered Apricot-Ginger Cheesecake Bites
- For the Crust
- 12 ounces ginger snap cookies
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- For the Apricot Layer
- 16 ounces fresh apricots
- 1/4 cup sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon water
- 3 tablespoons candied ginger, cut into small pieces
- For the Cheesecake Layer
- Four 8 ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
- 4 eggs
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- For the Chocolate Enrobing
- 1 1/2 lbs dark chocolate (not chocolate chips)
- Special Equipment
- Instant read thermometer (this is really a must have when working with chocolate)
- Candy pop sticks or popsicle sticks (you can get these at craft and cooking stores)
- Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 X 13 baking pan with parchment paper, letting the edges hang over the sides (you will use them at the end to help you lift out the cheesecake).
- Make your crust layer. Using a food processor, process the ginger snaps until a fine meal forms. Add the melted butter and pulse to combine, until all the crumbs have been evenly coated. Transfer the crust mixture to your parchment-paper lined baking pan. Spread the crust mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan and press down firmly to make a flat, compact layer. Transfer the baking pan to your pre-heated oven and bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
- While the crust is baking, make your apricot layer. Halve, pit and then quarter all the apricots. Place apricots in a medium saucepan with the sugar, water and salt. Over medium-high heat, stir continuously until the sugar is dissolved. Then reduce the temperature to bring the saucepan to a simmer. Let it simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
- After 10 minutes, remove the saucepan from the heat to cool slightly. Transfer the apricots to your food processor (use the same one that you used for the ginger snaps, just wipe it out first) and process until smooth. Pour the pureed apricots into a bowl, add the chopped candied ginger and stir to combine. Pour the apricot-ginger mixture over the ginger snap crust and spread evenly using a spatula. Place the baking pan in the freezer for 45-60 minutes to allow the apricot layer to harden slightly (this helps keep the layers separate when you add the cheesecake filling in the next step).
- Make your cheesecake layer. Using the paddle attachment on your mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. This can take a few minutes, especially if your cream cheese was still a little cold. Add the remaining ingredients and beat to combine.
- Remove the baking pan from the freezer and gently spoon the cheesecake layer evenly over the apricot layer, using a spatula to smooth it out. Try your best to not disturb the apricot layer. Your pan will be very full – that’s ok!
- Transfer the baking pan to your 350 degree oven and bake for 45 minutes. The top should be set (it may still jiggle ever so slightly – that’s ok) and it will have puffed up a bit. Remove the baking pan from the oven and set it on a wire rack to cool. Once completely cooled, transfer to the refrigerator for at least 2-4 hours. Then transfer to the freezer for another 2-4 hours. Longer is better here, so if you aren’t in a rush then feel free to leave the baking pan in the freezer even longer.
- Once the cheesecake is firm, carefully lift it out of the baking pan using the overhanging edges of the parchment paper. Place it on a cutting board and using a sharp knife, cut the cheesecake into 1 to 1 1/2 inch squares. It helps to run your knife under hot water and then wipe it dry in between each cut. This will give you cleaner edges.
- At this point, you could serve these cheesecake bites as is. Even naked like this, they are incredibly delicious. But I LOVE chocolate. If you do too, then keep going….
- Re-freeze the cheesecake bites. Transfer the cheesecake bites to a baking pan lined with wax paper and place them in the freezer overnight. They need to be REALLY frozen to prevent them from falling apart when you dip them in chocolate.
- The next day, remove the cheesecake bites from the freezer. At this point, if any of the cheesecake bites have rough edges, you can clean them up by cutting off the uneven parts with a sharp knife. You want the sides to be as smooth as possible. Place your candy pop sticks/popsicle sticks in the center of each cheesecake bite. You want to push the stick down so it’s 1/2 to 3/4 of the way through the cheesecake bite, being careful not to poke it all the way through the bottom. Place the cheesecake bites back into the freezer while you temper your chocolate.
- Temper the chocolate for enrobing using the seeding method. Chop approximately 3/4 of the chocolate into small pieces. Melt this chopped chocolate using a double boiler. Once all the chocolate is melted, remove the bowl with the chocolate from the double boiler. Take the remaining chocolate and break it into large pieces. Add these large pieces to the melted chocolate and stir using a spatula. These large pieces of chocolate will act as “seeds” to help achieve the desired crystalline structure of the cocoa butter. Keep stirring and take the temperature often with an instant read thermometer. Once the temperature reaches 86-90 degrees Fahrenheit, your chocolate will be in temper. This whole process will take several minutes. Once in temper, if you have any remaining solid chocolate seeds remove them so as not to further cool your tempered chocolate.
- Coat the cheesecake bites with your tempered chocolate. Holding onto the candy pop/popsicle stick, gently dip the cheesecake bite into the chocolate, rolling it around to achieve an even coating. You can also use a spoon to help you drizzle chocolate over the square. Remove the now coated cheesecake bite from the chocolate and let the excess chocolate drip off (you can even gently scrape it along the edge of your bowl to remove any excess chocolate from the very bottom) and place it back on the wax paper lined baking sheet. Continue this process with the rest of the cheesecake bites.
- The chocolate on these cheesecake bites should be set within minutes (because your chocolate was in temper AND the squares were frozen). Store the chocolate coated cheesecake bites in the refrigerator until serving. They should be good for several days if kept properly refrigerated.
1. One way to get a nice even crust layer is to use the flat bottom of a saucepan to help you press down the ginger snap crumbs.
2. I’ve recently discovered parchment paper and foil all in one. Where one side is parchment paper and the second side is aluminum foil. This stuff is great for when you need to line a pan that has high sides. You can push the paper into the corner and it actually holds it shape there. Or you can make a firm crease and it will hold. The foil allows those things to happen. I find plain parchment paper often bounces back at you and it can be difficult to get it in the exact shape you want. Martha Stewart has a product called Martha Wrap that you can get in the grocery store.
3. I know all this back and forth with the refrigerator/freezer seems like shenanigans. But if the cheesecake isn’t set and very firm, it will be impossible to cleanly remove it from the baking pan and cut it into squares. And it will fall apart when you try to coat it with the warm chocolate.
4. During the dipping process, my chocolate started getting too cool because the cheesecake bites are frozen. If this happens to you (it probably will) you can either stir in some warm melted chocolate or place your bowl back over the double boiler to bring the temperature back up to between 86-90 degrees Fahrenheit (check the temperature with your instant read thermometer). I did the second method, since the water in my double boiler was still hot.