Dark Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake Parfaits

by Tori Avey March 28, 2018
 

 

parfait-finishedThroughout history, cheesecake has taken many different forms.

The ancient Greeks made the earliest known version around the fifth century BC, and consisted of fresh cheese pounded smooth with flour and honey and cooked on an earthenware griddle. In late medieval Europe, cheesecake appeared in tart form with a pastry base. The first English cookbook, The Forme of Cury, a collection of medieval English recipes compiled by the cooks of King Richard II, included two cheese tarts. One called “Sambocade” contained egg whites, curd cheese, rosewater, and elderflowers. The other “Tart de Bry” was made with ruayn (a semi-soft autumn cows’ cheese) and egg yolks flavored with ground ginger. For the next five centuries, almost every English cookbook that followed contained at least one cheesecake recipe.

Eventually the concept of chocolate was introduced to cheesecake, because who doesn’t love chocolate? The Mayans were the first to recognize the powers of chocolate; they believed that the cacao bean held sacred energy. The beans were used during rituals related to birth, marriage and death. They were most often ground and mixed with spices and chilies to create frothy drinks. These drinks would be considered very bitter in comparison to our beloved modern chocolate drinks, but during the Classic era they were treasured. In Mayan burial tombs, archaeologists have discovered vases painted with depictions of gods fighting over cacao beans. A cacao tree even plays a central role in the Mayan creation story!

While I do love a classic creamy cheesecake with a nice crisp crust, sometimes it’s a little tricky to make for a crowd. Over the years I’ve taken to making cheesecake “parfaits,” which combine all the elements of a cheesecake layered in individual glasses for a lovely presentation. For these irresistible Dark Chocolate Cheesecake Parfaits, I’ve melted dark chocolate into a ricotta cheesecake mixture, then layered it with Grand Marnier-infused cherries, cookie crumbles and fresh whipped cream. I can only imagine how our ancient ancestors might have celebrated with such a decadent treat!

INSTRUCTIONS: In a medium saucepan combine the cherries, 1/4 cup sugar and Grand Marnier over medium heat and mix to combine. Stir and cook until the cherries are hot and bubbly.

In a separate dish, whisk together the cornstarch and lemon juice. Add cornstarch mixture to the cherries and cook for 2 additional minutes, stirring until the mixture is nice and thick. Remove from heat and transfer the cherries to a bowl. Refrigerate until the mixture is chilled and thick.

In a double-boiler combine chocolate chips, 3 tbsp sugar, milk and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly until the mixture is smooth. Combine ricotta, Greek yogurt and vanilla in a stand mixer or large mixing bowl and whip until thoroughly mixed. While the chocolate mixture is warm, but not hot, slowly pour it into the cheese mixture while whisking. Beat until everything is incorporated, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Crush the chocolate cookies in a food processor or place them in a plastic storage bag and crush with a rolling pin.

In a medium mixing bowl, whip together heavy cream and 1 tbsp sugar until stiff peaks form.

To assemble: Place 2 tbsp of the cookies in the bottom of 8 parfait cups. Evenly distribute the chocolate cheesecake mixture between the cups. Add an additional 2 tbsp layer of the crushed cookies to each parfait. Evenly distribute the chilled cherry mixture between the cups. Divide the whipped cream evenly between the 8 cups to top the parfaits. Garnish each parfait with chocolate shavings or sliced almonds. Chill for at least 3 hours before serving, up to overnight. Make sure you top with heavy whipping cream rather than bottled whipped cream, which will deflate over time.

This dessert can be made ahead. Simply make the cherry filling, whipped cream and chocolate cheesecake mixture and crush the cookies. Store these elements separately in the refrigerator. Assemble the parfaits just before serving to keep the cookies from becoming soggy.

Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs frozen pitted sweet cherries

1/2 cup sugar, divided

1/4 cup Grand Marnier (you may substitute 1/4 cup water)

1 tsp cornstarch

1 tbsp lemon juice

3/4 cup dark chocolate chips

3 tbsp whole or lowfat milk

Pinch of salt

8 oz ricotta cheese (1/2 cup)

4 oz Greek yogurt (1/4 cup)

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 cups chocolate cookies, crushed

1/2 cup shaved dark chocolate or toasted slivered almonds for topping (optional)

You will also need: double boiler, stand mixer or hand mixer, mixing bowls, food processor or plastic storage bag and rolling pin, 8 parfait cups

Total Time: 30 min

Servings: 8

Kosher Key: Dairy

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