Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. That means five ingredients or fewer — not including water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (like oil and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Inspired by the column, the Big Little Recipes cookbook is available now.
So far as baked goods go, cheesecake is famously fickle.
Books and blogs are full of tips and tricks to outsmart a cracked top: Add flour. Add cornstarch. Add eggs one at a time. Add eggs at the end. Bake in a water bath. Bake covered in foil. Bake at a low temperature. Bake at a really low temperature. Bake until the center jiggles a lot. Bake until the center jiggles a little. Let cool in the turned-off oven. Let cool at room temperature.
I have an easier idea: Skip the oven altogether. And, while you're at it, skip most of the grocery list, too.
In the refrigerator, nothing can go wrong. While the difference between underbaking and overbaking cheesecake is a matter of minutes, the difference between underchilling and overchilling — are these real words? — is hours.
Which means you can throw the cheesecake in the fridge, then forget about it. Go outside, walk around the block, soak up the sun. This is possible because all of the ingredients that would need to bake, like raw flour and eggs, aren't around.
The filling is just chocolate and cream cheese. And the crust is just crackers and butter. I know it sounds too good to be true. It's not.
Instead of looking to other no-bake cheesecakes for inspiration, I looked to ganache. This two-ingredient template — chocolate plus heavy cream — could turn into a glaze, truffle, tart, or frosting, depending on the ratio and use. We're simply swapping in cream cheese and a springform pan.
The result is intensely chocolatey, with confident tang and a fudgy-custardy bite. Additional sugar isn't needed because semisweet chocolate is exactly that — just a little bit sweet. And resist the temptation to add vanilla extract or espresso powder. These adornments creep up in a lot of chocolate cheesecake recipes. But like a glare on a television screen, they distract from what we're trying to focus on: the bitterness of chocolate, the funkiness of cheese.
The base doesn't need any sugar, either. While a lot of crumb crusts insist upon a spoonful for flavor and binding, you won't notice its absence. In fact it yields a less cloying, more balanced, more nuanced dessert. Whichever crackers you're using likely include sugar already.
Which reminds me: The crackers are up to you. There are no wrong answers. Ritz are buttery. Saltines are salty. Graham are classic. Or try chocolate graham for a double-chocolate cheesecake. I could go for a big slice of that right now.
Recipe: Salty Chocolate Cheesecake