In my weekend cooking classes, students will often ask about substituting ingredients. Recipes are just guidelines, I tell them. Use what you like or what you have. Yet, people are often hesitant to change recipes, fearing they will mess them up.
So, below is the recipe I used to create a decadent, sophisticated dessert...with several ideas to change it up. I had some espresso-flavored shortbread cookies I wanted to get rid of, along with some sour cream in the fridge, and several bars of bittersweet chocolate that I got for Christmas. This recipe was developed using the things I had on hand.
I created the chocolate espresso version from a recipe I found on Pinterest from Sally's Baking Addiction.
My cheesecake bars are not at all "skinny," but her recipe was a good one to follow so that I got my ratios correct. Baking is, after all, very much like chemistry. I modify recipes like this all the time. It makes cooking easier, less stressful, and much more fun.
Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake Bars
1 cup cookie or cracker crumbs *
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or coconut oil), melted
8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature **
1 cup sour cream ***
2 large egg whites (or whole eggs if you don’t mind a yellowish filling)
1/4 cup sugar (granulated is best for a white filling, but brown sugar tastes yummy)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (use self-rising if you want a slightly puffier cheesecake)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or paste ****
4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped *****
* I used about 6 espresso shortbread cookies, which didn’t give me enough crumbs. So, I added some buttery crackers to make a full cup. Graham crackers, gingersnaps, or even saltines would work as well. You just need something crumbly and tasty.
** You can also use ricotta or strained cottage cheese. Just be sure to puree the cottage cheese to avoid the chunky curds and make a thicker base for the filling.
*** You can substitute crème fraiche, Greek yogurt, or buttermilk…anything thick and acidic.
**** Use whatever extract you want--almond, peppermint, raspberry--or another flavoring like maple syrup, liquor (rum, bourbon, brandy), strong tea/coffee, citrus zest/juice, or jam.
***** I wanted dark chocolate chunks, but you could add any chocolate chips, chopped nuts, dried fruit, candy (M&M's, chopped candy bars, crushed peppermints or butterscotch), peanut butter, or whatnot to your filling. Or leave it out for a smooth, unadulterated cheesecake.