Like music and fragrance for some people, there are some foods that serve as triggers of memory for a number of people. In my case, believe it or not, it’s original Oreo sandwich cookies. In the early 1980s, they were considered a real treat because they tasted better and had a more appealing (crumblier) texture than their local counterparts. Whenever my maternal grandfather went abroad, boxes of Oreos came home with him along with Bourbon chocolate biscuits and a number of other sweets purchased in the course of his travels. But my family didn’t go in for the twist-lick-dunk way of eating Oreos; on the contrary, three of my aunts – my mother’s youngest sisters – used them as the base for a truly scrumptious dessert: chocolate mud pie.
I’ve never confirmed it, but I have an inkling this dessert was based on a recipe from the Now You’re Cooking! section in Seventeen Magazine. (In those years, Seventeen was a most sensible thing to read with sound advice on teen issues and lessons on how to manage your personal space and how to cook – definitely not like the cheesy, celeb and fashion-ruled screed it has become today. But, I digress…) It involved crushing Oreos and mixing them with some melted butter, pressing the lot into the bottom of a cake tin and pouring in melted chocolate ice cream. The resulting concoction was frozen again till solid and served in humongous slices of chocolatey goodness. I felt so spoiled whenever one aunt or another made a chocolate mud pie; I felt that I was special whenever they put a saucer with a large slice in front of me. I felt loved.
Fast-forward to 2013, exactly 30 years since my aunts made those pies for dessert whenever they felt like making them. All three now live in California with their own families and it’s seldom if they ever come home – and, alas, even then, no one cares much for making those pies from my childhood.
Regular readers are aware that I’ve been on a cheesecake kick of late, and that the results have been quite scrumptious. I was telling my brother about one of the variations I had planned, the one with a chocolate sandwich cookie crust with chopped chocolate coated almonds. As a result, he sent over a box of Oreos with the instruction to do something nice with them – which is precisely what I did over the weekend.
I was not about to touch my mother’s stash of chocolate-covered almonds and I wasn’t really in the mood for anything fruity (and so, raspberry and blueberry coulis were both out of the question) but if there was anything I had plenty of in the kitchen it was vanilla in several forms. I decided to flavor my cream cheese with vanilla bean and vanilla extract to give it a lush, heady aroma. But I didn’t stop there; to add some oomph to this particular dessert, I swapped half of the sugar in the recipe for brown sugar. This gave the finished cheesecake a lovely tan color and a delicious taste of caramel in every bite that went beautifully with the bittersweet cocoa taste of the cookie crust.
My mother who rarely ever eats cheesecake loves it and thinks it works wonders when paired with coffee; the rest of the family agrees with her. Me, I prefer to cut small slices and eat them sans cutlery just to enjoy the creamy, tangy, subtly sweet cheese against the slightly crisp and rich chocolate crust. It brings me back to those early days when I was a wide-eyed six-year-old impatiently waiting for my aunts to cut me a slice of something that made me feel special.
Incidentally, be sure to cool the cheesecake in the manner stated in the recipe; it’s crucial for the stability of the texture.
Dark Goddess Cheesecake
- 12 chocolate sandwich cookies (don’t remove the cream centers!)
- 500 grams cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
- 1/2 cup soft dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- seeds from 1 vanilla pod (save the pod to make vanilla sugar)
- 1/4 cup butter, melted + more for greasing the tin
Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees / Gas Mark 3. Grease a 9-inch cake or pie tin and line the bottom with a circle of waxed paper; set aside.
Blitz the cookies in a blender or food processor until the texture of coarse cornmeal. Add to the melted butter and mix well. Press the mixture onto the bottom of your prepared tin. Chill in the fridge until required.
Cream together the cream cheese and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla bean and extract, mixing well. Stir in the sour cream and eggs, mixing until well-combined. Pour evenly onto the chilled crust and bake for 1 hour. At the end of the cooking time, turn off the oven, but leave the cake in there for an additional 30 – 45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool at room temperature for another hour before refrigerating at least 4 hours or overnight.
Makes approximately 16 servings.