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Thanksgiving 2020, Pandemic Edition

Updated: Dec 3, 2020

Living in Germany as an American, it is important to continue my American traditions. Ever since I moved to Germany, 8 years ago, I have hosted Thanksgiving. Normally, American families have a huge dinner... well that is the whole point of Thanksgiving, right??? BUT being the kitchen control freak that I am, I insist on making EVERY SINGLE dish myself. We usually invite all of our German friends and since this is an American holiday based around American food, I like everything to be perfect. And of course gluten free.

This year was, of course, different. Here in Germany we are allowed to meet with one other household at a time. We have definitely reduced our social contacts, but still see 1 or 2 families once in awhile. For our 'one other family' we asked our new friends. We have become super close with them in the last 6 months and they have a son in our daughter's daycare group. AND they are also American, which is super rare! Can I just say, it is so cute, the two of them speak English together when they play and as soon as another kid comes to join they switch to German. Our kids will be 3 in just a month and it is adorable hearing them switch back and forth and mix the languages within one sentence. Möchtest du outside gehen? (Do you want to go outside?) It makes me smile every time my daughter says it. There is one thing that is for certain, my not quite 3 year old, knows how to say I want cake in both languages. Ich will Kuchen! And what can I say... of course you can have cake. There are always homemade treats in my kitchen.

Back to Thanksgiving. Since we were only 4 adults and 3 kids, I thought two desserts would be more than plenty. I can't just make 1 dessert for Thanksgiving, normally I have 3-4 so this year I drastically cut down. I opted for a traditional spiced pumpkin pie and an American style chocolate chip cheesecake.

We need to talk about this cheesecake for a minute. First, when I say American style I mean it wasn't a traditional German cheesecake which is also a beloved dessert here. The main difference between the two cheesecakes is the richness. German cheesecake is a bit more dense and not as sweet. It can be made several ways but very often it is made with Quark which is like if yogurt and a type of soft spreadable cheese like cream cheese had a baby. German cheesecakes often do not have any sort of toppings or fillings. Think, plain cheesecake. This is starting to change because American cheesecake is becoming so popular in these parts, and German cafes always feel cool and special to offer American New York Cheesecake.

Back to my cheesecake. I wanted this cheesecake to be the richest most decadent cheesecake anyone has ever tasted. The bottom layer was filled with a chocolate cookie, similar to an Oreo, but a knock-off gluten free version. I scraped off the filling, used my food processor, and pulverized the cookie to look like crumbs. I also blind baked my crust for about 8 minutes because no one wants a soggy bottom. The filling consisted of Philadelphia cream cheese, eggs, vanilla extract, sugar and then I carefully stirred in the chocolate chips. I will say my chocolate chips were from America. I only use a few American products and chocolate chips are one of them. Germans just don't use chocolate chips like we do, which is fine. I honestly only use them for chocolate chip cookies and this cheesecake recipe. So when my family comes to visit, I always ask them to bring me a few bags. I start baking the cheesecake at a high temperature, at 210 degrees celsius and I use the normal baking oven setting (not the one with the fan). If you use the fan, the cheesecake might crack and brown a bit on the top. After 10 minutes I lower the cook temp to 150 degrees. It then takes another 40-45 minutes to bake. This cheesecake was also huge! I had it in my 10 inch springform pan. The cheesecake should have just a slight jiggle when you are done cooking it. I left my cheesecake in the oven to cool for another 30ish minutes with the oven door cracked. It was such a cold day when I was baking and I didn't want a rush of cold air to crack my cheesecake or deflate it in any way.

Once it was fully cooled to room temperature I popped it into the fridge for about 30 minutes. I prepped my dark chocolate ganache by taking 150 grams of dark baking chocolate and chopped it into small pieces and put it in a bowl. I will say, here in Germany, baking chocolate is super cheap! Not even 2€ a block (that is about $2.50) and the quality is fantastic. I use 75 grams of heavy whipping cream (Schlagsahne) and bring it to a light boil. So not a real boil, but where the edges start to bubble up. I then pour the hot cream over my chopped chocolate which is in a bowl. I let it sit, untouched, for about 5 minutes. That's right, don't stir it. Just pour and walk away. Just make sure all the chocolate is submerged. After about 5 minutes take a whisk and start to whisk it all up. Just keep whisking until it thickens (2-3 minutes) and you start to see that chocolate shine. I love chocolate ganache so much, because it always impresses people when you say you have a dessert with a ganache topping, and it is SO easy, fast, and cheap to make. I take about 80% of the ganache and pour it over the cheesecake, using a spatula to spread it on top and it make sure it is nice and smooth. What did I do with the other 20%. Don't worry, I didn't throw it out. While I was prepping the ganache I took my metal bowl and my whisk attachment and put those in my freezer to get nice and cold. (This will help when making whipped cream and getting those firm peaks) My favorite part of the cheesecake is the whipped cream topping. We do have canister whipped cream in Germany, similar to reddi whip, it is cheap and easy to buy, but I love to make my own. I take more Schlagsahne (whipping cream) and beat that until soft almost firm peaks and then I slowly add in powder sugar. Then I take some marscapone cheese and add that before the final ingredient, the leftover chocolate ganache. I taste test and see if I need to add any more powder sugar and in just a few minutes I have a chocolate mascarpone whipped cream ready to pipe onto my cheesecake. Now this cheesecake was already perfect. But since we are in a pandemic and I am thinking, why not, I top my cheesecake with a few homemade nutella macarons that I had made a few days earlier just to give my dessert a little extra sparkle, dazzle, a wow factor... because at this point calories don't really matter anyways!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake with a chocolate cookie bottom topped with a dark chocolate ganache, mascarpone chocolate whipped cream and homemade nutella macarons. ALL gluten free

The recipe was modified from the book 'Gluten Free Every Day' by Robert M Landophi

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