Triple Chocolate Cheesecake and The Church of Sant' Agnese Fuori le Mura in Rome

I have been hiding this triple chocolate cheesecake in my archives for days and I just can't make it stay at the bottom of the pile anymore.  Nothing this good should be hidden for long and it's about time I shared it with you.  Thanks to Lorraine Pascale's baking and cooking talent, I am able to make some pretty impressive looking and delicious cakes.  This is her second cake recipe that I followed.  I loved every single detail about it just like the first one, the Strawberry & Mascarpone Swiss Roll

There are only a few chefs that I really like and one of them is Lorraine Pascale.  I have some of her recipes in my growing list of food and cakes to tackle in the future.  But for now, let me show you this triple chocolate cheesecake.  It was easy to make, it just takes time to wait for the second layer to set (2 hours) but you will be rewarded with something delectable. 

Even if I find the recipe perfectly easy to follow and and delicious as it is, I had to add and change three things.  I do believe that every single recipe comes out differently anyway when handled by different people.  And that's the beauty of cooking.  We leave our print in every dish we create even if we all follow the same recipe.  And my other excuse?  I found the perfect recipe to use my newly acquired chocolate ingredients. 

First, I added a teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder to the (digestive) biscuit crumb base.  I didn't have chocolate digestives and I found instead some chocolate biscuits of the kids in the cupboard.  Since they are for kids, the chocolate content was too light so I added some cocoa powder.  In this part, I found a reason to try the all natural cacao amaro Trappisti (bitter cocoa powder produced by the Trappist monks).  Use whatever cocoa powder you have if you are using it. 

Second, in the middle layer, Lorraine's recipe uses 100 g. dark chocolate and 300 g. milk chocolate.  Truth be told, I am not a big fan of fresh cheese.  I can only tolerate the aged ones and rarely, the fresh ones.  Since there was so much cream cheese, I was scared not to like the cake so I inverted the quantities.  I used 300 g. of Slitti's 73% Gran Cacao and 100 g. of regular baking milk chocolate.  You can adjust the amounts of milk & dark according to your taste or you can stick to the original one of 100 g. dark and 300 g. milk.

And the last tweak is adding a teaspoon of white chocolate liqueur in the top layer.   I needed a little punch on the chocolate.  You can also substitute with other liquors but tone it down to 1/2 a teaspoon.  Rum and cognac can go well with chocolate.  The white chocolate liqueur I used has cognac in it.  Of course this is purely optional.

For a dark chocolate lover like me, these tweaks were agreeable to my palate.  Whereas my husband, who is a milk chocolate person, thought the chocolate was too intense for him.  So if you are like him, stick to the original recipe.  If you are like me, follow my tweaks and take the trip to dark chocolate heaven!  

I am a big chocolate lover and I would have gone into the retail direction some years ago if the space in Rome that my partner and I were going to rent pushed through.  After tasting hundreds of different kinds of chocolates, assessing the qualities, trimming down our choices, understanding the world of chocolates and just when I thought chocolates would pop out from my ears, the owner of the space backed out and we were left with just the sweet taste of the innumerable chocolates we studied.  We didn't find a replacement space to rent anymore so we abandoned the idea and moved on to other interests.   So here I am, a chocolate lover gone astray. 

Now let me present one of my favorite churches in Rome.  

The church of Sant' Agnese Fuori le Mura (St. Agnes Outside the Wall) is a minor basilica built in the 7th century by Pope Honorius I.  In its place, just a few meters away, was a much larger basilica that was built in the 4th century but was later abandoned and fell into decay after the decline of Rome.  

St. Agnes was executed at the age of 12 in the 3rd century.  Her remains (body only) were buried in the catacombs under the church.   Story goes that she was executed because at the marrying age of 12 during that time, she refused to get married and she refused any man to look at her body. 

Another story that came out is that she went out to the streets to declare her faith to Christianity and as a result, she was arrested and forced to expose her nudity in a brothel before being executed.   The site of the brothel became the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone in Piazza Navona.  The church preserves the head of the saint, while the rest of her remains are at the church of Sant' Agnese Fuori le Mura.  St. Agnes' remains were transferred from the catacombs to a tomb under the high altar and inside the tomb, there is also the body of St. Emerentiana, her "milk-sister (the daughter of her wet-nurse).  St. Emerentiana was buried in a nearby basilica but was transferred to the tomb of St. Agnes after the basilica was ruined. 

In the same premises, just a few meters away is the grand, circular mausoleum of Constantina, the daughter of Emperor Constantine I.  The mausoleum was converted into a church later on and called Santa Costanza.

Because this church is out of the loop, it is not so visited.  If you have time, this church is worth a visit, especially the catacombs underneath it dating back from the 2nd to the 4th century.  

It is located at Via Nomentana, 349 (Main entrance is at Via S. Agnese, 315)
Opening times are:  7:30 - 12:00 / 16:00 - 19:30
Contacts: 06 8610840 / 06 86205456 /
To visit the catacombs, go inside the room on your first left as soon as you enter the church.  Guided tours are conducted in English, Italian and perhaps other languages for a fee. 

I found the site of Wikia very informative (where I got most of the information) and very useful for the directions to get there. 

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake

Adapted from Lorraine Pascal's recipe with minor tweaks

For a 21 cm. springform pan (I divided it into 2 small springform pans.)
  • 400 g. chocolate Digestive biscuits (or anything similar), crushed to fine crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder (my option, if you want to have a more chocolatey flavor)
  • 1 teaspoon white chocolate liqueur (my option)
  • 75 g. butter, melted & cooled down
  • 800 g. cream cheese
  • 4 heaping tablespoons icing sugar
  • 100 g. dark chocolate (my option: I put more dark chocolate and less milk chocolate for a more intense chocolatey taste)
  • 300 g. milk chocolate
  • 100 g. white chocolate, for garnish (or my option: crushed pistachios and chocolate chips)
  1. In a bowl, mix biscuit crumbs, butter & cocoa powder with a wooden spoon.   Mix well.
  2. Transfer to a springform pan.  Press well at the bottom to make the first layer a solid base.  If you want this layer to be thinner, just lessen the amount of the biscuits and butter.  Set aside.  I put the pans in the fridge while I was preparing the other layers.
  3. In a bain marie (or a saucepan on top of another saucepan with water on the stove), combine both kinds of chocolate (or use just one kind if you like.  If you want it intense, use more dark chocolate and less milk chocolate just like what I did.).  
  4. Transfer 3/4 of the chocolate in a bowl.  Set aside the other 1/4 for the top layer.
  5. In another bowl, mix cream cheese and icing sugar gently with a wooden spoon. 
  6. Add cream cheese little by little to the bowl of melted chocolate.  If you add the chocolate all at once, the chocolate might become grainy.  Mix well until uniform in color.
  7. Pour chocolate cream cheese mixture on the biscuit base in the springform pan.  Level with a metal spatula.   Refrigerate for 2 hours.
  8.  After two hours, take out the cheesecake from the fridge.  Mix the white chocolate liqueur with the remaining chocolate.  Pour melted chocolate on top.  Move the cake around to distribute it well on top.  
  9. Decorate the top however you want then refrigerate. 
  10. Lorraine Pascal's way was using melted 100 g. of white chocolate and putting it in a parchment paper that she shaped in a cone.  Snip off a little piece of the end and make vertical lines on top of the cake.  
  11. Since I didn't have white chocolate, I sprinkled a lot of crushed pistachios & chocolate chips on the cake.  
  12. If you are having a hard time taking it away from the springform pan,  dip a palette knife in hot water and loosen the sides by running it all around the pan.  Release.  Don't take away the bottom part anymore.
  13. Take it out of the fridge at least half an hour before eating so that the top layer won't be too hard.  Or, if you weren't able to take it out in time, just dip a very sharp knife in hot water to cut through the top layer without making it crack. 

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