In about a month's time, Julia Child would have turned 103, had she been alive.
Best known in her avatar as the woman who popularized French cuisine to the Americans through her cookbooks and TV shows, Child is a legend today. I first read about Child many years ago when I was working on a term paper for college on culinary habits within cultural contexts – and was hard pressed for good reading material on the web. It was then that I happened to chance upon her name in a museum catalogue wherein it was mentioned how one of America's most popular chefs had donated her entire personal kitchen (where much of her TV shows had also been recorded) to the Smithsonian Museum! I thought it was pretty incredible! Think about it, how many of us would ever think of our kitchens as museum material? Ever since then I have been a big fan of her quirky personality and her thoroughly entertaining The French Chef that was aired for ten straight years from 1963 to 1973.
I like to think of Julia Child as the mother of this entire wave of cookery shows that we have today, and I think she would be happy to see how far cookery shows on TV have come along. And, every once in a while I like to Youtube one of the many episodes of her show and try them out (albeit with substitutes and tweaks!). A couple of weeks back I watched her cook a chocolate mousse, or as she called it mousse au chocolat. Incidentally, a vegetarian friend was coming over for dinner around the time and I had a large block of cooking chocolate sitting in the fridge. There could be no eggs in my dessert, so it was time to improvise! What I tried out instead of the mousse was a chocolate cheesecake recipe. Like the mousse, this is a no-bake recipe that required little effort.
Sometimes, I think Child would be happy to see how far her message has come along: the idea that cooking is indeed beautiful and great food is do-able in our kitchens at home.
75g digestive biscuits
3 + 2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp caster sugar, divided (if you prefer dark chocolate, you might want to add more sugar to the mix)
2 tbsp + 1 tsp heavy cream
100g cooking milk chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tbsp cocoa powder
100g cream cheese
50g chocolate (dark or white) for icing
1 tbsp instant coffee powder (optional)
Crush the digestive biscuits and mix with 3 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp of the caster sugar. Once you have a nice crumbly texture, line a loose-bottomed pie tin while pressing down the crumbs. Refrigerate for an hour. I used a 3-inch diameter pie tin.
In the meantime, whip the cream well.
Then, start melting the chocolate in a double boiler. For this, heat a pan of water on the gas. Just before it boils over, turn the heat down, and float another smaller bowl with the cooking chocolate in it. The heat will melt the chocolate without burning it. When the chocolate is soft and gooey, take it off the heat. Incorporate the cocoa powder and instant coffee and mix it properly. Let it cool for a few minutes.
You can then slowly stir in the cream in the chocolate mixture and keep aside.
Now beat the cream cheese with the castor sugar until it is absolutely smooth and creamy. Fold-in the cream/chocolate mixture and mix thoroughly.
Spread into tin on top of crushed biscuits. Freeze for one hour.
For the icing, melt 50gm of chocolate using a double boiler. You can use a variation of dark or white chocolate if you want. Mix it with 2 tbsp of butter and 1 tsp of cream. Spread over cheesecake. Decorate with some grated chocolate or fruit toppings, if desired.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes more. Serve.