Part 3:  Dessert
No elegant dinner is complete without dessert, so I ended my parents’ anniversary meal with one of my favorite creamy, rich, decadent desserts:  kahlua cheesecake.  Oh. my. goodness.  This beauty uses twice the cream cheese of any of my other cheesecake recipes, yet it tastes light and airy somehow.  Topped with fresh whipped cream and cocoa powder, it’s worth every pound you might happen to gain while eating a slice.  In fact, just forget about the calories–it’s cheesecake, for pete’s sake.

Bruschetta and Tapenade on Homemade Crostini
Mushroom Bisque
Chicken Piccata
Kahlua Cheesecake

Kahlua CheesecakeKahlua Cheesecake (recipe from Family Circle, Nov. 29, 2010)
Time:  20 minutes prep, 70 minutes bake, chill overnight
Serves 16

12 cinnamon honey graham cracker boards (regular honey graham crackers work too)
1 T. sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
2 (8 oz.) packages reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 T. cornstarch
4 eggs
1/4 cup coffee liqueur (such as Kahlua)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup heavy cream
1 T. sugar
1 T. cocoa powder for dusting
Chocolate-covered coffee beans (optional)

Crust:  In food processor, pulse graham crackers until fine crumbs are formed (about 3 cups).  Add sugar and butter; pulse until crumbs are moist (alternatively, combine crumbs, sugar, and butter in a large bowl with a fork).  Press into bottom and up side of a 9-inch springform pan.  Wrap foil around bottom and up side.  Chill.

Filling: In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth, about 1 minute.  Add sugar and cornstarch; beat 2 to 3 minutes on medium-high speed until creamy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in Kahlua and vanilla.  Pour filling into crust.

Place springform pan into large baking pan (I use a roasting pan); place on oven rack and pour in hot tap water halfway up side of springform pan (about 6 cups).

Bake at 350 F for 60 to 70 minutes or until center of cheesecake is set and top is beginning to brown.  Carefully remove pan from water bath.  Run knife around edge of cake and remove foil.  Place on wire rack and cool completely.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Topping:  Remove side of pan.  Whip cream and sugar to stiff peaks.  Garnish cheesecake with whipped cream.  Dust with cocoa powder and scatter top with coffee beans, if desired.

Kahlua Cheesecake