Best Dish: You'll go crazy over this cheesecake

Kathryn Rem

Best Dish is an occasional feature that highlights favorite recipes of home cooks.


Cook: Susan Caimi, Springfield, Ill.

Age: 56

Occupation: Administrative assistant for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services

Family: Three children and 11 grandchildren

Name of dish: Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

History of the recipe: My sister gave me the recipe about 25 years ago. She brought it to a holiday dinner at Mom’s and everyone loved it. For a while, I only made it on holidays — Christmas and Easter — never any other time of year. Everyone asked for it. It was tradition.

But a few years ago I brought one to work. Whenever there is a special occasion at work and we are bringing in food, a co-worker would send me an e-mail asking for chocolate chip cheesecake. Most of the time, I would honor her request.

Did you tweak the recipe? The recipe printed here is the original. However, I have changed it from time to time – making the crust with crushed Oreo cookies instead of graham crackers, using different flavorings like almond or cherry instead of vanilla, or using mini chips or white chocolate chips.

What do you like about the recipe? As good as it tastes and as rich as it is, it calls for very few ingredients, so it is very easy to make.

Any advice for someone making the recipe? I do recommend that you bake it just as the recipe calls for, with the higher temperature for 10 minutes, then reducing the temp for the remainder of the baking time. It does seem to help the cheesecake from cracking down the middle while cooling — sometimes.

Describe your cooking style: I love to cook and try new recipes. (I bring most of them to work.) The only problem is that I will make something everyone loves and forget where I found the recipe! I collect cookbooks and I have two or three binders full of recipes that have come from magazines or have been passed on by friends.

Other dishes you have been complimented on? My favorite things to make are desserts, sweet breads, cookies. I add oatmeal to almost everything — even cherry chip cake mix. It makes it a little guilt-free anyway. I have a zucchini bread that a lot of people like really well. I love to get fresh fruits and vegetables at the farmers market here in town in the summer. That is my favorite place to be — next to a good flea market.

Anything you dislike about cooking? No. My dream job is opening up an antique shop with a bakery attached. Well, someday.

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

From Susan Caimi

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

3 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 cup small semisweet chocolate pieces (or chocolate chips)

1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine crumbs, 3 tablespoons sugar and butter or margarine; press onto bottom of 9-inch springform pan.

Combine cream cheese and 3/4 cup sugar, mixing at medium speed with electric mixer until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Blend in chocolate pieces and vanilla; pour over crust.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce oven to 250 and continue baking 35 minutes or until set. Loosen cake from rim of pan; cool before removing rim of pan. Chill.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.