The combination of peppers, cinnamon and allspice reminds me of a chocolate truffle called the ‘Mayan’ made by a boutique shop that is now out of business. It was a truffle that you thought about as you ate because the flavors married so well; one whose taste you wanted to make last a long time. My attempt to re-create that taste experience resulted in this cheesecake. If you’re not sure about the spice combination, take them out (leaving the vanilla in) and make it the first time as a rich chocolate cheesecake.

But in my opinion, if you want to knock it out of the park, spice up your life with the original recipe. The double whammy of chili peppers with their natural ability to stimulate nerve endings and release endorphins creating a natural high, perfect for Valentine’s Day.

Mayan Chocolate Cheesecake

Ingredients for crust:

2 cups graham cracker crumbs (or your favorite GF cookie crumbs to convert to gluten free)
3 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Ingredients for filling:

2 pounds (4 8-oz. packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
¼ cup heavy cream
4 large eggs, room temperature
¼ cup sour cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon allspice
Pinch salt
7 ounces dark semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled (I use Callebaut– If using bittersweet, add ¼ cup more sugar)

Directions for crust:
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Butter a 9 or 10-inch springform pan.
In a medium bowl, stir together the cracker crumbs, sugar and cinnamon. Pour in the butter and mix.

Pour the crumbs into the pan and press evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes, until lightly colored. Cool on a rack while making filling. (Leave the oven set at 325.)

Cut the cream cheese bars into pieces and put into a food processor
with the sugar and cream. Process, scraping down the bowl a few times.

Add the eggs, sour cream, vanilla, cinnamon, peppers, allspice and salt and
pulse 3 or 4 times, then scrape down the bowl and pulse again.

Pour in the chocolate and pulse and scrape again until batter is smooth. Using a spatula, scrape batter into cooled crust and rap it on the counter a few times to bring up bubbles.

Wrap the entire cheesecake pan in two layers of heavy-duty foil that come to the top of the pan. Bake in a water-bath that comes half-way up the sides of the pan for 50 minutes. (See photo). The top should be puffed and set, but the center of the cake should still shake a little. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and allow the cheesecake to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 8 hours or for up to 3 days.

To serve: run a knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the crust, then release the spring and remove the ring. Slice and serve with whipped cream, and a hint of lemon zest or with an inverted chocolate chip for a more minimalist statement.

No one must expect perfection, either in the character of the person to be wedded or in the circumstances of wedded life. We are simply men and women after marriage as before; limited, faulty, liable to moods and tempers and depressions, but capable, also, with a little wisdom and patience, of living together in love that may be checkered, but should never be extinguished. Mere passion may die, but impassioned love not always, and calm love never. MAN & WOMAN : CHAPTERS ON HUMAN LIFE, PUBLISHED 1913.