“INSANE cheesecake!” was the subject line of a recent email I got. “…’nough said!!!” was the rest of the message. What my friend was referring to was the Cranberry Cheesecake I had dropped off to my 5 year old’s school that morning.
Several years ago, I went through a humongous cheesecake stage, where I put pretty much every imaginable ingredient into either the filling or the topping. Well, not really EVERY ingredient…just the ones that appealed to me.
By now you have probably figured out that I have a wee bit of a sweet tooth. Cranberries do not generally make it to my grocery list unless they are going to be incorporated into a fruit mold or chutney. Yet, I always have this uncontrollable desire to find ways to bring these beautifully colored berries into my Thanksgiving meal.
Each year I give a lot of thought to what dozen or so desserts I want to make to finish off my feast with a bang. Two of my favorites are Pumpkin Pie and Pecan Turtle Tart, both on the “brownish” side of the color spectrum. I wanted a dessert that would brighten up my table with a fire engine type of flair. It didn’t take me long to figure out that cranberries would work perfectly.
Cheesecake, really? After eating enough food for 20 people in a two hour span of time? Absolutely. At least this Cranberry Cheesecake. The filling is really light (stop laughing, it is!) and airy (not as airy as an Angel Food Cake, but as airy as a cheesecake can possibly be). The cranberry topping is, quite frankly, beautiful.
I am hard pressed to find a more elegant dessert for Thanksgiving. Best of all, it is also one of the easiest recipes you will make this holiday season. So if you do not have a friend whom you can beg to bake this for you, know that you will have a fantastic showstopper to end the evening with and no one else will realize how simple it was to whip together.
|Cranberry Cheesecake|| || |
- 5.35 ounces graham crackers (10-1/3 crackers)
- ⅓ cup pecan pieces
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Cream cheese filling:
- 4 - 8 ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
- 1¼ cups sugar
- 4 eggs
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries, washed and dried
- ¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
- ¼ cup kirsch liquor
- Preheat the oven to 325°. Set aside a 10” cake pan.
- For the crust:
- Combine the graham crackers, pecan pieces and sugar in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until it has a fine crumb consistency. Add the melted butter and pulse on/off until well blended. Grease the pan with nonstick cooking spray (I use PAM®.) Transfer the crust mixture to the pan and pat evenly onto the bottom and up ¾” of the side. Set aside.
- For the filling:
- Beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping the bowl down as needed. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until smooth. Add the sour cream and vanilla.
- Pour the filling into the pan and bake at 325° for 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
- Wrap a 12” cardboard round with plastic wrap and set aside. Place the cheesecake pan in a baking or roasting pan that is large enough to fit the cheesecake pan in (this may also be done in the kitchen sink.) Add very warm water to the larger pan filling it halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan. Let sit for 20 seconds. Transfer the cheesecake pan to a dishtowel and dry off the water. Immediately place the wrapped 12” cardboard round on the top of the cheesecake pan. Invert the cheesecake and, holding the cardboard round and the cheesecake pan tightly, firmly rap the cheesecake (upside down) onto a countertop. Carefully lift the cheesecake pan off of the cheesecake. Place the serving plate onto the crust of the cheesecake and turn the cheesecake over, holding onto the cardboard round as you do this. Remove the cardboard round. Prepare the topping.
- For the topping:
- Place the cranberries, brown sugar and kirsch in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the mixture holds together and the liquid has been cooked out, 13-15 minutes total cooking time. After 10-12 minutes, the cranberries are bubbly and bursting. If there are any stubborn cranberries that are not popping, help them out by mashing them against the side of the pan. Transfer the cooked topping to a bowl and place wax paper directly onto the cranberries. Cool completely.
- Once the topping is cool, stir it and transfer the cranberries to the top of the cheesecake. Begin in the center of the cheesecake and then spread it out to the edges, leaving a small border. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Betsy's tidbits:
- Cranberry Cheesecake may also be prepared in a springform pan. Once the cake cools, remove the side of the pan. Refrigerate until cold before topping.
- Cranberry Cheesecake may be made in advance. If freezing, wrap the untopped cheesecake well. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator and top anytime during the day you will be serving the Cranberry Cheesecake.
- The topping may be made a day ahead. Cover well with plastic wrap. When ready to top the cheesecake, stir the topping and follow directions as written above.