18 February 2011

Honeyed Balsamic Cherry Cheesecake in a Triple Ginger Crust





Endless Distractions

A few days ago I walked into Trader Joe’s thinking whole grains, exotic frozen vegetables and tofu. I walked out thinking, craving, obsessing on cheesecake. How did that happen? I blame those lovely oval jars of Dark Morello Cherries.

But then again, that’s not where it started. First, near the tofu, I spied the goat cheese. I was just admiring the wide variety of choices when I saw a package of Chevre with Honey. I do have a weakness for honey and having recently found a new appreciation for the way it enhances dairy via my daughter’s blog experimentation and my introduction to Greek Gods honey yogurt, I thought it might be nice to try a little.




Illustrated Conclusions

I grabbed the tofu, the Chevre with Honey, a loaf of bread and multigrain crackers then turned to the frozen vegetables. Right there above the frozen foods was a display of some of my favorite cookies. I debated buying a box of TJ’s Triple Ginger Snaps. They are so delicious dipped in coffee plus they are small and, in that common calorie counting delusion, "small = virtuous." Right? Then I had another thought. I could just imagine how delicious that honeyed goat cheese would taste smeared on a crisp gingery cookie. That tipped the scales and the cookies slid into my cart, along with the roasted corn and frozen carrots.

It was then that I turned and saw them; a beautifully arranged line of those intriguing oval jars filled with Dark Morello Cherries. A picture came to mind; a beautiful photograph of a cheesecake from the November issue of Real Simple with a thick crust of ginger snap crumbs piled high on the sides and a syrupy cascade of cherries flowing down the cheese filling.

That was the road from vegetables, whole grains and tofu to Cheesecake.




Spontaneous Celebrations

Not that there is anything wrong with Cheesecake! In fact when I realized that President’s Day is only days away and I remembered the Cherry Cheese Pies Aunt Hen used to make for George Washington’s Birthday, I knew it was meant to be. It is sad to overlook those genuine opportunities to celebrate!

This, however, is not your traditional Washington’s Birthday Cherry Cheese Pie...or even your traditional thick and creamy cheesecake. I adored that photo in the magazine but when it came down to reading through the recipe I had different ideas about every step of the process except the crust. I did a little digging for some new ideas and decided to use a filling quite similar to one described at One Bite at a Time and a topping much more like the one at CookThink. I combined those inspirations, changed the proportions, cut it all in half, and ended up with a gorgeous 6-inch Honeyed Balsamic Cherry Cheesecake in a Triple Ginger Crust.

So let's learn a little history and indulge in a little celebration. Or if you are already previously engaged this President's Day weekend, try this intimate little cheesecake for any occasion.


Celebrate the happiness that friends are always giving, make every day a holiday and celebrate just living!
~ Amanda Bradley


Honeyed Balsamic Cherry Cheesecake 
in a Triple Ginger Crust
(This recipe is for a 6-inch cheesecake. For a 9-inch cheesecake, double the recipe.  The cooking time should remain roughly the same.)

1½ cups fine gingersnap crumbs  (I used ½ package TJ’s Triple Ginger Snaps ground in a food processor)
¼ cup melted butter

8 ounces Chevre with Honey  (or use another plain soft goat cheese and double the honey)
2 Tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon vanilla
3 large eggs, seperated
1½ Tablespoons flour

½ pound fresh bing cherries or
   8–12 ounces canned cherries (I used ½ jar Dark Morello Cherries from TJs)
¼ cup syrup from cherries, if desired
½ cup balsamic vinegar (I used Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar from Navidi’s)
¼ cup honey

Preheat oven to 350F.

To make the crust:
In a medium bowl, combine the ginger snap crumbs and melted butter.  Using a tip gleaned from the article in Real Simple, press the crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 6-inch springform pan using a straight sided Metric Wonder Cup or similar measuring cup.  It works great for pressing the crumbs high up the sides of the pan.

To prepare the filling:
In a medium bowl, combine the goat cheese, honey, lemon juice and vanilla.  Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth and well combined.

Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour and mix on low until incorporated.

In a smaller bowl, beat the egg whites with clean beaters until soft peaks form. (They should be firm but not dry.) Stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter.  Add the remaining egg whites folding gently until they are incorporated.

Pour the batter into the ginger snap crust.

Bake at 350F for 40 minutes or until set. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cool the cheesecake can be covered and stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve, up to several days.

To prepare topping:
While the cheesecake bakes, combine the balsamic vinegar, honey and syrup from the cherries (if desired) in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over low heat.  Continue to simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until it begins to look syrupy.

Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to a bowl.  Refrigerate until cool.

To serve:
Remove the cheesecake from the springform pan by running a knife along the outer edge and unlocking the side of the pan, pulling the pan away. Center the cheesecake on a serving platter.  Stir thoroughly drained canned cherries or pitted fresh cherries into the honey balsamic syrup.  Pour the cherry mixture over the top of the cheesecake.  It should settle into the slight depression in the center of the cooled cheesecake.  Slice and serve.

Alternately, dust the top of the cheesecake with powdered sugar just before serving and serve with the cherry sauce on the side. 



Note: This cheesecake turned out to be creamy, flavorful and delicious without the cloying mouth-feel often left by a cream cheese cheesecake.

The cherry sauce was delicious but ran off the side of my serving dish shortly after preparation.  I suggest a serving dish with a rim or simply serve the cherry topping on the side as described above.

~~~

Want to try this flavor combination but don't have the time, inclination or equipment to bake a cheesecake?  The "deconstructed" approach coined by Jamie Oliver and featured in my "Chocolate Alchemy..." post about Deconstructed Truffles can apply here too.



Deconstructed Honey Ginger Cherry Cheese Bites

Ginger Snaps
Chevre with Honey (or chevre and honey)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup honey
cherries (fresh or canned)

Prepare the cherry topping for the cheesecake as directed above. Chill the syrup and stir in the cherries just before serving.

If you don't have Chevre with Honey prepare your own by stirring approximately 1 Tablespoon of honey into every 2 ounces of soft goat cheese.  Store in the refrigerator.

When ready to serve:  Place the Ginger Snaps on a small tray.  Pour the cherries into a pretty bowl and place the honeyed goat cheese in another pretty serving dish. 

Set the arrangement in the middle of the table and encourage guests to assemble their own small cheesecake bites by smearing the honeyed goat cheese on the cookies and topping each with a cherry in balsamic syrup.  

Serve with coffee, sparkling water or champagne.

Enjoy!

6 comments:

Alanna Kellogg said...

Gorgeous! It's never once before occurred to me to celebrate President's Day but suddenly, all I can think of is morello cherries ... though, hmm, I have a freezer full of sour cherries, THAT would be a thing.

MaryBeth said...

WOW...simply delish! this cake is over the top fantastic looking.

Gypmar said...

Mmmm. We use those luscious jars of Morello cherries as the base for the brandied cherries we make to garnish our Manhattans.

I love everything about your creative cheesecake recipe!

LeLo said...

Okay, I couldn't justify making the big whole cheesecake version of this, but instead made the deconstructed bites: WOW! This was the most amazing treat for someone who is really watching their diet. Thank you for doing the full version and the bite version. Amazing.

grace said...

this is, without a doubt, the fanciest and most interesting cheesecake i've ever seen, and i've seen soooo many. i'm impressed, lisa, and i leave your page craving cheese and cherries. :)

Kate said...

Stunning! What a beautiful cake....it sounds delicious, too.