Cranberry Cheesecake!

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I’m not sure if it’s the pristine whiteness of a fresh, creamy cheesecake that makes it one of my favorite winter desserts, or if it’s just that it’s easier to get away with pure unadulterated decadence on the dessert front this time of year, but I’ve found myself making holiday cheesecakes like clockwork for a few years!  This year’s cheesecake was a particularly awesome specimen, in large part thanks to John’s decision to buy a 10-lb. box of cranberries this fall.  Don’t get me wrong, I love cranberries (so much so I even pickle them!), but 10 pounds is a LOT of them!  So they have been sneaking into a lot of my cooking lately!

I had a bit of a conundrum when scheming this cheesecake incarnation, because cranberries are red (yeah, not exactly breaking news), and they turn everything they touch red, too!  And I did not want a pink cheesecake–that would just look…odd…to say the least.  (Also, I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to pink!)

So just dumping a bunch of cooked-down cranberry goodness into my batter was obviously not the solution.  And throwing a bunch of uncooked cranberries wouldn’t work, either, because I wanted to make a cold-set cheesecake, and they’d be far far far too bitter that way.  So I landed on a modified marble-cheesecake technique.  I cooked my cranberries down with a teeny bit of water and spices and little sugar (just to take the edge off, I like my cranberries pretty tart!), Mixed up my cheesecake batter, and then sandwiched a layer of cranberries between layers of white cheesecake!  Worked like a charm.

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I also made a few modifications to the crumb crust I usually use for cheesecake, because I was feeling festive, and it seemed like a good idea!  I’m glad I did, though, because it turned out amazing!  I detest graham crackers, so I usually use gingersnaps for cheesecake crust, but I didn’t want the gingersnap flavor to overwhelm the cranberries, so I used shortbread cookies and a pinch of rosemary, which gave the cheesecake a lovely piney/wintery flavor, but it was super subtle.  And rosemary goes with cranberries amazingly well!

The whole thing turned out so well, I just had to share (and, I admit, record what I did so I can do it again some time!).  So without further ado, here is my rendition of Cranberry Cheesecake with Rosemary Shortbread Crust.

Cranberry Cheesecake with Rosemary Shortbread Crust

For the crust:

  • 8 oz. shortbread cookies, crushed to fine crumbs
  • 8 T. salted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. powdered rosemary

For the cheesecake:

  • 2 c. raw whole cranberries
  • 1 T. water
  • 1 T. sugar (or to taste)
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1 packet knox unflavored gelatine (about 2 tsp.)
  • 3 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • 16 oz. sour cream*

* Use a firm sour cream–Daisy and Old Home brands work well for me.

To make the crust, combine shortcake crumbs, butter, and powdered rosemary in a bowl.  Stir till the mixture resembles wet sand, then press into the bottom of a 8-inch or larger springform pan.  Set aside to chill while you make the cheesecake.

To make the cranberries, combine cranberries through cloves in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, till all cranberries have “popped”, the mixture has thickened, and cooked down almost to a loose jam.  Remove from heat to cool while you mix up the cheesecake batter.

To make the cheesecake batter, peel the lemon with a vegetable peeler (so you get large strips), then juice the lemon.  Put peel and juice in a 2-qt. saucepan, along with the water and honey.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often, till sugar is completely dissolved.  Let mixture cool to less than 130 degrees F (THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT…if the mixture is too hot, the gelatine won’t work and you’ll have cheesecake pudding).

Once the lemon syrup has cooled sufficiently, fish out the pieces of lemon peel and discard.  Sprinkle the surface of the syrup with the gelatine and let is sit a few minutes to soften up.  Stir it in with a whisk and let is sit another minute to make sure it’s all moistened.

While gelatine is activating, combine cream cheese and sour cream in your stand mixer.  Whip (using the whisk attachment) until smooth and combined.  Pour in the lemon syrup/gelatine mixture and whip till completely mixed.

Pour about half your cheesecake batter into your prepared crust, smoothing the surface so it’s mostly level.  Dollop your cranberry mixture around and swirl it a bit with a table knife (this will break up the clumps of cranberry so you have nicely marbled but hidden cranberries!).  Once you’ve swirled to your satisfaction, spread remaining cheesecake mixture over the cranberries and smooth.  Garnish with rosemary sprig and cranberries, if you like!

Set the completed cheesecake to chill for at least overnight–24 hours is ideal!  To serve, run a hot knife around the outside edge of the cheesecake and then unmold from the springform sides.

Keep leftovers chilled…this is a cold-set cheesecake, so it gets a bit wibbly if you let it warm up too much!

Makes 16 servings.

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