A cocoa almond flour crust makes an addictive base for fluffy cheesecake kissed with goat cheese and sour cream and smothered in Earl Grey tea poached pears and ruby pomegranate arils. Gluten-free and adapted from Alternative Baker: Reinventing Dessert with Gluten-Free Grains and Flours.
Today’s post is extra special as it features not only a dessert loaded with CHEESE, but also because I’ve teamed up with the lovely folks at Rodelle and KitchenAid to give away a KitchenAid® Artisan® Mini Stand Mixer, a box of delicious organic baking ingredients, and a copy of my book! See below for details.
I love cheesecake (and really anything sweet made with cream cheese) but I’ve always shied away from making large cheesecakes, favoring smaller bars, or just putting cream cheese frosting on everything. Among the perils of large cheesecakes lurk tricksy water baths, leaky springform pans, stale store bought cookie crusts, lumpy filling, changing oven temperatures, cracking, breaking… the list goes on.
But a few months ago, Sarah and I styled this cheesecake for The New York Times, an old family recipe from Amanda Hesser. It boasts a chocolate cinnamon crust and an easy-peasy filling laced with vanilla bean. Its shorter size means it cooks evenly without any problems, with a good crust-to-filling ratio. It’s perfectly creamy, not too sweet, a little tangy, and completely addictive.
The crust reminded me of something else addictive: the cocoa almond tart crust from my book. So I decided to mash up a couple of different recipes (cocoa almond crust and chevre cheesecake bars) and flavor loves (Earl Grey, pears, and pomegranate) from my book and brave a full-grown cheesecake. I’m so glad I did.
The crust may be made from scratch but, once you have the ingredients on hand, it’s nearly as easy to mix up as a cookie crust: just toss all the ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer, and paddle until it comes together in moist clumps, then press into the sides and bottom of the pan. Freeze, parbake, and voilà: a crispy, crumbly crust that tastes like deep chocolate wafer cookies, but fresher and naturally gluten-free. The crust creates an airtight barrier to prevent leaking, and a sturdy springform pan, such as the KitchenAid® Springform Pan that I used here, helps, too.
Sarah and I are particularly enamored of Rodelle’s dutch process cocoa powder – it’s soft and dark, with a creamy chocolate flavor. (Stay tuned for a couple of videos that we made in collaboration with Rodelle and KitchenAid highlighting this lovely product!) Rodelle also makes divinely tasty vanilla extract and plump vanilla beans, both of which flavor this luscious cheesecake from top to bottom in every layer – vanilla extract in the crust and sour cream topping, vanilla seeds in the filling, and vanilla pods in the poached pears. It’s a chocolate and vanilla lover’s dream come true.
Both the crust and the filling are easy to whip up with the help of a stand mixer. I grew up with a KitchenAid® stand mixer and can’t imagine life without one. I inherited my grandmother’s avocado green stand mixer which dates back several decades and never failed me. Then I bought one used from a colleague in pastry school 12 years ago – it lives on top of our refrigerator and works beautifully, though it takes a bit of hefting to move it to the counter when needed. Thus I was thrilled to learn that KitchenAid came out with a smaller stand mixer that’s about 20% smaller and 25% lighter than the full size KitchenAid® tilt-head stand mixer but gets the job done for most home projects. I’m smitten with my new mini.
The cheesecake requires a few steps – baking the crust, making and baking the filling, mixing up the sour cream topping, and poaching the pears – but all can be done ahead of time, including the whole cheesecake which keeps beautifully, refrigerated airtight, for several days. The cheesecake pops out easily with the help of the sturdy crust. To slice, just be sure to use a large chef’s knife dipped in hot water and wiped clean between each cut.
Top slices with the poached pears, pomegranate arils, and a drizzle of the reduced poaching syrup. The cocoa crust crunches in your mouth as the fluffy cheesecake dissolves into a puddle of creamy lusciousness, vanilla and tangy dairy playing off the subtle flavors of citrusy bergamot, floral black tea, and bright pops of pomegranate. The whole thing is well-balanced and completely addictive. I use a fairly mild chèvre made by Sierra Nevada Cheese Company, and it makes an especially divine filling that doesn’t taste at all funky or savory; it just tastes like the best cheesecake you’ve ever had.
I fact, I think I’ll have another slice.
- a KitchenAid® Artisan® Mini Stand Mixer in the color of your choice
- a box of Rodelle organic baking ingredients including Organic Baking Cocoa, Rodelle Organics Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans, Rodelle Organics Pure Vanilla Extract, and Rodelle Whole Gourmet Cinnamon Sticks
- and a copy of Alternative Baker to one lucky winner! (Head over to Instagram for a second chance to win!)
TO ENTER: Leave a comment below about your favorite holiday dessert.
THE DETAILS: Open to residents in the U.S. only. Giveaway will run from Tuesday, November 22nd through Tuesday, November 29th, 2016. A winner will be chosen at random and notified by email by Sunday, December 4th.
Also! If you’re in the San Francisco area, I’ll be at Green Apple Books tonight (Tuesday 11/22) with my pal Irvin Lin, signing our books and sharing sweet treats. We’d love to see you there! And if you’d like to order a signed copy, we’re offering a special deal over at GFF Magazine.
- 1⁄2 cup (80 g) sweet white rice flour
- 1⁄2 cup (60 g) blanched almond flour (such as Bob’s Red Mill)
- 1⁄2 cup (45 g) cocoa powder (preferably dutch-process)
- 2 tablespoons (12 g) tapioca flour
- 1⁄4 cup (50 g) organic granulated cane sugar
- 1⁄4 plus 1⁄8 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 5 tablespoon (70 g) cold, unsalted butter, diced into 1⁄2” cubes
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 8 ounce (230 g) fresh soft goat cheese, at room temperature
- 8 ounce (230 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 3⁄4 cup (165 g) organic granulated cane sugar
- 2 tablespoons (15 g) sweet white rice flour
- Seeds from 1-2 vanilla beans (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
- 1⁄4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1⁄4 cup (60 ml) sour cream
- 1 ½ cups (355 ml) sour cream
- 3 tablespoons (40 g) organic granulated cane sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 cups (950 ml) boiling water
- 3 tablespoons loose Earl Grey tea leaves
- ¾ cup (165 g) organic granulated cane sugar
- 2 scraped vanilla pods (from above)
- 4 medium, firm-ripe pears (such as Bosc), peeled, halved, cored
- juice of 1 large lemon
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375ºF.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the almond and sweet rice flours with the cocoa powder, tapioca starch, sugar and salt. Scatter the butter pieces over the top and drizzle with the vanilla extract. Turn the mixer to medium-low and run until the dough comes together in clumps and the butter is worked through, 3–5 minutes. (It will seem as though the dough won’t come together, but don’t worry – it will!)
- Dump the crumbs into a 9-inch springform pan and press the dough evenly into the bottom and 1 ¼ inches up the sides, starting with the sides and then moving to the bottom, keeping the edges square. (It usually takes me about 5 minutes to make it look pretty.) Freeze until firm, 15–30 minutes.
- Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet (to catch any drips) and bake until slightly puffed and firm to the touch, 18–22 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and, while it’s still hot, press the sides and bottom with the back of a spoon. This will help it hold together when cool. Decrease the oven to 325ºF.
- Wipe the bowl of the stand mixer clean and add the softened goat cheese, cream cheese, sugar, rice flour, vanilla seeds, and salt. Mix on medium low until smooth and creamy, 2-3 minutes, scraping the bowl and paddle a few times. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing on medium-low until combined and scraping the bowl and paddle well between each egg, then stir in the the ¼ cup sour cream.
- Pour the filling into the cooled crust and bake at 325ºF until gently puffed and mostly set when you give it a wiggle, 40-45 minutes. Remove from the oven.
- While the cheesecake bakes, whisk together the 1 ½ cups sour cream, sugar, and vanilla. Gently spoon the sour cream mixture over the cheesecake, spread smooth, and return to the oven for 10 minutes. Remove the cheesecake and allow it to cool completely at room temperature, 1-2 hours, then chill until cold, 4 hours and up to 1 or 2 days.
- In a large, heatproof measuring pitcher, pour the boiling water over the tea leaves and let steep 5 minutes. Strain the tea into a wide skillet with high sides, or another large pot. Add the sugar and vanilla pods and bring to a boil. Add the pears and lemon juice (the liquid should just cover the pears, but you can add more water if need be) and simmer the pears until just tender but still holding a shape, 8-12 minutes, turning the pears over halfway through. Remove the pears to a plate and simmer the poaching liquid until thick and syrupy, 10-20 minutes. Let cool. Cut the pears into chunks.
- To serve the cheesecake, release the edge of the springform pan and slide the cheesecake onto a platter or cutting board. Cut into slices with a large chef’s knife dipped in hot water and wiped clean between each cut. Serve slices topped with the poached pears, pomegranate arils, and a drizzle of poaching syrup. Extra cheesecake keeps well, refrigerated airtight, for up to several days (if you can make it last that long).