Friday, October 15, 2010

Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake

I haven't made this cheesecake in a while, but I'm going to try to be as descriptive and precise as possible in the directions. I have pretty strong feelings about cheesecake, and this one definitely satisfies.

The cranberry puree can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until you actually make the cake. I've copied the original recipe but written in notes as I see fit. I realize that makes it more of a hassle to print. Sorry in advance.

For the cranberry puree:
2 cups fresh cranberries (or frozen, thawed)
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup orange juice (I'll bet you can probably just use the juice and zest of one orange)
2 tablespoons orange zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 teaspoon nutmeg
4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Make the cranberry puree. Combine all ingredients except vanilla extract in heavy large saucepan. (You're not going to add the vanilla in until the end because its flavor dissipates when heated.) Cook over medium heat until the mixture thickens (you know, cranberries, lots of pectin!), stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Cool slightly. (The recipe know calls for you to transfer this to a food processor to puree it. It should be fine in a blender, though.) So, transfer the mixture to a blender. Add the vanilla and puree until smooth. Strain into a medium bowl, cover with plastic, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours. (I'm into this sort of thing, but I remember the leftovers from the strainer being especially tasty. Seed-y, but tasty.)

For the crust:
2 3/4 cups finely ground butter biscuit cookies or butter cookies (I'm pretty sure I use gingersnaps. I think you could also use graham crackers, too. Whatever you like - chocolate wafers, even.)
2 tablespoons sugar (You could certainly reduce or omit this depending on how sweet the cookies are. Butter cookies tend to be pretty sweet, so you could omit it entirely.)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (May or may not be necessary depending on if you use gingersnaps.)
1 stick unsalted butter, melted (I'd definitely cut this in half, if not more. You do not need an entire stick of melted butter to bind together a cookie crust! However, if you use less butter the crust won't "bind" together as much, but it will still hold up. Start with 3 tablespoons, and if that's not enough to get it all bound, add another tablespoon.)

Make the crust. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (the original recipe just calls for you to chill the crust, but I don't believe in just chilling crusts. Bake it for 10 minutes and it will get nice and toasty and delicious). Wrap the outside of a 10-inch springform fan with a double layer of aluminum foil. Process cookie crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon (you can crush the cookies by hand with a rolling pin or the bottom of a pan). Stir in the butter. Once clumps start to form, you've added enough butter. The crumbs should hold together if you press them, not just fall into a sad pile. Pour the crumbs into the springform pan. Using the bottom and sides of measuring cup, press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes in the middle rack of the oven. After 10 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and set aside to cool while you make the filling.

For the filling:
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature (very important! Also, you could use all Neufchatel if you want, or half Neufchatel and half regular)
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream (you could use low-fat if that's what you buy)
1/2 cup whipping cream (not the same as heavy cream, it usually has less fat - but you could still use heavy cream, too)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Make the filling. Using electric mixer (or hand mixer), beat the cream cheese in a large bowl until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add sugar and beat until well-blended. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and make sure that everything is getting well-blended. That's half the battle with cheesecake. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in sour cream, whipping cream, and vanilla. Mix well.

Transfer 1/3 of the filling to the baked crust. Then dollop 1/3 of the cranberry puree atop the filling (just little dollops spaced across the filling). Repeat layering of filling and puree 2 more times (ending with the puree on top). Using a knife (butter knife will do), swirl the puree through the filling, creating a marbled design. (This is easy to do using figure-eight motions, but after a few swirls you'll see the marble design begin to form. Just be sure to swirl so that you get all the puree from the lower layers incorporated into the batter.)

Meanwhile, but a pot of water on to boil. Place the springform pan in a large roasting pan. Situate the pan on the center rack of the oven and pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the side of the springform pan. Bake until the cheesecake puffs around the edges, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. (The top of the cheesecake will be set by this point but it may jiggle slightly when shaken.) Turn off the oven. Leave the oven door ajar (this is easily accomplished using a wooden spoon) and let the cake stand in the oven for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, remove the cake from the oven. Run a knife around the pan sides to loosen the cake (this will prevent it from cracking as it cools - things expand as they cool). Cool completely. Remove foil from pan sides. Cover cake and chill overnight. The cake can be made two days ahead and kept refrigerated. (Sometimes I put the still-warm cake in the refrigerator, but I'd recommend to let it cool at least a little while on the counter before you transfer it to the refrigerator.)

You could serve this with a cranberry compote or this cranberry balsamic glaze, which looks scrumptious. Let me know how this turns out. I love the mix of the creamy filling and the tart, smooth cranberry puree. Yum!
Me, enjoying the cranberry swirl cheesecake for my birthday one year.
(Looks like I used gingersnaps, but it's a bit hard to tell.)


  1. I definitely think it's always been gingersnaps for the crust... and I remember using those cranberry leftovers from step 1 as a mix-in with our oatmeal (we loved it!)

  2. oooh yum! okay - i will have to make this! and i need to get my food processor for thanksgiving anyway - maybe i can get it early and use it for this! i'll let you know how it turns out!

  3. i was hoping when you said you hadn't made it in a while you were offering to make one for taste testing. the idea of putting it into oatmeal sounds really good.