Friday, December 26, 2008

christmas cheesecake with sloshed cranberry sauce

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas "holyday" (as a college friend on Facebook called it) and I know you're all looking forward to special New Year's times with friends and family as well. We're far far away from our kinfolk, but it's amazing to me how we're gifted with such good friends here in Japan who have become our loved ones away from home. We had a beautiful Christmas time and feast with another family who went all out to make us feel welcome and to prepare a HUGE gorgeous meal. My tummy was in ecstasy. We were all stuffed and had to wait a few hours before even contemplating dessert. But of course we did. (That's my cheesecake in the photo above hanging out with my friend Chisa's luscious chocolate cake and whipped cream. We all managed to find space (a betsubara) for some of both.)

My cheesecake wrapped in a furoshiki, ready to take to our friends' home

You know, holiday or not, I just can't seem to stay far enough away from cheesecake. Whether it's rum raisin, punkin choco, or this cake/sauce combo I concocted for Christmas, I just can't help myself.

As I started thinking about a Christmas-inspired cheesecake, it hit me that I'd never heard of the beautiful red sweet-sour fruit, cranberries, ever being paired with my cake of choice. They're such a beautiful color and flavor that I realized it would work perfectly together with creamy-sweet cheesecake. So I used an Israeli cheesecake recipe from Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook (one of my favorite cookbooks and definitely one of my favorite recipes that I've used on numerous occasions through the years--the cookbook's full of mouthwatering food ideas, beautiful stories, and mealtime prayers from many cultures around the world). And for my sauce, because I have access to dried cranberries here but not fresh, I was searching for a way to use those, and found this gorgeous cranberry sauce recipe on VegBox. Well, I had to tweak the recipe a bit, but man alive, I can't stop hoovering this stuff down. It worked perfectly on the cheesecake, exactly as I hoped it would, and I have to say that it also brings happiness as a topping for plain natural yogurt or toast, and dramatically enhances leftover turkey. But my hubby and I agree: It's best over decadent chocolate ice cream! (The choco/cranberry combo rocks my socks. Remember my cranberry brownies?)

Don't you love that checked napkin? I was supposed to be a bridesmaid in my very dear friend Teresa's wedding, but at eight months pregnant, I couldn't make the journey to the U.S. She sent me these napkins from the reception and I love the cranberry and mint colors.

I made the sauce two days before Christmas and the flavors continued to meld together to form a beautiful whole. I kept tasting it just to make sure everything was A-okay. I'm warning you: Have a spoon handy and don't stray far from the fridge.

You'll need:

Grated rind and juice of 1 orange

5 tablespoons port (optional) – substitute more orange, if not using port (I actually didn't have any port and at hubby's very wise suggestion used our homemade umeshu (plum wine) from last year - it worked really well! Because the umeshu is so concentrated, I used 3 T. umeshu plus 2 T. water. I had the idea to use pre-made sangria if you have it - that would be lovely and the flavors would really complement this sauce. Maybe I'll do that next time.)

350g (2.5 cups) fresh / frozen / dried cranberries (I used dried)

150g – 200g caster sugar (to taste) - I used a drizzle of honey instead (but don't add too much)

½ teaspoon grated cinnamon

1 apple, peeled and grated

If you have dried cranberries, do this:

1. Wash the cranberries in a bowl of hot water, to remove any oil coating. Drain.

2. Put the cranberries and orange juice with 100ml water in a pan. Cover and simmer very gently for 10 minutes, until the cranberries are starting to plump up.

3. Leave, covered, for an hour. This allows the cranberries to rehydrate.

4. Then add ¼ of the sugar, cinnamon, port and apple and simmer for 15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.

5. Check for sweetness and add more sugar, if necessary.

(If you have fresh or frozen cranberries, see the recipe here for different directions.)

For the cheesecake, you'll need:

1 ready-baked 9-inch pie shell (I used my son's smooshing talents again and made a crust with coconut sable cookies and margarine for my 8-inch springform pan - I baked the crust for about 5 minutes.)

16 oz. (500 g) cream cheese
2 eggs, beaten
2 t. (10 ml) vanilla
1/3 c. (75 ml) sugar (This is one of those rare times I actually increase the sugar content instead of decreasing it - I use 1/2 c.)
1/8 t. (.5 ml) salt

Beat the above ingredients together until smooth, then pour into your baked pie shell. Bake at 350 F (180 C) about 35 minutes or until set. Cool ten minutes.

(I omitted this next part this time because I was using the fruit sauce instead, but you can beat 1 c. (250 ml) sour cream until fluffy, then gradually add 1/3 c. (75 ml) sugar and 1 t. (5 ml) vanilla and then spread this over the cake and bake it another 10 minutes. Then chill and serve. If I'm not going for some kind of sauce, this sour-cream topping is superb.)

Make the cheesecake at least one day ahead of time and let it ripen in the fridge for a good while. Chillin' like a villain. (A villain to my love handles, this stuff is.)

Our homemade plum wine, 1.5 years 35% proof, make sure you don't use this cheesecake and cranberry sauce as a birthday cake with candles anywhere nearby (especially if it's a celebration for someone who's been ripening in the fridge of life for a while)...


Finally. I've been working on this post, 30 seconds at a time, for the last THREE days--I just kept getting interrupted.

This cheesecake is worth every half-a-minute brain surge, though. No lie.


K and S said...

sounds wonderful! love that you made your own umeshu too!

Abigail (aka Mamatouille) said...

Thanks, K and S! You guys should drop by for an umeshu drink! :) We dilute it with Mitsuya cider for a refreshing spritzer.

Rachael Hutchings said...

Oh YUM!!! Mmmmm, I just want to hang out in your kitchen...

Ivy said...

We don't get fresh or frozen cranberries in Greece but a friend sent me some and I made a similar cranberry sauce and it was great on cheesecake. Hope you have a happy New year.

Coffee and Vanilla said...

Cheesecake with cranberries!! It must taste like heaven :)
Happy Holidays to you Abigail... Margot

Abigail (aka Mamatouille) said...

FM, come on over for a visit! :)

Ivy, I didn't know you made a similar cranberry sauce. I looked for the recipe on your site but didn't see it. How was it different? I'm always looking to improve anything I make! :)

Margot, Happy Holidays to you, too, and thanks for visiting! :) Yes, it did taste like heaven!!! I'm definitely going to make this again at some point.

Reeni said...

What a delicious combination! Yum!!! I'm glad to hear you had a happy holiday!

Abigail (aka Mamatouille) said...

Reeni, thanks! Hope yours was beautiful, too! :)

BlessedGal said...

LOVED your blog ... SO excited about your variations on our VegBox recipe. I'll be posting a link on our own blog today. So happy for you that you have loving people around you where you are : )

Abigail (aka Mamatouille) said...

Clara, thank you so much! Happy New Year! :)