Do you tend to see things in black and white? Are you all-or-nothing kind of a person? I know I am. I come from a family of high achievers, where anything but perfection was frowned upon. It taught me to focus and work hard, but also made it hard for me to just let go and relax. Having high expectations of yourself is fine. However, if those same expectations keep you from trying new things, and essentially keep you from having fun in life, that’s another story. There are so many things I wouldn’t even touch in the past, because, well, if I couldn’t be the best, then what’s the point in trying? So many perfectly good cakes ended up in the trash, just because they weren’t pretty enough! For years now, I’ve been trying to overcome these patterns, and intentionally look for all the (fifty) shades between black and white. I like to refer to myself as a recovering perfectionist/aspiring good-enoughist these days. Good-enoughist is most likely not even a word, and as a linguist it pains me to see it typed, but I’m going to leave it, because it expresses so well the struggle we recovering perfectionists go through 🙂
Cheesecake has always been my stumbling block in baking. I love everything about cheesecake – it’s quick to whip up, can be (even has to be!) made ahead, and most of all, it tastes wonderful – so rich, creamy, and decadent. The thing is, I’ve rarely been able to make it without cracking. I’ve tried countless recipes and many different baking methods, I even consulted pastry chefs, but more often than not, the little stinker still cracks up on me. If not during baking, then while it cools.
I know cranberries in a cheesecake are a little strange this time of year. It’s something to be served around Thanksgiving! But when I stumbled upon this recipe, it was a love at first sight, and there was no way I’d be able to wait seven more months to make it. I was just thankful I still had a bag of cranberries from the last Fall in the freezer 🙂 I really like how the tartness of cranberries balances out the sweet taste of chocolate, but if you want to make the cheesecake a little more season-appropriate, I’m sure raspberries or cherries in place of cranberries would be just as delicious!
So today I proudly present to you my beautifully cracked masterpiece. I had fun with the swirl pattern, and can’t wait to play with it more in the future. The consistency is excellent, and the taste is just right and not too sweet. And the crack? I like to think it adds a little character and says the cake is definitely homemade. Maybe I’ll learn to bake perfect cheesecakes when I grow up. And maybe not. Perfection is overrated anyway. Let’s just play with flavors and textures, create wonderful smells in the kitchen, lick our fingers and have fun doing so!
White Chocolate Cranberry Cheesecake
adapted from http://bethcakes.com
- 1½ cups graham cracker crumbs (I used gluten-free version)
- ½ cups pecans, chopped
- ½ unsalted butter, melted
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 packages (8 oz., 226 g each) full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
- ¾ cup white sugar
- 6 oz. (226 g) vanilla yogurt (or sour cream)
- 1 cup white chocolate chips
- 2 eggs + 2 extra egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I used gluten-free flour, and since GF flours tend to be lighter, I used a little more)
- 2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
- ½ cup white sugar
- ½ cup water (+ more for pureeing)
- To make the crust: Mix all the ingredients in your food processor, and press the mixture into a standard springform pan with removable bottom.
- Prebake at 350 °F (175 °C) for about 10 minutes and let cool completely.
- For the cranberry swirl layer, cook all the ingredients over a medium heat for about 10 – 15 minutes, until the cranberries burst open and the mixture thickens. Let cool slightly, and then process the mixture in a blender/food processor until smooth (I needed to add a little water). The cranberry puree should be somewhat thick, but still pourable. Set aside.
- For the chocolate – cheese layer: Preheat the oven to 350 °F (175 °C). Put small pan with water on the lower rack in the oven. Mix cream cheese with sugar until smooth. Add the yogurt and melted chocolate, combine. One by one add the eggs and the egg yolks. Lastly, add the flour and mix until combined.
- Pour the chocolate – cream cheese filling into a cooled crust. Tap the springform pan couple of times on the counter to release the air bubbles. Place the springform pan on a big baking sheet. Swirl the cranberry mixture into the chocolate – cream cheese layer. Bake for about 45 minutes until still a little wobbly. Turn the oven off, open the door slightly, and let the cheesecake sit in the oven for an hour. Remove the cheesecake from the oven, let cool, and refrigerate.