Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Chevre Cheesecake with Grape and Rosemary Compote

I think this may be my favorite cheesecake of all time. I don't eat cheesecake much these days, but I remember when I was maybe 6 years old asking my mom to make her honey lemon cheesecake with cherries for my birthday.

I'm all about slightly savory desserts - this has a delicate but not overwhelming flavor of goat cheese. If you didn't know it was in there, you might not even guess. And now you can buy great logs of chevre (soft goat cheese) so inexpensively at Costco!  I love the unusual rosemary and red grape topping with or without walnuts. The flavor and texture of this cheesecake are exceptional - creamy, tangy and firm, not gloppy - and it's actually pretty easy to whip up.

The recipe comes from Cuisine at Home magazine - my mother-in-law gave me a subscription a few years ago, and we've gotten several great recipes from it.

Crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup toasted walnuts (if you're allergic, just use all graham cracker crumbs instead)
2 Tbs sugar
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter, melted

Filling:
1 lb goat cheese, room temperature
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
3 eggs, room temperature
2 Tbs heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Grape and Rosemary Compote
3/4 cup dry red wine (or substitute 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and 1/2 cup water)
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
Pinch of salt
2 cups red grapes, halved
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp fresh lemon juice (omit if using balsamic vinegar)

Freshly ground pepper

Take the goat cheese, cream cheese, and eggs out of the refrigerator to warm up while you prepare the crust. Preheat oven to 350F. Chop graham crackers and walnuts finely (a food processor comes in handy here, but you can also just put them in a ziploc and bang them gently with a hammer). Mix thoroughly with sugar and butter. Press onto the bottom and about 1 inch up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes, and let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 250F.

Beat the cheeses, sugar and sour cream together with an electric mixer on low speed, scraping the sides down often, until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides after each. Beat in the cream and vanilla. Pour into crust and bake at 250F for 60-75 minutes. The center should still be slightly wobbly. Let stand at room temperature until completely cooled, then cover the pan without letting wrap touch the top, and chill overnight.

Whisk together wine (or balsamic vinegar), sugar and cornstarch until smooth. Simmer over medium-high heat, whisking constantly until thickened, about 3 minutes. Pour syrup over remaining ingredients and toss to coat.

Remove ring from springform and cut slices with a long knife, rinsing the knife with hot water and wiping dry after each cut. Top each piece with compote and a small sprig of rosemary.

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