Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cranberry-Topped Orange Cheesecake

I found a bag of cranberries at my local grocery store and knew I had to make something with them. Cranberries are my favorite fall food and in my opinion, way too underused. I have to admit though, I am guilty of not using them as much as maybe as I could. They are surely a staple side at the table on Thanksgiving Day, but I don't use them much otherwise. I challenged myself to find many more recipes with them.

As I was searching Epicurious for some cranberry-orange muffin recipes, I ran across a recipe for cranberry-orange cheesecake! I have never made a cheesecake before and have been dying to give one a try. I clicked on the recipe and was glad to see that I had pretty much all the ingredients I needed, some of which (chocolate wafer cookies) I've actually had in my pantry and have been trying to get rid of! I love when that happens. Next, I looked at the ratings and saw that it got awesome reviews! SCORE! Decision made -- cranberry-orange cheesecake it is! Here is the recipe, written as is from Epicurious:


  • 1 9-ounce box chocolate wafer cookies, broken
  • 2 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  • 4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel

For crust:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Finely grind cookies and chocolate in processor. Add butter; blend until moist clumps form. Using plastic wrap as aid, press crumb mixture onto bottom and 1 1/4 inches up sides of 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Bake until set, about 8 minutes. Cool completely.

For filling:
Increase oven temperature to 350°F. Wrap 2 layers of heavy-duty foil around bottom and up sides of springform pan. Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until light. Beat in flour. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, just until blended. Beat in orange peel and vanilla.

Pour filling into crust. Place springform pan in large roasting pan. Fill roasting pan with enough hot water to come halfway up sides of springform pan. Bake until filling is just set in center but still moves slightly, about 55 minutes. Remove cake from water bath; transfer to rack and cool completely, about 4 hours. Cover and chill overnight.

For topping:
Stir sugar and water in medium saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium; add cornstarch mixture and bring to simmer. Add cranberries; cook until beginning to pop, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Stir in orange peel. Cool completely. Cover and chill overnight. (Cheesecake and cranberry mixture can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

Run knife around top edge of cheesecake to loosen. Release pan sides. Top cheesecake with cranberry mixture. Chill until set, about 1 hour.

I followed the recipe pretty much as directed. I had NO clue what I was doing or looking for in terms of whether or not the crust was done or when the cheesecake itself was done. I mean, it says that it's supposed to look "set" (whatever that looks like) but still wobbly in the middle. Uhhh, how wobbly? I chalked this up to an experimental baking adventure and crossed my fingers.

Well, it appears luck was on my side. My first ever cheesecake was a wonderful success! I was worried about the cheesecake sticking to the springform pan but that wasn't a problem at all. I was also worried about the cheesecake being not as smooth as I wanted since the cream cheese wasn't quite room temperature when I mixed it initially, but the texture was silky smooth and luxurious! And how did it taste? I was worried that using just orange zest wouldn't give it enough orange flavor, but I think it was just right. There was just a hint or orange, but enough to know it was there. The tart/sweet cranberry topping was a great compliment. It was very yum and is something I will likely make again! I can't wait to try different combinations of cheesecake flavor and fruit toppings.

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