Pastry Chef, culinary instructor and author Melanie Underwood shared with us this recipe from her new cookbook, Making Artisan Cheesecake: Expert Techniques for Classic and Creative Recipes – Includes Vegan, Gluten-Free & Nut-Free Recipes. She offered it not only because it’s her favorite cheesecake in the book but because of the cake’s unique blend of aphrodisiac ingredients.
Cheesecake the aphrodisiac way
Combining saffron, one of our favorite sexy spices, with sweet tropical pineapple, it offers the kind of sweet ending to a meal no diner will forget. (Learn more about the aphrodisiac history of saffron and pineapple.)
Although she loves saffron the way we do, Underwood let us know that the cake works well with a variety of herbs and spices and encourages home cooks to experiment.
Saffron Cheesecake with Sauteed Pineapple
For the cheesecake:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon packed finely grated orange zest
- 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads not packed
- 11/2 pounds cream cheese
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 11/4 cups sugar
- 2 cups whole milk plain yogurt
- 4 large eggs
For the bottom-only nut crust:
- 2 cups finely ground nuts (such as almonds walnuts, or pecans; mix no more than two)
- 2 tablespoons granulated or brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
For the sauteed pineapple
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 large pineapple peeled, cored, and diced
- 1 vanilla bean split and scraped
- pinch of good-quality saffron
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- pinch of ground black pepper
For the crust:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a medium bowl, combine the ground cookies or nuts and sugar. Add the butter and stir with a rubber spatula to combine, making sure all the butter is absorbed and the crumbs or nuts are evenly coated.
- Place the mixture in a 10-inch (25 cm) springform pan.
- Using the palm of your hand or the bottom of a glass, press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the pan. For a bottom-and-sides crust, use the sides of a glass to press about half of the mixture into the sides of the pan.
- Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, or until slightly firm. (The nut crust will be toasted to a golden brown and have a nutty aroma.)
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely, about 10 minutes.
To make the cheesecake:
- Lower the oven to 325 F.
- In a medium-size saucepan, combine the heavy cream, zest, and saffron; bring to a boil.
- Turn off the heat, cover, and allow to steep for 5 minutes.
- Strain the mixture, discarding the saffron and zest. Set aside to cool completely.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese and cornstarch on low speed until softened, scraping down the sides of the bowl, underneath the paddle, and the paddle frequently with a rubber spatula, about 2 minutes.
- Add the sugar and continue mixing on low and scraping down the sides, bottom, and paddle until there are no visible lumps.
- Add the yogurt and mix just until combined.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix just until combined, about 10 seconds after each egg.
- Stir in the cooled heavy cream.
- Prepare the springform pan for a water bath.
- Place the springform pan in a large cake pan or a roasting pan (one that is around the same height or lower than your springform pan).
- Pour the batter over the crust and level it with a small offset spatula.
- Place in the oven and pour almost boiling water into the roasting pan (it should come up halfway around the sides of the pan).
- Bake for about 1 hour 40 minutes, until the cheesecake is firm around the edges, but still jiggly in the center (the jiggly part should be about the size of a quarter).
- Remove from the oven and remove the cheesecake from the water bath.
- Remove the foil from the sides of the pan. Gently run a small sharp knife or small spatula around the edges of the pan to loosen the cheesecake from the sides.
- Allow to cool at room temperature. Place in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours (this will help the cheesecake set completely).
- To unmold the cheesecake, gently run a small sharp knife or small spatula around the edges of the pan.
- Release the latch on the side of the pan and then lift the ring straight up.
- Optional: For a beautiful presentation, invert the cheesecake onto a platter so the pistachio crust is on the top.
- To garnish: When ready to serve, plate each slice individually and serve with about 1/4 cup of the sauteed pineapple.
For the sauteed pineapple:
- Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over high heat.
- Add the pineapple, vanilla bean, and saffron. Cook until the pineapple is slightly softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Cook for about 5 more minutes, until lightly golden. Remove from the heat and let cool.
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