It is that time of year where there are lots and lots of fresh cherries in the stores, so, of course, it means it is time to make something fabulous with them! Last year about this time I taught you how to make a lattice top cherry pie, so rather than repeat myself, I decided that it was time to roll out the Marbled Cherry Cheesecake!
Now, there are folks who will say this is a New York style cheesecake, but I tend to think of it is as a Say Cheese Style Cheesecake. Back when I was a kid and working as an actor at the Performance Network Sandy and her crew of lovable hippies created Say Cheese and made some of the best cheesecake every. It was tall, and full of the tart flavor of real cheesecake and came in a variety of astounding flavors.
Say Cheese is long gone but I am dedicating this recipe to the memory of the place that showed me how real cheesecake should look and taste.
Cheery Cheesecake is often (almost always) just a plain cheesecake with a cherry topping. I hate that, it is like calling vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce “chocolate ice cream”. So I came up with a marbled style that is actually cheery in flavor, and then topped it with cherry confit.
You see that is also the other problem with most cherry cheesecakes, the recipes you will see call for “cherry pie filling” as if there is only one recipe for such a thing and as though buying it in a can is really the way to go.
It does take longer to make your own cherry confit, but since there is all this lovely fresh fruit around, why in the name of the FSM would you even consider the gloppy, corn syrup filled crap you can buy commercially?
To make a really good marble cheeses cake it is best to make two separate batters and then combine them. I don’t know why this works better than making one big batter and adding to part of it, but it does.
So, this recipe takes some time. It will take all afternoon to make it and since it is a cheesecake, it will have to chill overnight before you can unmold it. However, as the Nuns said “Patients is a virtue you should never be, or act without” and it will be rewarded for those willing to take the time to make this show stopper of a cheese cake.
But enough of this! Let’s bake!
Marble Cherry Cheesecake
For Cheery Confit:
2 pounds fresh cherries (if you can find sour use them, otherwise Bing Cherries is the way to go) washed and pitted.
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
2 sprigs of thyme
½ vanilla bean, split
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
6 tablespoons sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
½ almonds finely chopped
2 egg yolks
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
For Cherry Cheesecake Batter:
1lbs (two packages) cream cheese at room temperature
½ cup sugar
¼ cup confit liquid
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs at room temperature
For Plain Cheesecake Batter:
1 ½ lbs (three packages) cream cheese at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs at room temperature.
Baking Pans – 1 9” spring form pan, 1 sheet pan with a ½ inch lip
Special equipment – Cheese clothe
The first step of all this is to make the confit. It will have to simmer for an hour so it is important to make this first.
Time to talk about pitting your cherries; I like to have whole fruit, I think it gives more flavor and sensation of cherry. Because of this I use a cherry pitter; this is a nifty little device that pushes the pit out of the cherry with a press of your thumb. The pitters are about $10 in a restaurant or cooking supply store. If you are going to work with cherries a lot, I highly recommend getting one. If you don’t have one, no worries.
There is a method of pitting cherries and keeping them whole with a knife. I suck at this and find it really hard, even after years of working with cherries. My recommendation is to cut all the way around the pit with a paring knife, then use the knife to dig the pit out. Do this over a bowl. Anyone can do this method.
If you really want to make yourself crazy, here is the other way to do this. Slash the side of the cheery with your pairing knife. Gently squeeze until the pit pops out into a bowl. Put your cherry in another bowl. Go ahead and try it a few times. See what I mean? Now use the method above.
Once you have all your cherries washed and pitted it is time to make a sachet to flavor the confit. Split the half vanilla bean down the center and scrape out the seeds. Put the seeds in a medium sauce pan. Take an 5”x 5” square of cheese clothe and wrap your vanilla bean, cinnamon stick and thyme in the cheese clothe. Tie it in a knot or with some kitchen twine. Throw that in your sauce pan. Add the water and sugar and place over medium high heat until it comes to a boil.
Reduce the heat so that you have a fast simmer and allow it to simmer for two minutes. Add your cherries and simmer for 90 minutes. The cherries will cook and the liquid will cook down. If it starts to disappear completely, add more water.
After 90 minutes you will have a lovely cooked cherries and a relatively thick syrup. Remove the pan from the heat. Carefully fish out the sachet and throw it away. With a ladle measure out ¼ cup of the confit liquid, set aside.
Pour the rest of the confit into a bowl and stash it in the refrigerator.
Now it is time to make the crust. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. I don’t like gram cracker crust. It feels like cheating, but I do like the texture, which is why I came up with this crust. The addition of almonds to a standard crumbly crust gives just the right texture and adds a hint of almond flavor that is hard to beat.
To make cheesecake you have to have a spring form pan. This is a tall pan with two pieces, a bottom and a round upper part that can lock and unlock.
To make the crust, cut out a circle of parchment paper the same size as the bottom of the pan. Butter the entire pan liberally. Place the parchment paper on the bottom of the pan.
In a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
In another bowl combine the flour, almonds, baking powder and salt. Whisk to mix. Slowly add the flour to the butter mixture until you have a crumbly mix that you can compress.
Start by covering the bottom of the spring form pan with crust. You want about 1/3 of an inch in depth. Then press the rest of the curst dough into the sides of the pan so it goes all the way to the top of the pan. Don’t worry between the butter in the dough and the butter on the pan it will stick quite nicely.
Slide it into your oven for 20 minutes, until the curst is golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside. Turn the oven down to 325.
Now it is time to make the batters for the cheesecake. If you are lucky enough to have two work bowls for your stand mixer this is going to be a breeze, but if you don’t then you will need a bowl to hold the first batter while you make the second batch.
If you have strong arms you can make this by hand, but a set of hand beaters is a lot easier if you don’t have a stand mixer.
We’ll start cherry batter. In your mixing bowl combine the cream cheese, beat at the lowest speed for 30 seconds, just to combine. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the sugar in a stream, and beat for another 30 seconds.
Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beaters. Add the ¼ cup of confit liquid and beat, at the lowest speed, for 30 seconds. Now, you guessed it! Stop and scrape down the bowl and the beaters.
Add the vanilla and one of the eggs. Beat until just combined, then stop and scrape down the beaters and the bowl. Repeat for the other two eggs.
Set this aside for a bit while you make the plain batter. To make the plain batter repeat the steps for the cherry batter but omit the confit liquid.
Take your spring form pan and wrap it in aluminum foil to a height of at least 2”. Place it on your sheet pan.
To make the marble affect we have layer the plain batter and the cherry. Pour in about half of the plain batter. With a ladle, ladle on circles of cherry batter. Leave spaces between the circles. Pour on the rest of the plain batter. Ladle on the rest of the cherry batter (don’t worry if it pretty much covers the top of the cake). Take a table knife and make curvy lines back and forth through the batter.
Pour warm water onto the sheet pan to a depth of about ¼ inch (about a quart). Carefully place the whole thing in the oven and bake for 80 minutes. After 80 minutes check the cake. It should be slightly darkened and firm except right in the middle. If too much of the center is giggly when you gently shake the pan, leave it in the oven for another 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and remove the aluminum foil. Cool on a wire rack. Do not try to unmold it!! (I mean it!). When it is cool, cover it with plastic wrap and chill overnight in the refrigerator.
When the cake is chilled, unmold it and remove the paper from the bottom. Place it on the serving plate you intend to use and then cover the top with the cherry confit. Lightly cover with plastic wrap and keep it in the ‘fridge until about an hour before you want to serve it. Bring it out and allow to come to room temperature before serving.
When you do serve it, cut thin wedge, this is rich and delicious and a little goes a long way.
So, now you have a recipe that will blow your family and friends away for the 4th of July weekend!
The flour is yours!