My favorite dessert is cheesecake, no contest. Creamy, light, and not too sweet, it's everything I want in dessert, if I want one at all. My lack of a sweet tooth is odd considering that every day, all the way through middle school, I ate a ginormous, chocolate chip cookie, washed down with two chocolate milks. I can still remember the warm, gooey chips seeping out as I broke off pieces of the cookie. Those lunch ladies sure knew their stuff.
Today I resist most desserts, mostly as a strategy to allocate more calories in the direction of something savory. Cheesecake, though, is tough to say no to.
Most cheesecakes rely heavily on cream cheese. Not this one. Substituting goat cheese for some amount of cream cheese gives this cake a lighter, slightly tangy taste.
The crust? Instead of graham crackers, which is traditionally used in cheesecakes, and what the original recipe called for, I used ginger snaps, which gave the cake a spicy, crunchy crust. Why the substitution? It wasn't because I'm a culinary genius; the store didn't have any graham crackers, well, except for Teddy Grahams. I wisely said no to those and settled for ginger snaps. It was the best decision I made all week.
Since I was testing rhubarb recipes for the big foodiefight, I added a rhubarb compote. The compote was a nice addition, but the cake stands just fine on it's own. So all you rhubarb hatahs can relax about it. You can also take a look at the original recipe, which calls for a rosemary and pear topping.
Adapted from Whole Foods
Ginger Snap Crust
2 cups ground ginger snaps
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, cut into pieces
3 (4-ounce) packages fresh goat cheese, crumbled
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sugar
Yield: 1/2 cup of compote (I played around with the proportions; the original recipe makes three cups)
2 cups 1-inch pieces fresh rhubarb (about 2/3 pound)
1/3 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
For the crust, preheat oven to 400°F. Process ginger snaps in a food processor until almost ground to a powder. Transfer crumb mixture to a medium-sized mixing bowl and pour in butter. Stir until crumbs are thoroughly moistened.
Press crumb mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan (I used a 10-inch because that's what I have - it just means a shorter cheesecake). Place pan on a baking sheet and bake until crust is golden brown and firm, about 10 minutes. Careful not to overcook.
For the cheesecake, reduce oven heat to 325°F. Place cream cheese, goat cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. With an electric hand mixer, beat until just smooth, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. In two or three additions, beat in sugar until mixture is creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating and scraping down sides of the bowl after each addition. Continue to beat until mixture is very smooth.
Pour batter into prepared crust. Bake until edges of cheesecake look set and the center is still soft and slightly jiggly, 50 to 60 minutes. Place pan on a rack to cool completely in the pan. Then cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
For rhubarb compote: Combine all rhubarb-related ingredients in saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until rhubarb is very soft and begins to fall apart, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Transfer compote to medium bowl. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, about 3 hours. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.) Serve cold.
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