December 24, 2014

Cranberry Eggnog Cheesecake Tart

I'm convinced this is one of the prettiest desserts I've made so far, which means it's perfect for all your winter festivities. It's not as difficult to make as it looks, and you can do a shortcut version using pre-made pie crust dough and whatever flavor jelly you prefer. There's a few components, but none are too challenging. There's the crust, the homemade cranberry jelly, the eggnog cheesecake, and more cranberry jelly and white chocolate ganache drizzled on top.

The crust is your standard pie crust recipe baked in a tart pan. I blind bake mine, which means I roll it into the pan, chill it until cold, press a sheet of foil on top, fill it with pie weights (dried beans or peas work fine), and bake until it's just cooked through. This prevents the crust from puffing up and getting soggy. I don't worry about it overbrowning because it doesn't brown much during blind baking and the filling bakes at a very low temperature.

The cranberry jam is made from cranberries, sugar, orange juice, and a little gelatin to thicken it. Just throw everything in a pot and simmer it for 20 minutes or so until it's thick and velvety. I press mine through a strainer when it's done cooking so I get a completely smooth texture, but some of the cranberry solids would be delicious mixed back into the jam for the bottom layer. It's sweet and tart, and there will be extra, which means you can slather it on biscuits, toast, or anything else you can think of.

Usually eggnog-flavored recipes call for actual eggnog, but this cheesecake is made from scratch. It's all made in a food processor for a creamy, uniform texture. I start by pulsing cream cheese, sugar, and a splash of cream, then I add some vanilla, nutmeg, salt, and, of course, rum, though the rum could be swapped for your favorite liquor or simply omitted. Finally, it is eggnog, so I add 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks, which also help bind everything together and add to the creaminess.

To assemble the tart, I spread a thin layer of the cranberry jelly (with or without adding some of the solids back in) on the blind-baked crust. I chill that until firm so that when I pour in the cheesecake mixture the two don't mix, leaving two distinct layers. I bake the jam and cheesecake until it's barely set. Once it cools and chills, the tart is ready to decorate.

I personally like to spread a thin layer of jam on top and then drizzle some white chocolate ganache on top. The jam can overpower the cheesecake fairly easily, so the top layer is totally optional, and the ganache is, too. I do love the look of swirls of white chocolate on a bright red base, and some dark chocolate would add a nice contrast as well. Another option would be to swirl a few spoonfuls of the jam into the cheesecake before it bakes, but really there are nearly infinite possibilities. Luckily, with New Years, Valentine's Day, and other holidays approaching, you'll have plenty of opportunities to play around. You'll want to bake this for every event for the next few months, so start stocking up on cranberries!

1 Recipe Pie Crust, Blind Baked in a Tart Pan
12 oz Cream Cheese, Softened
3 T Cream
1 1/2 Cups + 2 T Sugar
2 Eggs
2 Egg Yolks
2 T Rum
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 tsp Salt
12 oz Cranberries
1/3 Cup Orange Juice
3/4 tsp Gelatin
3 oz White Chocolate

Stir the cranberries, 1 cup sugar, orange juice, gelatin, and 1 cup water together in a medium pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce to low heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until thick. Press through a fine sieve and set aside to cool.

Spread some of the cooled cranberry jam onto bottom of the crust and chill until cold.

Heat oven to 300F.

In a food processor, combine the cream cheese, 2 T cream, and remaining sugar and pulse until smooth. Pulse in the rum, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt, then pulse in the eggs and egg yolks.

Pour the cheesecake mixture into the crust and smooth. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until almost set. Set aside to cool to room temperature, then chill until cold.

Heat the remaining cream and the white chocolate together and stir until smooth. Spread some of the remaining jam on top of the tart and drizzle with the white chocolate ganache.

Makes 1 Tart
Recipe Adapted from Gourmet

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