Beet Cheesecake & Sage Orange Glaze
This week is Mark's birthday and we're having beet cheesecake to celebrate. Mark prepared beet burgers for me when we first started dating, a really lovely production that involved beet-stained hands and a grater temporarily dyed bright pink. The beet burger was my introduction to a life of loving beets, as I had been only familiar with sad canned beets up to that point.
Roasting beets brings out their natural sweetness. I couldn't resist the chance to take advantage of it in a dessert and, as an added bonus, turn a cake bright pink.
There are a few moving parts to this recipe. They involve varying amounts of time, but very little fuss. It's mostly just waiting in anticipation, during which time the delightful smells can tide you over.
Bear in mind that once the cheesecake is baked, it needs at least 6 hours to chill before cutting and serving. It's worth the wait, I promise.
If you are approaching cheesecake with any trepidation, I can relate. My primary concern is to keep away those pesky surface cracks. For this, I opt for the water bath method that is common to cheesecakes. It's an easy step that does wonders to eliminate cracking and maintain moistness throughout cooking. This recipe calls for a bit of cornstarch to help prevent cracking as well. A second concern is the cheesecake flop. I've learned that the best way to keep a cheesecake from flopping, or falling, is leave it undisturbed. This means resisting the temptation to open the oven during baking as well as letting it properly cool without any pokes or prods. It just needs a bit of time and a little peace and quiet (to which I can certainly relate). Generally, I use this as an excuse to work on something else or queue up Netflix until I hear from the kitchen buzzer.
Below are the aforementioned moving parts. I've detailed time considerations as you plan ahead.
1) Walnut and graham cracker crust - The crust will take about 30 minutes to prepare, pre-bake and let cool.
2) Roasted beet puree - The beet puree will take just over an hour to roast beets, let cool and puree. This can be done before or after preparing the crust. And actually, you can start roasting the beets while you prepare the crust, then put the prepared crust in the oven to pre-bake beside the roasting beets, just be sure to turn down the oven temperature for the crust.
3) Cheesecake filling - Combining the filling and baking the cheesecake will take around 2 1/2 hours, most of which is waiting while the cheesecake bakes and cools, but it will need an additional 6 hours to chill in the refrigerator, if not overnight.
4) Sage orange glaze - The glaze should be prepared around 30 minutes before serving the cheesecake. It takes about 15 minutes to prepare. It's wonderful served warm or at room temperature, just not hot, lest it shock the chilled cheesecake.
food processor or blender
stand mixer or an electric handheld mixer
large roasting pan or baking dish
Graham Cracker Walnut Crust
1 1/2 cups of graham crackers
1/2 cup walnuts
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
Crush the graham crackers, about 10 full-sized crackers, into crumbs by pulsing in a food processor. Remove and set aside in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Pulse the walnuts in the same way, then add them to the graham crackers along with sugar, salt and melted butter. Stir until the ingredients are well combined.
Butter a 9-inch springform pan, then press the crust along the bottom and up the sides of the pan. The cheesecake filling will extend above the sides of the crust, so it is okay to have a little space between the edge of the crust and the top of the pan, especially when working with an extra deep pan.
Pre-bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
Roasted Beet Puree
3 small beets, washed, stems removed and peeled
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Wrap beets in foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Puree beets in a blender or food processor until smooth, adding water, one tablespoon at a time, if needed to ensure the beets are fully pureed. Let cool before using in the cheesecake.
2 pounds cream cheese (four 8-ounce packages), at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 large eggs and 1 additional egg yolk at room temperature
1 cup beet puree
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit.
Make sure the cream cheese, eggs and heavy cream are at room temperature to ensure that the cheesecake properly emulsifies. Remove from the refrigerator at least an hour before making the filling.
Beat the cream cheese on medium speed using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or a handheld electric mixer. Beat for 2-4 minutes until smooth and fluffy, then add the sugar, orange zest. salt and cornstarch. Beat until there are no lumps, a few minutes. Switch to the lowest blending speed for the remaining steps. Add the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, blending with each addition to fully incorporate and scraping down the bowl as needed. Gently blend in beet puree and vanilla extract. Lastly, blend in heavy cream until just combined. It's important to fully mix the filling, but over mixing with introduce too much air and take away from the velvety texture.
Next, prepare a water bath for baking. Take the springform pan with the pre-baked crust and double wrap the bottom in foil, making sure to fully cover the bottom and lower sides without any holes that might let water seep into the cheesecake. Add an inch of water to a roasting pan or baking dish that is larger than the springform pan. Place the foil-wrapped springform pan into a larger baking dish. The water should extend between one and two inches up the outer sides of the springform pan. Pour cheesecake filling into the springform pan and place it in the oven.
Bake at 325 degrees fahrenheit for 1 hour and 20 minutes. The cheesecake will be set around the outside, but still liquid in the middle 2 or 3 inches. Turn off the oven and wedge a towel between the oven and oven door to prop it open a few inches. Doing so will allow the cheesecake to cool gently. Let cheesecake remain for an additional hour in the cooling oven, then transfer to a wire wrack and let cool at room temperature. Once the cheesecake has fully cooled at room temperature, chill it in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, but ideally overnight. Prepare the sage orange glaze just before slicing and serving.
Sage Orange Glaze
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 oranges, juiced
10 sage leaves
Combine sugar and cornstarch in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in orange juice, stirring until any clumps of the cornstarch are dissolved. Add sage leaves and reduce heat to low. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to assess the thickness of the glaze. Remove from heat and let let. Strain out sage leaves and pour over the chilled cheesecake. Serve with fresh sage leaves.