Whew. That’s a mouthful. A DELICIOUS mouthful.
OK, confession time…
Number one. This is the first cheesecake I’ve ever made.
Number two. I’m not a huge fan of plain cheesecake. One or two bites and I’m good. It’s generally too rich for me. I do, however, love flavored cheesecakes! The addition of other flavors, whether it be fruit, chocolate, or whatever, always seems to cut down on the richness.
This cheesecake idea had been brewing in my head for months and months. I wanted to try my hand at homemade cheesecake, and I wanted to make it one that I would actually enjoy (read: flavor infused). Go figure. I knew that the classic combination of orange and chocolate was a safe bet…but I didn’t want to do just a regular ol’ orange cheesecake. It’s been done!
Enter the clementine. One of my most favorite things about this time of year: it’s clementine season. I LOVE these little citrus gems! They are sweet and tender and absolutely crazy delicious. I buy them by the crate weekly.
So, I decided that making a CLEMENTINE cheesecake was the answer. Add in a chocolate cookie crust and we’ve got that combo covered. Golden. However, I was still trying to figure out what else I could do to take it over the top. After all, this was my very first cheesecake. Then it hit me: CANDIED CLEMENTINE TOPPING! So I did just that. The whole process was a lot easier than I thought, just time consuming. Cheesecake is one of those desserts you sort of have to plan in advance. It takes a long time to bake and a long time to chill and set. In fact, cheesecake is BEST served after it’s been chilling for a day or two.
I was so pleased with the way this came out. I mean, not only did it look beautiful, but it tasted even better! The only person in my life who would probably NOT like this is my youngest sister. She has a strong aversion to clementines… and the scent of citrus in general. It’s so bad that she has to have OTHER people peel her oranges for her. She can’t handle the lingering scent on her hands…but she then EATS the orange with no problem! Weird, right? For whatever reason, clementines have not earned her stamp of approval. So, in this case, it’s her loss. (Love you, Boo!)
This is a very impressive dessert, in my humble opinion. I mean, I would be so excited to have something like this served to me! It’s perfect for this holiday season – not only is it fancy-schmancy, but it’s seasonally appropriate with all the citrus goin’ on!
If I can do it, you can do it. Just etch out enough time for yourself to make, bake, and chill this baby and you’ll be the talk of the town.
It’s amazeballs. Trust me.
Clementine-Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Chocolate Cooke Crust & Candied Clementines
(makes 10-12 servings)
For the Topping:
4 whole clementines
1 cup sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup of water
3 tablespoons fresh clementine juice
For the Cheesecake:
1¼ cups finely crushed chocolate wafers
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup sour cream
Zest of 4 clementines
Juice of 1 clementine
1 tablespoon orange-flavored liqueur
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or the caviar of 1 vanilla bean)
1. For the Topping: With a sharp knife, slice the clementines into thin rounds, discarding ends and seeds. In a large skillet, heat the sugar, water, and lemon juice until sugar is dissolved. Add the slices of clementine and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Uncover and simmer gently, keeping slices in a single layer and turning occasionally, until they’re slightly candied and translucent and liquid has the consistency of a thin syrup, about 20 minutes. You should have about a half cup of liquid in the pan at this point. Allow to cool in the pan and then cover and chill for at least 15 minutes (this can be done a couple days ahead).
2. For the Cheesecake: Preheat oven to 300°F. Combine the chocolate wafer crumbs and melted butter in a small bowl and then press the mixture evenly over bottom of a spring-form pan. Bake for 10 minutes and then remove from oven to cool slightly while you make the filling.
3. In a large bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese and sugar until fluffy and smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in flour, sour cream, clementine zest and juice, liqueur, and vanilla bean paste until well incorporated. Pour into crust-lined pan. Place the pan in a large roasting dish and pour hot water into the roasting dish until it is half-way up the sides of the spring-form pan (I also wrap my spring-form pan in a few layers of tin foil to prevent water from seeping in). Baking the cheesecake in a water bath helps prevent it from cracking and keeps it moist.
4. Bake until the center barely jiggles when cake is gently shaken, about 60 minutes. Run a thin-bladed knife between the cake and pan rim. Cool completely to room temperature, then cover and chill until cold, at least 3 hours (or for a couple days).
5. Remove pan rim. Gently lift candied clementine slices from syrup, reserving syrup, and blot dry with a paper towel. Arrange slices, slightly overlapping, on top of cheesecake.
6. Bring reserved syrup to a boil over high heat. Stir occasionally until syrup is thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully stir in fresh clementine juice (mixture will bubble up). Let cool to room temperature and generously brush over orange slices (you may have extra syrup). Slice the cheesecake and serve!