Here in Toronto, I visit our Greektown (locally known as The Danforth) at least once a month. One of the reasons I head down there is to pick up the monthly edition of Gastronomos (included in Kathermerini).
Gastronomos keeps me posted on new developments in Greek cookery and the issue is always good for resurrectingÂ an old classic or updating one for comtemporary tastes.
Each month, a cooking focus is conducted on a Greek classic and four or five “twists” are applied using the dish’s base ingredients. The Christmas issue offered twists on Melomakarona.
Melomakarona are a traditional honey and walnut cookie that are spiced with cinnamon and cloves and finally dunked in a syrup. They last a long time and on occasion, some remain after the holidays.
The idea of using Melomakarona came from Greece’s famous pastry chef, Stelios Paliaros. I was smitten with this notion of using up leftover Melomakarona as a base for a cheesecake.
I used a basic recipe for a baked cheesecake where half the amount of cream cheese was used and the richness of the cheesecake wasn’t compromised.
This recipe is also an answer to Greek homemakers who seem to always be stuck using Digestive or Petit Beurre cookies as a cheesecake base. For some reason, graham cracker cookies are hard to find in Greece. My question is, why not use Melomakarona cookies for a cheesecake base?
For those living outside of Greece, one can always make a batch of Melomekarona and if you’re concerned about their availablity, most Greek bakeries sell them all year ’round.
Making this Melomakarona cheesecake did not go without debate. Us Greeks are a passionate folk and my mom and I had long debated whether this cheesecake would work or not.
The excuse to make this cheesecale was set…my mom’s hometown friends were over for dinner. The purpose for the recipe was to use up leftover Melomakarona from Christmas. The result…a table-full of pleasantly surprised and delighted Greek-Canadian immigrants who adored the Cheesecake with a Melomakarona base.
- In a food processor, add your Melomakarona cookies and pulse into a medium ground. Add into a mixing bowl and add your melted butter and mix until the crumbs are entirely coated by the butter.
- Lightly coat the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan and place your ground Melomakarona crumbs on the bottom and press the cookie crumbs down using the bottom of a measuring cup or a smoothglass bottom. Place in the fridge so that the crust sets.
- For the filling, add your softened cream cheese in a bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer on low speed for a minute (until smooth and no lumps). Add the eggs, one at a time and contineue to beat slowly. Add the sugar gradually and beat until creamy, for another minute or two.
- Add the Greek yogurt, orange zest and vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beaters on occasion until the batter is well-mixed but not overbeaten. Pour the cream cheese filling into the crust-lined springform pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
- Place the springform on a large piece of aluminum foil and fold the sides up around it. Place the cake in a roasting pan and carefully pour boiling water into the roasting pan (about halfway up the the cake). Bake for 60 to 75 minutes (middle rack) or until the cheesecake just slightly jiggles. Allow to cool in pan to room temperature.
- Cover and place in the fridge for at least four hours before serving. Loosen the springform pan and carefully remove the cheesecake and place on a serving plate.
- Drizzle some honey or simple syrup (from making candied orange peel). Grind some walnuts in a food processor with some cinnamon and sprinkle on top of the cheesecake. Serve a dollop or rosette of whipped cream and top with a candied orange peel.
- Use a sharp knife dipped in a glass of hot water when slicing each wedge of cake.
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