You know I’m playing in the kitchen when I’m mashing-up savory ingredients with dessert recipes. Such was the case a couple of days ago when I hosted my second Greek Supper Club (this time at the Fuel House). The evening’s menu was focused on the cuisine of the Cyclades islands but when I entertain I also mix-in some of my own twists and dessert is certainly one of those areas I like to express myself.
This cheesecake is a sweet so don’t get all hot and bothered thinking I’m taken slabs of Feta cheese and mixed it in with sugar. No. What you have here is a classic approach to cheesecake with cream cheese, graham cracker crust and a fruit topping. All those components are there but with some Greek panache.
Let’s start with the crust: ground graham crackers are mixed with cinnamon and toasted sesame seeds. The cream cheese has some crumbled Feta in it – just enough for a salty finish to each bite and finally I used some of my mom’s sour cherry (vissino) glyko (spoon sweet) to top the cheesecake. The garnish is also a must for the dish and actually quite easy to make: homemade sesame snaps or pasteli as we call them in Greek.
The sesame snaps recipe makes about 30 pieces (more than enough to garnish this dessert) but you’re going to have no problem snacking on these treats! The vissino glyko recipe is a short-cut recipe that’s ideal for those in a rush or if you want to make this spoon sweet when sour cherries aren’t quite in season.
Feta Cheesecake With Sour Cherry Spoonsweet & Sesame Snaps (Τσιζκέικ με Φετα, Παστελι και Βυσσινο Γλυκο)
1 – 8 inch springform pan (treated with cooking spray)
2 cups of ground graham crackers (about 30)
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 stick of melted unsalted butter
1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds
1 1/2 blocks of room temperature cream cheese (about 12 oz.)
1 cup crumbled Feta cheese (about 4 oz.)
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups plain yogurt
zest of 1 lemon
splash of vanilla extract
pre-heated 325F oven
- In a bowl, add ingredients for the base and mash everything together using a fork until well incorporated. Gently spread the mixture on the bottom of the springform pan and press-down with a measuring cup or a heavy glass. Place in the fridge.
- Meanwhile, make the filling by placing the room temperature cream cheese and crumbled Feta in a bowl and beat on low speed with an electric mixer for a minute or until smooth. Now add the eggs one at a time into the mixture and beat until incorporated then add the sugar and continue beating until creamy.
- Scrape down the sides with a spatula an add the yogurt, lemon zest and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Take your springform out of the fridge and pour the filling into the pan and gently jiggle to even out the top. Place the springform pan on top of a large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil and fold up the sides (prevent water from seeping into cheesecake). Place the pan into a roasting pan and add enough boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the springform to create a “bain marie”.
- Place in your pre-heated oven for 45 minutes. The cheesecake will still jiggle when removed from the oven but will set as it cools. Cool for 45 minutes then place in the fridge for 4 hours to overnight.
- Remove the cheesecake from the fridge and run a knife around the sides to loosen it from the springform and unfasten the springform and transfer to a plate/platter. Cut thin wedges with a thin knife and place on a plate with a heaping tablespoon of cherry spoon sweet and a sesame snap garnish.
Short-Cut Cherry Spoon Sweet
1 jar of pitted sour cherries (796 ml)
- Strain the liquid and place in a measuring cup then add to a medium-sized pot and half the amount of sugar (2 to 1 liquid to sugar) and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once aboil, reduce to a simmer and cook down for 15 minutes then add the reserved cherries and simmer for another five minutes.
- Place a plate in the freezer to test consistency of your spoon sweet and place a spoon on the cold plate to test. Once desired consistency is achieved, remove from the heat, add the vanilla extract and allow to cool. Place in a jar and store in the fridge.
(makes about 30 diamond-shaped pieces)
2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp. of lemon juice
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 1/3 cups toasted sesame seeds
zest of 1 orange
1 well-greased baking sheet
- In a heavy-bottomed pan, add the sugar, water, honey, lemon juice and stir. Turn the heat on to medium heat and bring up to a boil. Continue to cook without stirring for about 10 minutes or until a deep amber colour has been achieved (takes about 10 minutes).
- In the meantime, you may toast your sesame seeds in a large non-stick pan over medium heat, constantly stirring with a wooden spoon (the sesame seeds toast in the 10 minute time frame).
- Once you have a deep amber colour achieved, add the toasted sesame seeds, salt and orange zest and quickly stir in then pour onto baking sheet. Use a greased spatula to evenly spread the sesame mixture (it cools fast) and score with a greased knife. Allow to cool completely then loosen with a spatula and remove from the tray.
- Store in air-tight container in stacks lined with plastic wrap
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