This is probably my most requested recipe. I saved this recipe for something special and that came in the form of ‘America The Great Cookbook’.
Cheesecakes are one of the first things I learned to bake on my own. I was in 4th grade and I purchased a cookbook from the school book fair. It had a blue cover and pages and pages of recipes inside. I made the New York Style cheesecake with Strawberry Topping. It was a hit with my family and I was designed as the cheesecake baker ever since!
This recipe came to life, as I was planning a dish to make for the MasterChef audition in the Fall of 2014. I wanted to make a dessert and Hussein kept insisting that my cheesecake was the best. I wanted to somehow incorporate my Lebanese heritage and was planning with phyllo dough. The first time I made this cheesecake, the baklava layer was the crust, but the two elements were baked separately and were individual size.
These cheesecake has several components. The crust, the filling, the baklava topping and the pomegranate reduction sauce (which can be made ahead).
The crust is a traditional graham cracker crust. Using a measuring cup, press the crumbs firmly into the pan. This will help keep the crust bound together.
Please be sure all of these ingredients are at room temperature to ensure a smooth filling. This takes planning, but when you are putting this much effort, you want to do things right.
The rose water is important. It can be found in Middle Eastern stores or here: Rose Water
The Baklava Topping
This takes the most effort. You must score the topping before placing it on the filling. This ensures you will be able to cut and serve your cheesecake after it has cooked and cooled. Placing the baklava topping onto the filling, requires extra hands (or a really big spatula). I would ask a friend or family member to help 🙂
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 4 packages (8 ounces each ) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tabelspoons rose water
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup walnut pieces
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 12 sheets phyllo dough, thawed if frozen
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup pomegranate juice
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- Mint leaves for garnish, optional
- Candied kumquats for garnish optional
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. While the oven is preheating, fill a baking dish with water and place it on the bottom rack of the oven. This will create steam in the oven, which will keep the cheesecake from cracking.
- For the crust: In a bowl stir together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter until evenly moistened. Using the back of a spoon or the base of a measuring cup, press the mixture onto the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.
- For the filling: In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the cream cheese and sugar on low speed until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the flour, rose water, cardamom and salt. Pour the batter into the graham cracker crust.
- For the baklava topping: in a blender (preferably a high-speed blender), combine the walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon and process until finely ground; Set aside.Cut the phyllo sheets into 9-inch rounds and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Place 1 sheet of phyllo down on your work surface and brush with melted
- butter. Place a second sheet of phyllo on top of the first and brush with melted butter. Repeat until you have a stack of 7 sheets of phyllo. Spread the walnut filling over the top. Cover with another sheet of phyllo and brush with melted butter. Repeat until you have used up all the phyllo.
- Using a very sharp knife, score the baklava topping into equal-sized pieces (think of a pizza: one cut down the middle, a second across, until you have 8 slices). Carefully place the baklava over the top of the cheesecake, making sure to place it in the center. This is best done with the help of a second pair
- of hands.
- Bake the cheesecake on the middle rack above the pan of water until the center is no longer liquid, about 55 minutes. Let cool in the oven, with the oven door open, for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool, then cover and refrigerate for 8 hours before serving.
- For the Pomegranate Reduction: In a small pot, heat the pomegranate juice and sugar over medium heat until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes.To serve, garnish the cheesecake with mint leaves and candied kumquats (if using), and dot some pomegranate reduction on each serving plate.
Make this recipe? I’d love to see! Please tag me @AmandasPlate #CreateAmandasPlate