Pomegranate Pistachio Cheesecake
I have a new love, and it’s of the retail kind. Right now I’m smitten with a new Longos that just opened up in the area. Grocery shopping is one of my all time favorite activities, next to shoe shopping, purse shopping, and Sunday afternoon pedicures. I think that I was born to be a lady of leisure, but sadly found myself in the midst of the proletarian working class. I should start taking notes on the conversation that I’d like to have with God (about his glaring mistakes) when I arrive at the pearly gates, but since he’ll probably be telling me that I took a detour and should have gone south on route 666, I figure better not to press my luck….
Anyway, this new grocery store has a cheese section which is to die for, staff who are so helpful that it almost makes you vaguely suspicious (“Of course we have black sesame seeds! Just right over here. Oh, and if you’re looking for lavender it’s this way, the specialty salts are in this section, and have you tried our new cocoa chipotle powder? Let me know if you need anything else!”) and produce which is so fresh that it practically slaps you on the ass when you walk by. It was while wandering through the aisles of said department that I came upon white pomegranate.
Have you ever had white pomegranate? I hadn’t! Well, here’s the verdict: it looks like an albino pomegranate and it tastes like…pomegranate. The flavor is a bit milder and sweeter, but that’s the only difference that I could detect. However, standing in my kitchen and fondling my new white pomegranates I was thinking about what I could do with these beauties other than using them to garnish a salad or to snack on in front of the tv, and then my mental meandering brought me to how much I like cheesecake….and that was the end of that. The poms are technically not used in the cheesecake, but the dish would be so sad and sorrowful without fresh pomegranates sprinkled on top as a garnish. So please, if you make this dish, have a fresh pomegranate on hand. It will do well by you. Pomegranates are the giving kind.
Pomegranate Pistachio Cheesecake
For the crust:
- 2 cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (like Oreo)
- 5 tbsp butter *
- 3/4 cup shelled pistachios
- 3 8oz packages cream cheese at room temperature
- 3 eggs at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tbsp pomegranate syrup *
- 1 cup seedless strawberry jam
- 3 tbsp pomegranate syrup
- 3/4 cup shelled pistachios to garnish
- 1 pomegranate (seeds separated out) to garnish
- whipped cream to garnish
Preheat the oven to 350F. Start by melting the butter and letting it cool as you work on the nuts.
Grind or chop the nuts (a mini food processor works well) until they’re in small crumbly bits and pieces. Mix these with the cookie crumbs. If the butter has had time to cool down closer to room temperature, drizzle this on to the mixture and give it a good stir.
Firmly press the crust as evenly as you can into the bottom and partially up the sides of an 8″ springform pan. It will still be a bit crumbly, so press it in as best you can. The springform does not need to be greased or prepped, which is nice. I mean, I suppose that you could line it with parchment paper that you have painstakingly cut to exactly the right size and shape, but we all know that’s way more effort than you’ll get from me.
Let this bake in the center of your preheated oven for about 10 minutes, and then take it out to cool down as you prepare the cheesecake batter.
Beat together the softened cream cheese with the eggs. If you have a stand mixer than you can use the paddle attachment. If not, regular beaters work just fine – maybe even better. If you don’t have either, well, doing this by hand is an invitation for carpal tunnel to make a surprise and extended visit.
Beat them well until everything is uniform and really well combined with no lumps or chunks. I find that this is first and foremost in separating out a fabulous velvety cheesecake from the mediocre ones. Patience is a virtue, and I strongly suggest that you don’t stop blending until your batter is smoother than Jay-Z with a bottle of Dom. Oh god, I’m such a nerd. Why do I say these things?
Anyway, add in the sugar and pomegranate syrup and give it another good beating until everything is even and well blended.
Pour the filling into your cooled crust. If it has air bubbles (see picture below) you might want to give it a quick rap or two on the countertop. If they don’t disappear, well, it just wasn’t meant to be and you’ve obviously ruined your cheesecake, so best to throw it out now and start again – this time be more careful.
Ha! Just kidding, it will be fine. And if the top looks a bit wonky it will be covered with a glaze anyway, so no matter. I am a firm believer that a good glaze can cover up a veritable abundance of sins.
Wrap the bottom and up the sides of your cheesecake with aluminum foil, pressing it tightly against the pan to make a bit of a seal. This will help to protect the cake from moisture when we make the bain marie, or water bath.
So! The bain marie: this is not at all tricky or difficult business. You get a roasting pan which is big enough that your springform fits nicely inside. You put the spring form inside. Then you fill it up about 1/3 of the way with very hot water. And…that’s done. As the cheesecake cooks the water bath will help to maintain a consistent temperature and rate of cooking while keeping the cake moist. As a result you will have more even cooking and it works splendidly to prevent your glorious cheesecake from acquiring any of those pesky cracks which are such a disappointment.
Bake the cheesecake in your 350F oven for about an hour or until the center is set and the top is just slightly golden.
To make the glaze, heat the seedless strawberry jam and pomegranate syrup in a small pot, stirring from time to time until it’s just warm and easily pourable.
When the cheesecake comes out of the oven and is still warm, spread the glaze on top. Let this sit until it comes to room temperature before tucking it into the fridge, and be sure to refrigerate for at least a couple of hours before serving it to ensure that it is fully set.
DO NOT remove the sides of the springform until you are ready to serve the cake.
Use a sharp knife (rinsed with cold water periodically as needed) cut wedges to whatever size your heart desires. Give it a nice dollop of whipped cream, a sprinkling of fresh pomegranate seeds, and a tablespoon of shelled pistachios on top.
The pomegranate adds a pleasant tart bite which is perfect to cut through a rather rich dessert and keep it from being cloying or overly decadent. Wait, did I just say “overly decadent”? I never thought I would see the day…..
As a side note, my electric beaters are kaput. Broken beyond repair. Deep sixed. I didn’t find this out until I went to whip the cream. Normally the whipping of the cream is something that I would do in advance, but we were having a dinner for 12 and my fridge was too full of half-embodied food items to have room to chill the whipped cream during the afternoon. So out I got my big metal bowl and trusty whisk, and got to whisking. One of my friends was so appalled that I should have to do this after making so much other food that she promptly grabbed the bowl and whisk, gave it her best for a few minutes, and then passed it around the dinner table so each guest could have a go. It was really quite comical seeing the dinner party turn into a whipped cream daisy chain, but sure enough by the time I had cut the last piece of cheesecake a perfectly whipped bowl of cream was delivered into my waiting arms. And truly, that’s what friends are for.