Famed by fall and our interpretation of the first Thanksgiving (Native Americans most likely were not making relishes and chutneys in 1621), the cranberry holds an esteemed position in the realm of berries. Yet, for all its revered, bold, scarlet beauty, it’s not the easiest berry to eat. It’s tart. It has a strange texture. It’s not the type of berry you just pop into your mouth by the handfull, but sugared cranberries…sugared cranberries are magical! A quick plunge in a gently warmed mixture of sugar and water, and the cranberry transforms. It’s firm but not stalky like its original texture. It’s just the right mix of sweet, tart, firm and juicy. Like a sip of something strong, the cranberry’s little plunge takes the edge off.
As I marveled (truly marveled!) at the magic of this transforming process, I thought a lot about one of my best friends. Sandra is analytical, admirable, smart, sincere and the best sort of sassy. When I’m at my worst, she has the ability to empathize, to add reason and logic to my situation, helping me to sweeten the more sour moments of life. She knows my best and worst qualities and holds me accountable to my potential, never dwelling on my mistakes or faults. I wish we could share these heaps of sugared cranberries together (along with endless cups of tea and a bottle or two of wine), but for now, the phone unifies us.
If you’re lucky enough to share your city with your best friend, share this cheesecake as well. The written recipe may look a little daunting, but the end result is worth the multiple components. This cheesecake combines some of winter’s finest flavors- eggnog with hints of Wigle Whiskey’s Landlocked Spiced (made from local honey & similar to a rum). The sweet, juicy, sugared cranberries add just the right tart contrast to the rich, brownie crust, making for quite the layering of flavors in every bite!
Cranberry Eggnog Cheesecake w/ a Whole Wheat Brownie Crust & Sugared Cranberries
featuring hints of Wigle Whiskey’s Landlocked Spiced
Whole Wheat Brownie Crust
Organic Coconut Oil for pan
6 Tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened, pure cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup high-quality, bittersweet chocolate (54% to 60% cacao), chopped
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup raw cane sugar
1/4 cup unsulphured molasses
1 large organic/cage-free egg
1 Tablespoon Wigle Whiskey Landlocked Spiced (or rum of your choice)
To Make The Crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush melted coconut oil on a 9-inch springform pan.
Whisk flour, cocoa, and salt in small bowl; set aside.
Combine chocolate and butter in a saucepan over medium heat until melted, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
Add sugar and molasses to chocolate mixture, and whisk until blended. Let cool until mixture is barely lukewarm, about 10 minutes.
Whisk egg and vanilla into chocolate mixture.
Fold flour mixture into chocolate mixture. Spread brownie batter evenly over bottom of prepared pan.
Bake brownie crust until top looks slightly cracked and tester inserted into center comes out with some moist crumbs attached, about 20 minutes.
Transfer pan to rack; cool crust to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.
Cranberry Eggnog Cheesecake Filling
24 ounces organic Neufchâtel cheese, (3 packages)
3/4 cup organic turbinado raw cane sugar
2 organic/cage-free eggs
1 cup organic eggnog
4 Tablespoons Wigle Whiskey Landlocked Spice (or the rum of your choice)
3 Tablespoons whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
14 ounces (1 can) organic whole cranberry sauce
To Make The Cheesecake Filling:
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a large mixing bowl beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth.
Add eggs and beat just until yellow disappears.
On low, add flour, nutmeg and vanilla, and blend just until combined.
Pour half of batter onto the prepared crust.
Leaving a half inch border along the sides, add cranberry sauce gently in a thin layer.
Top with remaining batter.
Fill a rectangular baking pan with water and place on the lower rack of the oven. Place your cheesecake on the next highest rack, and bake at 350°F, for approximately 1 hour, or until set (the surface will appear firm).
Chill completely before topping with sugared cranberries. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
12 ounces whole cranberries, fresh
2 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup organic evaporated cane sugar
To Make the Sugared Cranberries:
Bring water and 2 cups sugar to a low simmer and stir occasionally until sugar is completely dissolved.
Turn off heat and add cranberries. Do not allow the liquid to become too hot, as the cranberries will pop and split.
Transfer to a medium mixing bowl and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
Drain liquid reserving for another use (such as an accent in a cocktail).
Place cranberries on a shallow baking dish and gently toss with super fine sugar to coat completely.
Spread out in a single layer and allow to cool about an hour.
Disclosure: I received product for this post, but all opinions are my own.