Beautiful and bright, honey poached apricot cheesecakes are sweet and tart and have a syrup flavored with warm spices.
I have always loved cheesecakes. I remember trying to play a mind trick on my mother so that she would add a Sara Lee cheesecake to the shopping cart. In the freezer section of the grocery store, the picture of a slice of cheesecake with the luscious strawberry compote, bright red and shiny, would call to me. Come on Mom, puleeze! But no luck.
A few summers ago, I decided to create my own signature recipe for cheesecake. I spent the whole summer trying different iterations. No one at home wanted to eat them anymore. So every day when I picked my son up at karate camp, I would deliver another dozen experimental cheesecakes. And every day, I would give it another try. Eventually, I created a base cheesecake recipe that I was happy with, that had the right texture.
There are a few pieces of advice that will help with cheesecake success. Have your cream cheese at room temperature. It will be easier to mix with fewer lumps. Once the sugar and cornstarch are added, the batter will become much smoother.
Air is the enemy of cheesecake. Whipping too much air into the batter will cause it to expand while baking and start to crack. If you mix at a low speed and as efficiently as possible, you will have better success. Also, practice mise en place and have everything in its place with all ingredients measured and waiting for you.
Always bake cheesecakes with a bain-marie or water bath. This helps to regulate the temperature at which the cheesecakes bake. Put the muffin tin on a sheet tray and place on the middle rack of the oven. Then add the hot water. Don't try to walk with a sheet pan of hot water - take my word for it!
Beautiful and bright apricots
The vanilla cheesecake is delicious on its own. But to make it even better, add a honey poached apricot. Enhanced with the addition of ginger, lemon, vanilla, thyme, and allspice, the sweet and tart apricots bring a tanginess to the cheesecake.
It helps to have apricots that are ripe enough you can split them in half easily and can remove the pit without too much trouble.
Poaching the apricots should be done with a slight simmer of the liquid. If it boils, the apricots will be overcooked and get mushy. Once poached, approximately 10 minutes, remove the fruit from the pan but continue to simmer the liquid so it thickens. This syrup is lovely with the warm flavors of ginger, allspice, and vanilla.
Make sure to remove the peel from the apricot. It should come off easily. Once ready to serve, place on top of chilled cheesecake and pour a spoonful of the syrup on top. Honey poached apricot cheesecakes such a pretty dessert!
Honey Poached Apricot Cheesecake
- Foil cupcake liners
Honey poached apricots
- 6 apricots sliced in half
- 6 slices ginger
- 10 allspice berries
- 1 vanilla bean split
- 4 lemon zest strips
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 cup honey
- ¼ cup water
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 2 ounces butter melted
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ¾ cup graham cracker crumbs
- 16 ounces cream cheese room temperature
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 egg
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- Mix the water and honey together in a small saucepan. Add the rest of the ingredients (through sprigs of thyme). Heat over medium heat for 10 minutes. You will see some bubbles. Do not let the liquid come to a boil. Remove the apricots from the pan and set aside. Once cooled, remove the skins. They should come off easily. Reduce the remaining poaching liquid until thickened.
- Preheat oven to 325° Add foil cupcake liners to a 12 cup muffin pan.
- Combine the melted butter and sugar. Add the graham cracker crumbs and stir until the butter is completely incorporated. The graham cracker mix should be completed coated in butter. Add 1 tablespoon of the crust to each cup of the muffin tin. Use a ¼ cup measure or glass to press the crust flat into the bottom of the liner. Bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes. These will cool while the batter is prepared.
- Add the cream cheese to a mixing bowl. Mixing at low speed, add the sugar and the cornstarch. Once these ingredients are incorporated, stop mixing and using a spatula, scrape the sides of the bowl. Continue to mix at low speed and add the egg. Stop mixing as soon as the egg is mostly incorporated. At this point add the cream and mix just until it is incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl again and give the batter a stir until everything is incorporated. Cheesecakes crack while baking if there is too much air incorporated while mixing. The main objective is to have a homogeneous and smooth, creamy batter.
- The final step is to add the batter to the prepared pan. Add batter until it reaches the top of the muffin liner. The cheesecakes will slightly expand. Have very hot water ready and waiting for you. Place the muffin tin on a sheet tray and put on the middle rack of the oven. Pour some hot water onto the sheet tray. There should be enough water that it is coming up the sides of the muffin tin. The hot water, better known as a bain marie, will help to regulate the cooking temperature of the cheesecakes. Bake for 40-45 minutes untilt he top is set and you can touch it without disturbing the batter. The cooking time will depend on your oven. The centers of the cheesecake may appear to jiggle. This is okay. The cheesecakes will continue to cook for a few minutes after they are taken out of the oven. Once the cheesecakes have cooled to room temperature, they should be refrigerated for at least three hours.
- Once the cheesecakes have been chilled, add a honey poached apricot half to the top of each one. Pour a little of the poaching liquid on top.
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