It is easy for me to go overboard when consuming holiday desserts. I find it impossible to resist the tray after tray of sugary cookies and chocolate bark candy that are found at my every turn this time of year. After all, these treats only come around once every 11 months, which, in my mind, practically makes it a requirement to sample everything within arms length during this brief period. (I wonder, does eating Christmas cookies in December count as eating seasonally?) For those of you with more self control than I, here is a holiday dessert that is worth every calorie: Eggnog Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust and Pomegranate Glaze. If you have to pick and choose the sweets you eat this holiday season, do yourself a favor and enjoy a slice of this. I promise, this cake is so good it is definitely worth passing up all of the peppermint bark, snickerdoodles, chocolate crackles and peanut butter blossoms in sight.
In our household I am clearly the one with the crazy sweet tooth. My husband and daughter both like treats now and then, but my daily routine requires at least two items of chocolate before 5pm, as well as a sweet dessert post-dinner. It is a good thing I live in New York, one of the few cities where you exercise without even knowing it. In fact on most days our car sits, neglected, in a garage 20 blocks away while the pedometer attached to the stroller (yes, they exist) calculates that I walk at least 3-4 miles. Rain or shine. It is a wonderful solution to enjoying holiday desserts - my mini-walking mararthons - the only problem is that I end up browsing boutique windows and food shops while en route.
Last week when we were trotting down Broadway at our usual brisk clip I noticed one of my favorite boutiques had set up a little display of Christmas packages in their window. Christmas?! Already?! How did it sneak up so soon!! It took me a minute to accept that the holiday season is truly upon us, but once I did, I got kind of excited. It is time for all of the fun holiday shopping, decorating, socializing, and, of course, cooking.
As I not-so-subtley noted above, there are several (hundred) Christmas desserts in my repertoire that I will be sharing with you, and today I am going to start off with a bang. I love making this cheesecake because it is terrifically simple and utterly delicious. When I made my first of many for the season last week I had no problem baking it during my daughter's afternoon naptime. In fact, the timing worked beautifully because it was able to cool fully prior to the addition of the glaze.
The best part about this cheesecake is that it tastes like the best version of eggnog you have ever had. Sweet, spicy and just a little boozy, it is a truly decadent adult treat. When I adapted this recipe long ago I added a gingersnap crust to balance the cakes smooth, creamy texture with a subtle crunch. The pomegranate glaze, inspired by a strawberry syrup I had once been served over cheesecake, gives the eggnog flavor a shot of sweet fruit, almost like a garnish.
I'll admit, I made this last week for us to enjoy all by ourselves. My husband adores cheesecake and I, feeling so incredibly inspired by the window display, couldn't help but get excited for the holiday season. It is more common that I take it to friends or add to our holiday buffet, guests are always wowed by the way the pomegranate seeds sit on top of the cake like little shiny rubies. I know I'll be making this again shortly, I already promised my friend Ashley I would bring it to her open house in a few weeks. Until then I plan to start dipping into the rest of my Christmas repertoire. But, for more on that, you'll have to wait until next week.
Eggnog Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust and Pomegranate Glaze
loosely adapted from the Mystic Seaport All Seasons Cookbook by Mystic Seaport Museum
For the Crust:
1 stick unsalted butter
1 3/4 c. gingersnap cookie crumbs
3 T. brown sugar
For the Cake:
20 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. heavy cream
3/4 c. sugar
2 t. vanilla
3 T. dark rum
2 T. cognac
1 t. nutmeg
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 c. sugar
1 T. cornstarch
3/4 c. pomegranate seeds
1/2 c. POM Wonderful (or any other brand pomegranate juice)
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Prepare a 9-inch springform pan.
2. For the Crust: Prepare the crust by melting the butter and combining it with the gingersnap crumbs and brown sugar in a large bowl. Make sure all of the ingredients are moistened evenly. Press them into the bottom of a springform pan and bake for 10 minutes or until the crust is nicely toasted. Set aside to cool.
3. For the Cake Batter: In a mixer, cream the cream cheese until it is softened and smooth. Then add the heavy cream and sugar, mix until everything is fully combined. Then, add the eggs one at a time until they are all incorporated and the mixture is glossy. Last, add the vanilla, dark rum, cognac, nutmeg and cinnamon. Mix to combine.
4. Pour the cheesecake batter on top of the cooled gingersnap crust. Then, wrap the pan very tightly with aluminum foil so that it can be placed in a hot water bath. (You are not going for looks here - wrap the aluminum foil as tightly as possible - you don't want the batter ruined by water seeping in!!) Then, fill a deep baking or roasting pan with water until it is at least halfway up the side of the springform pan. Bake cheesecake for 60-70 minutes. Or, until it is set and the top is light brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
5. For the Glaze: Add sugar, cornstarch, pomegranate seeds and pomegranate juice to a small saucepan. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half and starts to get syrupy. Allow to cool to room temperature before drizzling over cool cheesecake to serve.
Naptime Recipe Props: This is a decadent treat that is formal enough to serve at almost any occasion. If you want to play with the flavors you could try adding a cranberry or blueberry glaze, or do a graham cracker crust instead.
Naptime Stopwatch: The batter took about 15 minutes to make, and the pomegranate glaze another 10 minutes. It is important to prepare the crust before everything else, it needs to cool before the batter is poured on top.
Naptime Notes: My daughter wasn't excited about the pomegranate glaze but loved the cheesecake. My husband? Well, he could have polished off the whole thing if I'd allowed him. This is a great dessert for parties, too. It looks splendid on a buffet table.