Category Archives: cheesecake

Cheesecake Deconstructed: Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Parfaits

I was recently cleaning out my recipe baskets, which are (were) full of magazines, printed recipes, and who knows what else, when I found a stack of old Food & Wine Magazines. It was like Christmas going through them and finding all the pages marked with recipes that I never made. I needed a dessert for dinner and found something unique and new: Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Parfaits. It tastes like cheesecake but in the form of custard. Very rich, very sweet, but fresh and light at the same time.

I think my custard was a little runnier than it was supposed to be, just from comparing the picture in the magazine, but it was still very tasty. I made the shortbread and compote the day before, and the custard the day of dinner.

The shortbread is good all by itself, and very easy to make. The cornmeal adds a nice crunch and slightly salty taste. The custard was a little more complicated, as custards usually are, but never fear, they are still doable.  When tempering the eggs, add all the milk very slowly. And, make sure you stir until hot because corn starch needs heat to be activated. You will see it suddenly start to thicken and that is what you want. If you take it off the heat too soon, it will not thicken as it cools.

It’s a great dessert for a dinner party because all the components can be made in advance, making your job as a host easy. They will think you slaved for days in the kitchen, just for them. And there’s no reason to tell them otherwise.

Lemon & Blueberry Cheesecake Parfaits

From Food & Wine Magazine, contributed by Maggie Leung


  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. In a medium bowl, mix the flour with the cornmeal and salt. In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, mix the butter with the confectioners’ sugar at medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the orange zest and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat at low speed until the dough just comes together. Pat the shortbread dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Unwrap the chilled shortbread dough and roll it out between 2 sheets of parchment paper to an 8-inch round (1/2 inch thick). Cut the dough into 1/2-inch-wide strips and transfer the strips to the baking sheets; leave 1 inch between each strip. Refrigerate the dough strips for 30 minutes, until chilled.
  3. Bake the shortbread for about 20 minutes, until golden; rotate the pans halfway through for even baking. While the warm shortbread strips are still on the baking sheet, cut them into 1/2-inch cubes. Let cool, about 30 minutes.


Blueberry Compote

  • 2 cups blueberries (12 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of the blueberries with the sugar and water. Bring to a simmer and cook over moderate heat until the blueberries break down, about 5 minutes. Scrape the blueberry sauce into a blender, add the lemon juice and puree until smooth. Scrape the blueberry sauce into a bowl and fold in the remaining 1 cup of whole blueberries. Refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.

Cheesecake Custard

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus extra strips for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring 3/4 cup of the milk to a boil with 3 tablespoons of the sugar; remove from the heat.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the cornstarch and the remaining 1/4 cup of milk and 2 tablespoons of sugar.
  3. Gradually whisk the hot milk into the egg yolks, then pour the mixture into the saucepan and whisk constantly over moderate heat until thickened, about 2 minutes. (This took longer for me, closer to 5 minutes). To get a smoother custard, strain at this point.
  4.  Over low heat, whisk in the cream cheese, lemon juice, grated lemon zest and vanilla extract until smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape the cheesecake custard into a bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.
  5. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream to medium peaks. (I added Grand Marnier) Fold the whipped cream into the chilled cheesecake custard until no streaks remain. Spoon the shortbread cubes and custard into bowls. Drizzle with the blueberry compote, garnish with the lemon zest strips and serve.


Filed under cheesecake, custard

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Praline Sauce

Yes, another pumpkin post. This will be my last one for a while, I promise! Three Thanksgivings ago (i.e. two years ago) I was browsing one of my favorite magazine editions of the year: Food & Wine Thanksgiving. In the back of the magazine I came across something I just had to make: Pumpkin Cheesecake. I’m a huge fan of cheesecake, but up until that point I had only made it once and it turned out terrible. Thus, I was a little gun shy about making cheesecake. Thankfully, my BFF, who also happens to be a pastry chef, was visiting and we made it together. She guided me through the process and gave me essential pointers. The cheesecake turned out fabulous, and I made it again after she left for Thanksgiving that year (since we all know the Thanksgiving issue comes out in October. Practice makes perfect!).

Oh, you want the pointers too? First, use real, full fat cream cheese. You are having cheesecake, are you really concerned about those 10 extra calories? Second, your cream cheese must be at room temperature. Think a couple hours at room temp, depending on the warmth of your kitchen. Third, cream your cream cheese thoroughly to avoid lumps. However, once you add the other ingredients, beat at low speed. At this point, you do not want to whip air into the cheesecake. We want creamy, not airy. And finally, perhaps the most important tip of all: scrape the bowl and scrape it often. I repeat, scrape the bowl, and scrape it often.

You have to plan ahead with this recipe. A couple of hours before you plan on making the cheesecake set out your cream cheese, eggs, and heavy cream to come to room temperature. At this point you should also spread your pumpkin puree out on paper towels to drain thoroughly.

This recipe has become a staple at my Thanksgiving table, replacing pumpkin pie. Because, really, this cheesecake tastes exactly like pumpkin pie, only creamier and with a tastier crust.

And, in addition to the delicious praline sauce, I also “make” cinnamon ice cream. Meaning, I buy good vanilla ice cream (I prefer Haagen Daz 5), let it soften, and mix in cinnamon to taste. Sometimes I think people like the cinnamon ice cream more than the cheesecake itself!

I follow the recipe almost exclusively, except I’ve changed the baking process. I never completely followed what is suggested, so for all I know, it comes out better that way. But I’m afraid to change at this point since it tastes so good every year.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Praline Sauce

Modified slightly from Food & Wine


  • One 15-ounce can pumpkin puree (1 3/4 cups)
  • 8 whole graham crackers, broken
  • 1/2 cup pecans (2 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1 1/2 cups cream cheese (14 ounces), at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


  1. Set a rack over a baking sheet and line the rack with 2 (several) layers of paper towels. Spread the pumpkin puree over the paper towels and let drain for 2 hours, until the puree is fairly dry.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450F. (The original recipe says 500, but I’ve found the crust burns too easily at that temperature, so I recommend 450). Butter the bottom and side of a 9-inch springform pan. In a food processor, pulse the graham crackers until finely ground. Add the pecans and brown sugar and pulse until finely ground. Add the melted butter and pulse just until incorporated. Press the crumbs onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the crust for about 8 minutes, just until it is fragrant (it will smell amazing!) and lightly browned. Let the crust cool completely. Lower oven temperature to 325F.
  3. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the cream cheese until it is very smooth. In a small bowl, whisk the sugar with the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice. With the machine on, add the spiced sugar to the cream cheese and beat until creamy, scraping the bottom and side of the bowl. Carefully add the drained pumpkin puree and beat until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl between each addition. Beat in the heavy cream, lemon juice and vanilla until the cheesecake mixture is smooth.
  4. Take your cooled springform pan and wrap the outside with heavy duty foil, and then wrap it again. If you have heavy duty plastic wrap, wrap first with plastic and then two layers of heavy duty foil. Then place the pan into a roasting pan, or some other dish that will allow you to pour water halfway up the pan. Pour your cheesecake mixture into the pan and place in preheated oven.  Pour hot water about halfway up the pan (if you have a tea kettle, that will be very helpful. Bake until internal temperature is 150F. The cheesecake will be jiggly, but not runny. It will bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. This picture is pre-baking. 
  5. Let cool completely. Place a slightly damp towel over the cheesecake while it cools to keep it moist. Let rest overnight, then serve.

Pecan Praline Sauce


  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups pecans (8 ounces)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until smooth. Stir in the heavy cream and salt and bring to a boil. Simmer just until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Let the caramel cool.
  2. Spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for about 8 minutes, until they are lightly browned and fragrant. Transfer the pecans to a work surface and let them cool. Coarsely chop the nuts, stir them into the cooled caramel and serve.



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Filed under cheesecake