Blueberry Cheesecake with Basil Infused Crust

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Back to the Start

A call came the day before Easter lunch. A dessert was needed but I was in my chilling mode, chilling cloths and chilling attitude that weekend, which meant that I didn’t make a proper trip to the markets because I was taking it easy after Mariana’s birthday celebration and making her favorite Carrot Cake.

Nothing is farther than the truth than desperate times call for desperate measures.

I immediately thought in a cheesecake. Even though it takes time between the steps (not the active times which are ridiculously short) it is one of the easiest dessert to make with a short list of ingredients. Besides, it’s already pretty hot in here and a nice fresh dessert was more appropriate.

So, I checked my fridge and was about 3 cream cheeses, a lemon and graham crackers short. I always have frozen blueberries so a blueberry cheesecake will be. After collecting cream cheeses and lemons around the neighborhood (no, I didn’t went door to door like a crazy person! My mom is my neighbor so usually her fridge is my convenience market) and a quick trip to the supermarket I was ready to go.

But when starting to make the whole thing it suddenly hit me that this will have nothing special. Seriously, the girl with the blog would bring a simple, not extraordinary or crazy flavored cheesecake? It was then when I started to scavenge around my pantry and fridge like mad, hoping for a bit of creativity to find that perfect twist, but nothing. I gave it up, mainly because it was like 9:00pm and I was tired, and just kept going on with the steps. It was when I reached to pick the lemon that I saw the basil and suddenly thought about these strawberry basil mojitos. And I love basil very much, so it hit me! Almost brown butter infused with basil to make the crust. I can’t even tell you what a mellow and beautiful hint this imparts to the whole cheesecake. As simple as this!

Now everyone around is loving this recipe, but for me it's truly especial. It reminded me of my real and original style of cooking. This is what my cooking style is all about. To use everyday ingredients in a new light. To get something extraordinary out of ordinary ingredients. Even ordinary techniques. And we have the power to do that every time when turn that stove on. And (well, almost!) with our current fridge.

Based on your fridge, with what flavor you think you might ended? I’m all ears!

Recipe notes:

1.     I have made this recipe starting with the oven temperature in 500°, but this temperature could yield inconsistent results when the time comes for the cheesecake to get an even creamy color, a bit inflated and firm on the edges so you can drop the temperature to 200°. I always get consistent results when starting at a temperature of 525°.  This way I can drop down the temperature at exactly 11 minutes. Plus, this way develops a nicer nutty flavor for the cheese.

2.     The best way to turn out a cheesecake, if using a springform pan, is like a cake but with plastic paper, but it has to be dome after the 8 hours of chilling in the fridge. First, heat some water in a cup a place a small and thin pairing knife inside. Let it warm and then scrap between the cheesecake and the ring of the pan to separate them, wiping out the knifes a couple of times so the crumbs and cheese on the knife don’t break the whole pie. Take out the ring. Put a piece of plastic paper on top and then an upside down plate. Carefully turn it over. Look for any hollow between the crust and the metal and using a small knife or spoon try push a bit through that hollow until you feel the whole cheesecake is coming down. Place the serving plate on the crust and turn it again. Very carefully remove the plastic paper.

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Basil Infused Crust Blueberry Cheesecake

Basil Infused Crust

Traditional graham crackers – 8 oz (15 whole rectangular cookies), broken in small pieces
Unsalted butter – 8 TBSP (1 stick)
Fine sea salt – ¼ Tsp
Basil sprigs – 2 o 3 with about 3 to 4 leaves each

Cream Cheese Filling

Cream cheese, at room temperature – 5 (8 oz) packages
Raw sugar – 1¾ cup
Unbleached all purpose flour – 3 TBSP
Lemon zest – 2 Tsp (the zest 2 medium lemons)
Lemon juice – 2 TBSP, about the juice of 1 medium lemon
Eggs – 5, large
Egg yolks – 2, from large eggs
Vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract – ½ Tsp

Blueberry Lemon Topping

Cold water – ½ cup
Cornstarch – 1 TBSP
Bluberries – 2 cups
Raw sugar – ¼ cup
Freshly squeezed lemon juice – 2 TBSP

Total time – 1 ½ hours plus chilling time  Prep time – 20 minutes 
Cooking time –
1 hour and 11 minutes
Equipment – pie dish or springform pan, stand up or electric hand mixer

To make the crust: Preheat oven to 350°.

If using a springform pan, spray the bottom with cooking or baking spray.

In a small saucepan place the butter with the basil and heat in medium to low level. Melt the butter and let it start sizzling a bit. Shake frequently the basil to release it’s fragrance. Retire from heat after the butter has sizzle for a minute or two and you can smell the fragrance of the basil.

Place the cookie pieces with the salt in the bowl of a food processor already attached to the base.  Pulse 2 times to integrate everything and make the crumbs smaller.  Start running the food processor again and pour in the melted butter, just until the crumbs are very fine and compact, about 10 to 15 seconds.  If there are still big crumbs of crackers, integrate the crumbs stuck to the wall of the bowl and pulse a couple of second more.  The crumbs will appear dry but they are ok. Transfer the content to the pie dish or the baking pan you will be using.  Press onto the bottom and up to the sides, until the crumbs are evenly distributed and you have reach the edges of the pan with them.  You may use a bottom flat small measuring cup or utensil to help yourself press down and distribute the crumbs. Bake for 5 minutes, then place it in the fridge to cool down.

To make the filling: 

Increase oven temperature to 525° and preheat. (see notes)

Either in the bowl of a stand up mixer or in medium bowl using an electric hand mixer, beat in medium speed the cream cheese until light, about two minutes. Decrease to low speed and add the sugar, flour, lemon juice and lemon zest.  Mix in the vanilla.  Start adding the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time.  Scrap the wall of the bowl between additions, if needed.  Stop beating as soon as the last yolk is incorporated.

Place baking pan in a baking sheet.  Pour filling into it. Place the baking sheet with the pan on the middle rack of the oven.  Fill the baking sheet with water almost to the top. Close oven door and bake for 11 minutes, until puffed.  (Check it out around the first 10 minutes, if it seems burned or you see any big crack, turn down the oven temperature at that moment.) After that, turn down the oven to 200° and bake for 1 hour more, until the cheesecake is firm but the center is slightly wobbly if pan is shaken a bit.

Turn oven off and let the cheesecake there with the door halfway open for a couple of minutes, then take it out and let it cool down completely.  Loosely cover the cheesecake with plastic paper and place it in the fridge.  Chill for at least 8 hours or ideally overnight. Remove from pan, if using a springform and prepare for serving.

To make the topping: In a small sauce combine the water with the cornstarch and dissolve. Incorporate the rest of the ingredients and turn the heat on in medium heat. Let it boil, then cook for 3 to 4 extra minutes, until you see the liquid is thickening. Retire from heat and let it cool.

Putting everything together: Take out the cheesecake from the fridge about 10 minutes before serving. Very carefully remove from pan and transfer to a serving plate (if in doubt, don’t try to separate it from the bottom of the pan, just place it like that on the serving plate, see my notes about that!) Pour over the blueberries and serve!

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