Sunday, May 23, 2010

Whipped Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Kumquats and Blueberry Sauce

The other day I bought some vanilla beans from Amadeus Vanilla Beans—1/4 pound of beautiful, extra-long Madagascar bourbon beans. Amadeus has excellent quality vanilla beans at great prices. The first thing I decided to do with my gorgeous new beans was to make some homemade vanilla extract. I took about eight of the beans, split them lengthwise with a paring knife, and scraped out 

the seeds. Then I cut the pods into 1-inch pieces, and added the seeds and pod pieces to about 12 ounces of vodka in a Mason jar. I put the lid on the jar, shook it really well, and stored it in the cupboard. I’ll give it a good shake every day, and, after about 4 months or so, it should be ready. I’ll just strain out the pod pieces before using it. I stored the remaining beans in a bottle of Mount Gay 

dark rum, making sure they were completely covered by rum. This will keep them plump and moist, and will perfume the rum with vanilla flavor (I learned this trick from Sarabeth Levine of Sarabeth’s Kitchen). To satisfy my immediate need to make something vanilla flavored with the beans, I settled on a Whipped Vanilla Bean Cheesecake, topped with Candied Kumquats and served 

with a fragrant Blueberry Rosemary Sauce. It’s a no-bake cheesecake with a very light texture, ideal for late spring and summer, and it pairs perfectly with the sweet-tart flavor of kumquats and blueberries.

Whipped Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Candied Kumquats and Blueberry Rosemary Sauce

Makes about 10 servings

Ginger Pecan Crust:
1 cup (4.3 oz/121 g) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1.9 oz/54 g) firmly packed light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (1.2 oz/33 g) pecans
1/4 cup (1.4 oz/40 g) chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz/113 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon (15 ml) cold water

Whipped Vanilla Cheesecake Filling:
1 cup (240 ml) whole milk, divided
2 1/2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
12 ounces (340 g) Philadelphia cream cheese
1 cup (7 oz/200 g) granulated sugar
1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
1 cup (240 ml) sour cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise with a paring knife and seeds scraped out

Blueberry Rosemary Sauce:
½ pint blueberries
¼ cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 rosemary sprig
¼ teaspoon cornstarch

Candied Kumquats:
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup water
¾ pound kumquats, ends cut off and sliced crosswise into 1/8-inch rounds

Make the crust:
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch diameter x 2 3/4-inch high springform pan. Cut an 18-inch square of heavy-duty aluminum foil and wrap the foil around the outside of the pan. Set the pan aside.
2. Place the flour, sugar, salt, pecans, and ginger in the bowl of a food processor and process until the pecans are finely ground. Add the butter pieces and process until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. Add the water and process until the mixture starts to come together as a dough. Press the dough into an even layer over the bottom of the prepared pan.
3. Bake the crust for 20 to 25 minutes, until it is just beginning to brown. Place the pan on a wire rack and cool completely.

Make the cheesecake filling:
4. Place 1/2 cup of the milk in a small container. Sprinkle the gelatin over the milk and set aside to soften.
5. Place the remaining 1/2 cup milk, the sugar, and cream cheese in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.  Cook, whisking constantly, until the cream cheese melts and the mixture is smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the milk and gelatin mixture and whisk until the gelatin is dissolved. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Cool the mixture to room temperature.
6. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the cream, sour cream, and vanilla bean seeds at high speed until the mixture just begins to form soft peaks. Add the cooled cream cheese mixture at low speed. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the mixture is well blended and smooth. Scrape the filling into the prepared pan, over the crust, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until set.

Make the blueberry sauce:
7. In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the blueberries, sugar, water, lemon juice and rosemary and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the blueberries soften and the mixture becomes saucy, 3-5 minutes. In a small cup, combine the cornstarch with 1 teaspoon water and mix until smooth. Stir into the blueberry sauce and cook until thickened. Pass the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve.

Candy the kumquats:
8. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the kumquat slices and bring to a boil again. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook kumquats until tender and translucent, about 20 minutes. Cool completely.

9. Cut a slice of the cheesecake and place on a plate. Top with some of the kumquats slices and syrup. Spoon some Blueberry Rosemary Sauce onto the plate and serve immediately.