Sunday, September 2, 2007

Hidden Blackberry Cheesecake

Hidden Berry Cheesecake

Here in Seattle blackberries are everywhere, ranging from massive brambles that have invaded vacant land to itty bitty plants poking out of the ground trying to colonize new terrain. To my surprise, there were blackberry growing in the backyard. This was the first summer I had even been aware of their presence because last winter, the (small) yard, which was more like an uncharted jungle, was tamed landscaped into something more manageable. That is, you can venture outside without a loved one having to call a search party. The work also uncovered the blackberry bush and for the last few weeks I've been picking quarts of the berries as they ripen and I can hardly keep up!

Blackberry picking is a tricky business. The best looking berries are always the unattainable ones just out of my reach. I stare at them longingly, yearning to reach the plump, juicy berries glistening in the sun barely inches from my fingertips. I balance precariously on one foot, standing on my tippy toes, while stretching my arm and hand as far as they'll physically go to pluck that perfect berry. One wrong movement will result in an "Ouch!" as a nasty thorn pokes or scratches my skin. A tug too strong and that berry will fall off into the deep thicket lost forever. Even worse, just when I think the berry has landed safely in my palm, it rolls and slips between my fingers. Curses! Foiled again!! After an hour of the hot August sun hitting the back of my neck and my fingers sticky and purple, I say to myself "Okay last berry" but then "Ah Hah!" another perfect berry catches my eyes. Sometimes I am able to pick all the ripe berries before calling it a day but other times there is a limit to how many close encounters with the creepy crawly spiders, who love to take up residence amongst the berries, I can take. They send me running back inside patting myself down and repeatedly brushing off every inch of my skin. *shudder* "That's it for today I'll go back tomorrow," as I admit defeat. Now that it's September and autumn is slowly approaching, the blackberry bush has given the last of it's berries. Most have gone into quiet storage in the freezer and will serve as a reminder of the glories of summer during the gloomy Seattle winter.

A note about blackberry picking: Blackberries tend to grow everywhere and sometimes as your walking, you can't help but notice the easily accessible berries right by the sidewalk. As tempting as these berries may be (I pass berries like these everyday), do not pick them because the plants growing near the streets will often take in the fumes and pollution from the cars and that's not something you want in your berries. It's best to find an area away from roads and traffic for picking. Most parks in the Seattle area have plenty of blackberries so those are a great place to go.

From one of my recent pickings, I came inside with about 3 cups of berries and I really wanted to make some jam. But I'm didn't have pectin, and I'm too paranoid to can so I ambitiously decided to make some pectinless freezer jam. Steven warned me that when his mom and other friends tried to make blackberry jam, it ended up very watery was more like blackberry syrup but I was not to be dissuaded. After simmerring for a long time, I ended up with about a half a cup of thick jam and with only a few spoonfuls of sugar rather than cups, the jam was not cloyingly sweet and was immensely flavorful (very, very blackberry-y). So pectinless jam was possible and it was delicious!

Blackberry Jam
3 C blackberries, washed
3 Tbsp sugar (ratio of 1 tablespoon sugar to 1 cup berries)
1 tsp of lemon juice

To get rid of the seeds, puree the mixture and push it through a sieve or pass it through a food mill. I had some trouble pushing the puree through my fine mesh sieve so a food mill might work better.

Simmer in a saucepan until very thick and a spatula dragged across the bottom of the saucepan leaves a clear trail that does not fill in.

To avoid the canning trouble, just store the jam in your freezer and enjoy it quickly. But you won't need me to say that twice because it's so delicious on a buttered piece of toast in the morning or in a "Hidden Berry Cheesecake" inspired by Dorie.

Hidden Berry Cheesecake

While flipping through the baking book of the year (ahem everyone knows which one I'm talking about), the Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte really caught my eye. I loved Dorie's ingenuity in tucking a layer of berry jam underneath the cream cheese filling. Jams are usually good at hiding cracks and imperfections on cheesecakes but bringing it inside brings cheesecake to a whole new level of elegance. Not to mention in the gorgeous photo in the book, the top of the cream cheese torte was absolutely pristine with not a crack or flaw in sight. Since I didn't have cottage cheese on hand, rather than using Dorie's recipe for the cream cheese torte, I went with my standby cheesecake recipe of cream cheese and sour cream in a graham cracker crust. But don't get me wrong, Dorie's recipe looks excellent and I will definitely try it one day. This recipe uses only 2 bars (rather than 4) of cream cheese and as a result makes a thinner cheesecake.

Hidden Blackberry Cheesecake
Inspired by Dorie Greenspan's Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte

1 pack of graham crackers (5 oz, 9 whole crackers)
1 Tbsp sugar
5 Tbsp butter melted
2 8 oz. bars of cream cheese
2 eggs
1/3 C sour cream
1/2 C sugar
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 C any berry or cherry jam

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Process the crumbs in a food processor until ground or crush them in a zipper lock bag by rolling over the crackers with a rolling pin. Add the melted butter and sugar and pulse until evenly mixed.

Press the crumbs firmly into bottom and up the sides (about 1 in) of a 9 inch springform. I like to use the flat bottom of a measuring cup or you can use the bottom of a drinking glass to push the crumbs in tight. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the food processor add the rest of the ingredients except for the jam, and process until smooth. Alternatively you can cream the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer, add the eggs and incorporate one by one, then add the rest of the ingredients and mix until the filling is smooth.

When the crust is done, spread the jam evenly on the bottom of the crust. Then pour in the cheesecake filling. Bake at 350F for about 50 to 60 minutes, or until the center is no longer jiggly.

Run a knife (to avoid damaging the nonstick on baking pans, I either use a plastic knife or a wooden skewer) along the outside of the cheesecake and remove the pan. Let it cool to room temperature then chill before serving.

Since it's blackberry season, though nearing the end of it, here in the Pacific Northwest and with the blackberries straight from the backyard, I'm going to bring this cheesecake to the biggest patio party of the year, La Festa al Fresco, thrown by the lovely hostesses Ivonne and Lis. There's no such thing as having too many desserts right girls?


Tarun Kumar said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lis said...

Amy.. thank you so much for bringing this beautiful cheesecake to the Festa - I have a feeling you'll be VERY popular! ;)

I am very envious of your blackberries.. when "taming" our back yard a few years ago, our blackberry bush got torn out accidentally.. *sigh*

Thank you again.. that cake is completely droolworthy!


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Wonderful! A cheesecake with blacberries, that's gorgeous!

Anonymous said...

Okay, Amy.

I'm going to crawl into that cheesecake and find that hidden blackberry.


I just adore cheesecakes but I like ones that are complex with ingredients worked into them. This is right up my alley and the blackberry jam sounds incredible!

I agree with Lis, your cheesecake is going to be very popular. Too bad for everyone else that I'm going to eat the whole thing myself!

test it comm said...

That cheesecake looks really good. I like the idea of putting something at the bottom of the cheesecake.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

We're lucky to have a neighbor with blackberry bushes, so we go there to pick (he says we're helping him by picking his blackberries, but I say that he's doing us a huge favor!). I have to eat some on the way home, because they are just too good, but if I can save a few I will try this recipe!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I was in Vancouver on the weekend and should have thought to stop for blackberries. They do not grow here in the valley. I love cheesecakes with a hidden flavour inside. I make something similar with rhubarb.

Peabody said...

There are blackberries everywhere right now. I tried to get my husband to pull over and pick some blackberries and huckleberries when we were out in Snohomish the other day, but no such luck. I so want to make this...I wish he would have stopped!

Anh said...

Beautiful cake! I absolutely love it.

Amy said...

Oh no! But I guess at least now you don't have to worry about the blackberries trying to take over your yard. The neighbors aren't too happy with the blackberries creeping over the fence. :P

Thank you!

Don't forget to come up for air! I'm glad you girls like it. :) I really loved the blackberry jam, I'll have to make more during the winter.

Thanks! Dorie's recipes and ideas are always amazing.

Blackberry picking is hard work! :) Sometimes when I pick a really plump berry I can't help but pop it in my mouth.

I still have to try rhubarb.

Aw! Hopefully there are some parks near your home so you can pick some. Then after you make the cheesecake you can reprimand your hubby by withholding his slice (just for a few minutes though). :D

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I'm going to see if there are any blackberries left for me to pick. This will be my 3rd picking this year :) Little Ninja enjoyed it too.

Patricia Scarpin said...

Amy, what a delightful choice for the event - I have never made a cheesecake, can you believe it?
With your homemade jam I know I'd love this.

marias23 said...

oh god! blackberries are so awesome, aren't they? the main reason i'm going miss summer is berries at the peak of their beauty...

Deborah said...

I want a piece!! Oh, how I wish I could find blackberries so easily here. I'm jealous!!

Anonymous said...

What a gorgeous Festa contribution! I love the thin layer of blackberries that's color melds so perfectly into the cheesecake. So pretty!

Anonymous said...

I got pricked while berry picking too in the earlier summer months. If you can't keep up, I can always help you out with some blackberries :p

kellypea said...

So jealous. Of the blackberries. I was hunting for a new cheesecake to make and it looks like this one just might do it. Gorgeous!

Anonymous said...

I've been told that Seattle has nothing to envy to Paris in terms of restaurants and farmer's markets. And your blog is proof that its inhabitants are real gourmets !

Katie said...

Oh my! I think i've died and gone to cheesecake heaven. That looks divine! So creamy and indulgant. Your blackberry story made me smile, why are the best berries always the ones just out of reach? :)

Anita said...

Wish I could go blackberry picking with you...sounds like so much fun! Thanks for making a such a gorgeous cheesecake for the festa - I'm licking my lips at the sight!

Wandering Chopsticks said...

Blackberries have to be one of my favorite berries. Well, when they're ripe and picked off the vine. Not when they're in the stores and not nearly sweet enough.

Amy said...

Aw that must have been so cute! There are only a couple tiny ones left on my bush.

Hehe, there are many, many things I haven't tried yet but I hope you make your first cheesecake some day. :)

Oh I know! First the strawberries, then raspberries, blueberries, and now the blackberries are disappearing. Summer is going away. :(

They are quite the invasive species here.

Thank you!

I got pricked so many times! I'm glad my bramble is manageable this year. I better cut it back or who knows how big it will get next year.

I hope you like it!

Foodie Froggy,
Aw thank you! We have wonderful farmers markets here and although the restaurants are wonderful I don't think we can compete with Paris on that front. :)

I'm always looking for something to hook those berries closer to me.

Hehe I wish I had blueberry bushes too, that sounds like more fun (no thorns) dunno about the spiders though *shudder*.

I agree, I never buy them at the store because I can just pick them myself, plus the really sweet ones are too delicate and soft to be packed.

Helene said...

I know blackberry picking can be a true pain but oh the sweet rewards! Your cheesecake is stunning!

Lani said...

How did you make your cheesecake soft and moist? I only can do that if I don't bake it, once I bake it, it becomes dry and a little hard.

Please help me, thanks.

Amy said...


Adding heavy cream or (use full fat) sour cream to your cheesecake will help keep it moist. Next time try adding 1/3 - 1/2 C of heavy cream and 1/3 - 1/2 C of sour cream for a 4 bar cream cheese cheesecake.

I couldn't find your contact info to email you this so I hope you get it! Hope it helps!

Chris Biele said...

Thanks for the recipe Amy! I saw your entry on under the most popular entries.

Mine's in the oven now, although I've made some slight changes. No graham crackers here in Spain so I used digestive biscuits. Also hard to get fresh blackberries, so I used some raspberry jam at the request of my wife (it is her birthday after all ;) ). Then I added some chocolate swirls. Didn't quite do them right, but I've vowed to correct my errors next week.

I think the chocolate is upping the cook time tho. Going on 1 hour 20 min now and still a little jiggly. Hope it turns out OK. I'll upload a pic for final judging, lol.

Muneeba said...

First time commenting here ... I just HAD to when I saw this cheesecake .. I think I've gone weak in the knees! It's definitely going to be the next cheesecake recipe I try, and I can't wait :) Will let you know how it turns out. Thks!

Muneeba said...

I made this for my b'day! Didn't turn out as beautiful as yours because I didn't use homemade blackberry jam ... but I'll definitely make it again. Posted abt it on my blog, so check it out :)

Liz said...

hi there! i want to attempt a swirl of the jam, have you experienced any browning or discoloring of the jams if they are not tucked away underneath the cheesecake? i am attempting a couple of your recipes/combined actually. i want to make your green tea white chocolate brownies but with a blueberry swirl. or do you think i should just make a layer of blueberry jam? thanks!!


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