Blackberry+Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

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So good!

Cheesecake. Yummy cheesecake. I don’t really have many words for this cheesecake. It really left me speechless. The ingredients in this recipe are simple. Toasted coconut- graham cracker crust, creamy vanilla bean speckled filling, macerated blackberries, lime, mint, ginger- every single part of this cheesecake recipe is delicious alone, and then I went and paired them all together and BAM. Here we are.

I had some really great inspiration for this recipe. I have a friend coming down to visit Atlanta next week. We had most of the weekend planned with exploring tons of new restaurants and my favorite parts of Atlanta. It never dawned on me to actually cook for us one night. So of course, being the food blogger/lover I am, I began scouring through recipes trying to find a great menu to work up (the rest will come later), but I knew that the dessert HAD to be cheesecake and something with blackberries (my guest’s personal favorite).

For the past week, I have been on a staycation at my Mom’s house. They are currently out of town and I came here to watch the pets and I brought my two pups along to play and have a staycation as well. I’m not going to lie, it’s been pretty fantastic. Things my Mom has that I don’t: a dishwasher, cable, a backyard, a king sized bed, and a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer (a red one). Now my family knows this but a stand mixer is high up on my list of kitchen wants. It has been for as long as I can remember, specifically a red one. So anytime I am at my Mom’s I look for some reason to use the mixer, so CHEESECAKE IT IS. 🙂 Since I created this recipe and also since it was my first time making cheesecake, I really felt the need to test it before I made it for anyone else. Let’s just put it this way, after finishing this recipe my cheesecake confidence is definitely higher! Plus, this recipe is really really very simple, which makes me love it even more.

Blackberry+Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

What you’ll need:

For the cheesecake:

  • 2 lbs of cream cheese
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/4 cup of greek yogurt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tbls cornstarch
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the crust:

  • 1-1/2 cups crushed graham crackers
  • 1/2 cup of crushed toasted coconut
  • 2 tbls sugar
  • 4 tbls melted butter
  • 4 tbls melted coconut oil

For the syrup:

  • 8 mint leaves
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1-2 tbls of grated ginger
  • 12 oz of blackberries
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water

The syrup recipe will make more than enough for the cheesecake and some leftover. This syrup would be fantastic mixed with soda water, more mint leaves, and rum or vodka or gin or tequila… you get the picture.

It’s best to start with the cheesecake because it will take the longest to cook, and while it’s in the oven you will be able to create the syrup.

Let’s begin- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Grab a bowl and add the cream cheese, butter, greek yogurt, sugar, cornstarch, and start mixing on medium speed. It’s best to work with room temperature butter and cream cheese. Once they are combined, add in your vanilla extract and scrape the little vanilla pods out of the bean and add as well. For those who haven’t had to cut open a vanilla bean yet, it’s fairly simple. Cut it directly down the middle and then use your knife to scrape down each half. You will see all the little vanilla pods/beans/whatever you call them collect on the knife. Then just scrape them into your bowl. 🙂 You can thrown away the empty bean, or save and use it in other recipes. Once you incorporate the vanilla, you are going to add in one egg yolk at a time. KEEP the whites, just place in a separate bowl on the side. After the yolks are combined into the cheesecake batter, set it to the side. Take the whites that you saved in the extra bowl and whip those until the form small peaks. Take the whipped egg whites and fold them into your cheesecake batter. Be careful not to over mix at this point. You must be gentle folding the egg whites in or they will fall. These egg whites will help keep the cheesecake light and pillowy.

Now we are going to make the crust. Your oven will already be at 350 degrees which is exactly what you need to toast the coconut flakes. I used sweetened coconut flakes, you can also use unsweetened just make sure and bump up the sugar by another tablespoon when you mix up the crust. Take roughly a half cup of coconut flakes and spread out evenly on a sheet pan. Place it in the over for 5 minutes, mix up the flakes on the pan and place it back in the oven for roughly another 2-3 minutes. Make sure and watch it the second time it is in the oven, it browns up a lot faster. It should be a nice golden brown.

I used a food processor to mix the crust. To get to 1-1/2 cups of graham crackers I used roughly one and a half packages from the box. The box normally comes with 3. Add the graham crackers and coconut into the processor and pulse until they are finely chopped and mixed. Add in your melted butter and melted coconut oil. Mix until fully combined. Now take your spring form pan and spray with Pam, or your favorite baking spray just to make sure nothing sticks. Press the crust into the bottom of the pan. I also pressed mine up the sides a little as well.

Once the crust is pressed into the pan, pour your cheesecake batter on top and spread it out evenly. Now most cheesecake recipes will call for a water bath, that’s where you wrap your spring form pan in tinfoil, place it in a larger dish and fill it half way up the side of your pan with hot water and place ALL of that in the oven and bake. The water bath keeps the cheesecake from cracking and drying out. I couldn’t find a pan large enough to fit my spring form pan in, so I just placed a dish filled with hot water into my oven on the lowest rack to keep some of the same effect. It worked for the most part.

Now it’s time to bake your cheesecake! Set your timer for 1 hour.

While your cheesecake is baking, we are going to make our syrup. Add the water, sugar, blackberries, chiffonade of mint leaves, lime juice and grated ginger in a pot and bring to a gentle boil. Make sure and stir so that your sugar is completely dissolved.

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Delicious.

Let all these ingredients gently simmer/boil together for about 20 minutes. Your syrup will become a beautiful dark reddish color. After 20 minutes, strain all your blackberries and mint out of the syrup, place them in a bowl and put in the fridge to cool. Place the strained syrup back in the pot and place over low heat and gently simmer for about another 20 minutes until it reduces to about half. Once it reduces, place that syrup in a bowl and place in the fridge to cool next to the blackberry mixture.

At this point, the cheesecake should be just about done. When it is done, it should have a nice golden top, and it should also jiggle in the middle when you shake the pan. I was unsure if mine was done, given this was my first cheesecake, so if you are uncomfortable with trusting the jiggle method you can take a knife and insert it into the middle of your cheesecake. If it comes out clean, it is done!

Now here is where I can be a horrible baker. As you can see below, I have no patience to let things cool. Please don’t make the same mistake I did! Let the cheesecake cool, for AT LEAST a few hours, preferably overnight. 🙂

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Let it cool!! Don’t cut too soon, or all the yummy filling will pour out of the cheesecake!

When your cheesecake is completely cooled, cut yourself a piece and assemble! I spooned syrup over the top, then added a spoonful of the blackberry mixture. I also added some more mint leaves and also some lime zest to top it off!

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Speechless.

Hope y’all enjoy!

-Amanda

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