Raspberry Port Cheesecake

I never turn down a dessert menu. When Mike and I went to San Francisco for the first time back in the “before” times of 2019, I was handed a menu and noticed that each dessert was paired with port wine. We ordered a slice of cake and a glass of port for each of us and I then and there discovered my love of the full-bodied, sweetened, wine. 

Produced in Portugal, port is fermented like other wines, but is fortified with a neutral spirit before the fermentation process is finished. The spirit stops the fermentation, which leaves extra sugar in the wine, resulting in a fortified wine with all the nuances of non-fortified wine. It’s best to store port in the refrigerator after opening and then enjoy within a month.

I’ve ordered port to go with dessert since, but hadn’t splurged on a bottle of my own. So when Sandeman reached out to collaborate, I jumped at the chance. Port pairs well with cheeses, nuts, fruit, and even chocolate. Basically everything I love! It also adds complexity to dessert sauces, custards, and cakes.

For this recipe, port is added to the cheesecake batter as well as the raspberry swirl. It cuts the richness, while enhancing the raspberry flavor. The almonds in the graham cracker crust add a satisfying crunch and a mildly nutty flavor to go along with the port and raspberry flavors.

Tips for Making Cheesecake

Achieving the silky texture for cheesecake is easy if you follow these tips.

Room temperature ingredients: Cheesecake is a baked custard made with cream cheese, sour cream, heavy cream, eggs, and sugar. The key to making a creamy cheesecake is making sure that the ingredients are at room temperature.

Bake in a water bath: Baking the cheesecake in a water bath also helps retain the sought after silky texture. The water bath helps ensure that the eggs cook slowly and evenly. The smaller springform pan that I used in this recipe is easier to manage. Whereas a larger pan requires a large roasting pan for the water bath, this small 7 inch pan fits inside a standard 9 x 13 casserole dish. To keep the crust from getting soggy, wrap the springform pan in foil. Then place the springform pan inside the casserole dish and add hot water to the casserole dish until it reaches 1/3 of the way up the sides of the springform pan.

Don’t over bake: Baking times vary from oven to oven. The cheesecake is baked once it reaches an internal temperature of 150℉. It will have a slight jiggle in the center when tapped. Cool the cheesecake slowly to prevent cracking and then chill overnight before removing from the pan.

Raspberry Port Cheesecake

Servings: 6 to 8

Yield: 1 – 7 inch cheesecake

Active Time: 30 minutes

Cooking Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

Cooling Time: 2 hours

Chilling Time: 8 hours

Graham Cracker Crust:

1/2 cup (50g) finely ground graham crackers (about 3 sheets of graham crackers)

1/4 cup (35g) finely ground almonds

2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

Raspberry Swirl:

1/4 cup (79g) raspberry jam
2 tablespoons Sandeman Reserve port

Cheesecake Filling:

16 ounces Original Philadelphia Cream Cheese, at room temperature

3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

3  large eggs, at room temperature

1/3 cup (80g) full fat sour cream

1/4 cup (40g) heavy whipping cream

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons Sandeman Reserve port

Special equipment: 7 inch springform pan

Directions:

Prepare oven: Check that the rack is in the center of the oven and heat to 350℉. 

Prepare springform pan: Tear off two sheets of foil 16 inches long. Lay the foil in an X shape and set the springform pan in the center. Start with the top piece of foil and form it snugly around the pan and do the same with the bottom piece of foil. The foil will cover most of the pan. Spray the sides (no need to spray the bottom of the pan) on the inside of the pan with cooking spray to ensure the cheesecake doesn’t stick to the pan.

Make graham cracker crust: In a small bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs, almonds, sugar, and salt. Add two tablespoons of melted butter and combine. The mixture should hold together when squeezed. If not, then add the last tablespoon of butter, mix, and test again.

Press in crust: Dump the crust in the bottom of the springform pan and spread it over the bottom. Lightly press the crust with your fingers until it is at an even thickness throughout and doesn’t move when pressed gently. 

Bake crust: Bake the crust on the center rack in the oven for about 10 minutes. The crust will be lightly golden around the edges. Remove it from the oven and set on a cooling rack.

Turn down the oven: Turn down the oven temperature to 325℉.

Make raspberry swirl: Mix the raspberry jam and port in a small bowl until smooth. It will be similar in texture to a thick sauce and have a strong port flavor that will mellow when baked. Set aside.

Make cheesecake batter: In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine cream cheese, sugar, and salt on low for a few seconds to combine and then increase speed to medium for three minutes. Scrape after each minute.

With mixer on low, add one egg and mix for 30 seconds to combine. Scrape the bowl and continue adding and scraping with the next two eggs. After the eggs have been added, mix on medium for 30 seconds to ensure the batter is fully emulsified.

In a small glass measuring cup, combine sour cream and heavy cream. Add to the mixer bowl and mix on medium for 30 seconds to completely combine.

Turn the mixer to low and add the vanilla extract and port. Mix for 10 seconds.

Take the bowl off the mixer and give the batter a couple more stirs with the spatula to ensure that it is fully combined. There shouldn’t be any streaks or large lumps in the batter.

Add batter and raspberry swirl to pan: Scrape the batter over the cooled crust in the springform pan and level with the spatula. Use a spoon to dribble the raspberry mixture over the top of the crust. Turn the spoon around and use the end of the handle to gently swirl the raspberry mixture with the cheesecake batter.

Bake: Set the cheesecake in a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Fill a large spouted measuring cup with hot water and pour it in the pan until it reaches 1/3 of the way up the sides. Transfer to the oven and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, or how ever long it takes for the internal temperature to reach 150℉. It will have a slight jiggle in the center when tapped. This is good! If the cheesecake starts to puff or brown, turn the oven temperature down 300℉.

Cool: Once the cheesecake is baked, let it cool slowly inside the oven by turning the oven off and opening the oven door. Let the cheesecake cool for an hour. After an hour, pull the casserole dish with the cheesecake inside, out of the oven. Take the cheesecake out of the casserole dish and unwrap the foil from the springform pan. There may be water in the foil so unwrap carefully. Cool the cheesecake on a cooling rack until it’s at room temperature, about 1 hour. Wrap the cheesecake in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or at least 8 hours.

Serve: Remove the plastic wrap from the cheesecake and unlatch the springform pan, removing the sides of the pan. For the cleanest slices, warm a chef’s knife under hot water and dry with a towel. Slice the cheesecake into eight slices, wiping the knife, warming, and drying the knife after each cut. Wrap leftovers in plastic wrap or place in an airtight container and refrigerate for 3 to 4 days.

No-Bake Pumpkin Pie with Brown Butter Graham Cracker Crust

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and though I like turkey and stuffing, it’s pumpkin pie I crave. The classic baked burnt-orange pumpkin pie isn’t what I grew up eating. No, the pie I crave is a modestly spiced, creamy, no-bake, marshmallow pumpkin pie with a graham cracker crust. My mom made this every year and I always loved it but for some reason hadn’t made it myself. I decided to give it a try (with my own spin of course!) and was not disappointed.

No-bake pumpkin pie recipes are prolific on the internet and for good reason. First off, because they aren’t baked, there isn’t any worry about unseemly cracks on the top of the pie. Another plus? The no-bake version leaves my oven free to use for other Thanksgiving dishes.

The original version uses a premade graham cracker crust and Cool Whip. I wanted to up the flavor in the crust by making a homemade version with brown butter. For the pumpkin filling, I replaced the Cool Whip with freshly whipped cream. These simply changes amped up the flavor without over complicating an easy-as-can-be pie. 

There are a few tips to note regarding this pie: be sure to chill for at least four hours or overnight before serving. You’ll be able to tell that the pie is set by pressing on the center. It should be firm to the touch. Another tip for this pie is to make sure to choose the right size pie plate. The crust recipe makes enough for a 9-inch pie with 1-inch sides. A taller sided or larger pie pan will need extra crust and filling. I would 1.5x the recipe for a different sized pie.

The end result is a perfectly creamy pumpkin pie to remember for years to come.

What is Brown Butter?

Brown butter is when the butter solids are browned, usually in a saucepan over low heat.(surprising, I know! It imparts a nutty flavor that compliments the warm spices in the pumpkin filling.

Tips for Making a Graham Cracker Crust

I’ve made my share of crumbly graham cracker crusts and have learned a thing or two along the way. The main mistake is to not add enough butter. It should pack like wet sand and not be crumbly when pressing into the pan. Thankfully it’s an easy fix. Just add more butter! The other tip is to spray the pie tin to help the crust not stick. Lastly, I like to bake my graham crusts, though you don’t have to, I like how it ensues a firm crust and helps fend off moisture.

I used these adorable dish covers throughout the whole process (thanks Halo!) 

No-Bake Pumpkin Pie

Graham Crust:

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 190g Graham cracker crumbs (12 sheets)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt

Pumpkin Filling

  • 1 cup (244g) pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
  • Pinch cloves
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 10 ounces marshmallows
  • 1½ cup (4 ounces) heavy whipping cream, divided

Whipped Cream Topping

  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Brown butter: Melt butter in a small saucepan set on medium heat and stir often. Once melted, simmer the butter until the butter solids are brown on the bottom of the pan. The butter foams and then the butter solids will brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a small glass measuring cup to cool.

Crust directions: Heat oven to 350℉. Break graham crackers into the bowl of the food processor and process until fine crumbs, about 15 seconds. Add sugar and salt and pulse to combine. Drizzle most of the brown butter into the food processor while it’s running and thoroughly mix. Stop the processor and use a flexible spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl and then squeeze the mixture and see if it holds together. If not, then add another tablespoon or two of the brown butter and pulse again. The graham mixture should look like wet sand.

Spray a 9 inch pie tin with cooking spray. Remove the blade from the food processor and take handfuls of graham mixture and press it into the pie pan. I find it helpful to start with the sides and work my way around the pan and then finish with the bottom. Press using steady, gentle pressure until the pan is covered evenly. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until it is golden brown throughout and firm to the touch. Let cool on a wire rack for about 30 minutes.

Pumpkin filling directions: In a medium saucepan, whisk the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Add marshmallows and cook, stirring often, on low until the marshmallows are melted. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, use a hand mixer to whip ½ cup heavy cream to stiff peaks, about one minute.

Assemble pie: Fold whipped cream into cooled pumpkin mixture. Fold until the mixture is homogeneous. Scrape filling into the cooled graham crust and spread evenly. Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours. Press the center of the pie to make sure it is firm to the touch before removing from the refrigerator and serving. 


Finish and serve: Use a hand mixer and whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla extract to stiff peaks.

Cut pie into 8 slices. For the cleanest cuts, cut while the pie is cold and wipe off knife in-between each cut. Serve pie either at room temperature or chilled alongside a spoonful of whipped cream. Leftovers will keep for 3 days if well-wrapped and stored in the refrigerator.

Cherry Gin Rickey

This summer, I’m basking in the daily slowness of life without school (even online school was an effort) and experiencing everything that we weren’t able to this past year. Seeing family, meeting friends for drinks, eating out, enjoying museums and parks; it all feels special. Though we’re still wearing masks and maintaining some sense of social distancing, this summer still feels so much different. I feel as if I have at least some of my life back.

To capture my summer mood, I needed a refreshing drink to sip on while enjoying the sunshine. My drink of choice couldn’t be easier: the Cherry Gin Rickey.

What is a Cherry Gin Rickey?

The Gin Rickey is a mixed drink that dates back to the early 19th century in Washington, D.C. It’s a combination of gin, lime juice, club soda, and ice for a tart, sparkling, and light drink. Sometimes simple syrup is added but my twist on this cocktail skips the syrup and uses a high quality maraschino cherry with a splash of cherry juice from the jar.

How to Make a Cherry Gin Rickey?

The Cherry Gin Rickey is made in this order: ice, gin, lime juice, club soda, maraschino cherry juice and finished with a maraschino cherry. It’s so incredibly balanced and refreshing. Perfectly chilled and sippable on a hot day.

Adding ice to the glass beforehand makes for a chilled drink that isn’t too watery. Trust me on this. I used to add the ice last and ended up using at least a quarter more club soda.

Best Ingredients for a Cherry Gin Rickey

Cherries & Cherry Juice – I do recommend buying a high quality maraschino cherry such as from Tillen Farms, which doesn’t include any artificial dyes or flavors. I find them to be perfectly plump, juicy, and fresh tasting. Just to be clear, this is not a sponsored post, I just really like these cherries!

Gin – I love Bombay for its floral notes but London Dry is also a great choice. Out of gin? It should be noted that the original Rickey was actually made with bourbon, so sometimes I replace the gin with an equal amount of Kentucky Straight Bourbon.

Lime juice – It’s best to use freshly squeezed! Lime is one of the main ingredients and there is a significant flavor difference between fresh squeezed and bottled lime juice. If out of fresh limes use lime LaCroix instead of club soda. The lime isn’t as strong but it still works in a pinch.

Club soda – Club soda is carbonated water with mineral additives included. The minerals make the drink slightly saltier than a straight carbonated water (such as LaCroix) that doesn’t include added minerals. I buy whatever I can find on the grocery shelves. Fever-Tree or Schweppes are good options for brand name club soda.

That’s it!

I hope you are out making memories and sipping cocktails in the sun. Cheers to summer!

Cherry Gin Rickey

  • Ice
  • 1 ½ ounces gin
  • 1 lime, divided
  • 4 ounces club soda
  • 1 maraschino cherry
  • 1 splash of cherry juice from the maraschino cherry jar

Directions:

Fill a rocks glass half full of ice. Cut the lime in half and squeeze one half over the ice. Add gin, club soda, and cherry juice over the ice and stir. Slice the other half lime into rounds for garnish Add the maraschino cherry and enjoy immediately.