It’s citrus season and I am head over heels in love with kumquats. For weeks, I have been ogling these adorable miniature orange look-alikes at the supermarket. Not knowing what I would do with the little bundles of sunshine once I brought them home, I just sighed wistfully and forced myself to keep walking.
Last week, after another gray, rainy day, inspiration finally struck:
A light, not-too-sweet, lemony cheesecake on a simple, spiced cookie crust, topped with tangy candied kumquats.
The beautiful thing about kumquats is that the rind is actually the best part, so you can just gobble them up whole (which is exactly what you want to do with something so tiny and cute). The sweet, intense orange aroma of the rind is followed by a bright burst of sour juice as you bite down on them.
I decided to candy my sliced kumquats to keep them from drying out and to cut the sourness a little bit. It’s as easy as simmering the citrus slices in simple syrup for a little while. The best part is that this also yields a beautifully tangy-sweet syrup that you can use to spruce up Mimosas or cocktails, or drizzle over crêpes, waffles, or yoghurt.
I also threw in some Meyer lemon slices for a more complex flavor.
As for the crust, well, I have to admit that I have turned up my nose at the mere mention of cookie crusts in the past. While I still don’t think that they are a good substitute or shortcut for a homemade pie crust, they can be amazing in their own right, if used in the correct recipes.
In this case, I opted for a mixture of cinnamon graham crackers and gingersnap cookies. The flavors beautifully compliment the warm citrus aromas and add a nice crunch to offset the creaminess of the cheesecake filling. If you have stale speculoos leftover from Christmas, this would be a perfect recipe to use it in. Simply grind the cookies in a food processor, add a little bit of sugar and melted butter, and press the crumbs into the bottom of your cake pan. A measuring cup makes the perfect tool for leveling the crust and creating a clean edge.
For me, this recipe offers the perfect creamy-to-crunchy-ratio. If you like your cheesecakes to be taller, you can simply double the amounts given for the filling and bake it a little bit longer (the same jiggle test applies).
The only slightly tricky part about this recipe is that it comes out best if the filling is baked in a waterbath. The good news is that the whole process sounds much more daunting than it actually is. All you have to do is place the cake pan with the pre-baked crust on top of a double layer of tin foil, then fold the foil up and tightly gather it around the side of the pan to make the bottom 100% waterproof.
Add the filling, place the cake pan into a roasting pan or large casserole dish, transfer the whole thing into the preheated oven, and pour hot water into the roasting pan, about halfway up the edge of the cake pan. Done!
Here’s one last note to make sure your cheesecake comes out even more beautiful than mine: let it cool down completely before transferring it to the fridge. I was in a rush and carelessly put it in the fridge when it was still warm to the touch, which caused the filling to shrink a little bit. Boo for me!
Meyer Lemon Cheesecake with Candied Kumquats
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- about 5 kumquats, sliced
- 1 cup (4 ounces) cinnamon graham cracker crumbs
- 1/2 cup (2 ounces) gingersnap cookie crumbs
- 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter, melted
- 1.5 tablespoons sugar
- 2 cups (16 ounces) cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
- pinch salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
- 1 heaping tablespoon grated Meyer lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon kumquat syrup (from making the candied kumquats)
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- To make the candied kumquats: In a small saucepan, combine water and sugar and bring to a boil. Add sliced kumquats. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Transfer kumquat slices to cooling rack. Do not discard syrup. Set aside to cool.
- To make the crust: In a large bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, gingersnap crumbs, and sugar. Add melted butter and mix until well combined. Press crumbs into bottom of a buttered 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 325°F until deep golden brown, about 10 minutes.
- To make the filling: whip cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar and salt. Add eggs, one at a time and mix until incorporated. Add sour cream, lemon zest, lemon juice, and kumquat syrup.
- To bake: Place springform pan with crust on top of two layers of tin foil. Snuggly gather tin foil around to the bottom and up the sides to make pan waterproof. Place wrapped cake pan into a roasting pan. Add cream cheese mixture to cake pan. Transfer pans to middle rack of the oven. Pour hot water into roasting pan, about halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake at 325°F until filling is slightly puffed and center jiggles only slightly when shaken, about 1 hour. Let cool completely in pan.
- Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to fridge to chill for at least 2 hours, prefereably over night.
- Top with candied kumquats and serve.
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