Life in a Northern Town

Gorgonzola Cheesecake & Dried Cranberry Flatbread

I've been thinking about savory cheesecake for a few years but never put thought into action. It seemed like a lot of really good ingredients to waste if it was a horrid disaster. Last month, I finally decided to quit dithering, research different recipes, grab some gorgonzola, a spring-form pan and get cooking. During my search for the perfect cheesecake, a recipe for dried pear and walnut flatbread from Christina's Cookbook caught my eye. Gorgonzola cheesecake and dried pear flatbread?? I don't know why I waited so long.

Dried Pear Flatbread (from Christina's Table by Christina Orchid)

1 tsp yeast 1 cup warm water 1 tsp salt 2 tbsp good quality olive oil 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted 1/2 cup dried pear, chopped 1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped 1 1/2 cup unbleached white flour

In a medium bowl, add the yeast to the water and salt and let sit for a few minutes. Add the olive oil, walnuts, pear and cranberries and stir to blend. Stir in the flour and then knead for 1 minutes. Let rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Oil a baking sheet. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick on the baking sheet and bake for 7 minutes. The flatbreads can be any shape that fits your pan.

Gorgonzola Cheesecake (from The New England Table by Lora Brody)

1/4 cup fine dried bread crumbs 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 shallots, peeled and finely diced 1/2 pound (8 ounces) gorgonzola or other blue-veined cheese, crumbled 1 3/4 pounds (28 ounces) regular cream cheese (not reduced fat), at room temperature 4 extra-large eggs 1/2 cup heavy cream A few drops of Frank's Hot Sauce or other hot-pepper sauce 1/2 pound thick-cut bacon, cut into small dice and cooked until very crisp 1/2 cup oven roasted tomatoes, chopped

Preheat the oven to 300°F with the rack in the center position. Generously butter the bottom and sides of an 8 inch springform pan with 3 inch sides. Line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper; butter the parchment. Mix the bread crumbs together with 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Dust the interior of the pan with the breadcrumb mixture, allowing the excess to stay evenly distributed on the bottom of the pan. This cheesecake cooks in a water bath; to prevent water from leaking into the pan while the cheesecake bakes, place it on a 16-inch length of heavy-duty aluminum foil, gather the edges up, and wrap them around the outside of the springform, securing if necessary with a length of kitchen string tied around the outside of the pan.

Have ready a roasting pan large enough to hold the prepared springform pan. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Melt the 3 tablespoons butter in a small skillet set over medium heat Add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, or until the shallots are wilted and translucent. Set aside.

Combine the Stilton cheese, cream cheese, eggs, heavy cream, and Frank's Hot Sauce to taste in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until the mixture is completely smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the work bowl once or twice. Add the cooked shallots, roasted tomatoes and bacon and pulse to blend, but avoid overprocessing, as you want the bacon to create some texture in the batter.

Pour and scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese on top. Place the springform pan in the larger roasting pan and set both in the oven. Add enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 40 minutes, checking the water bath halfway through the cooking time; add more, if necessary. At the end of the cooking time, turn off the oven and leave the door closed with the cheesecake inside. After 1 hour remove both pans, remove the foil wrapping, dry the bottom of the springform pan, and place it on a wire rack to cool completely. Do not refrigerate the cheesecake to speed the cooling process.

When the cheesecake is cool, release the sides of the pan and slide a wide metal spatula under the cake to transfer it to a serving platter. (You may opt to serve it right on the springform pan bottom. If you do, don't use a metal knife to cut the cheesecake, or you'll ruin the pan bottom and the knife.) Cut the cheesecake by slicing it with a long, thin knife that has been run under hot water and dried before slicing. (The cheesecake is best served without refrigerating it. Refrigeration makes it dense and a bit heavy. You can make it up to 1 day ahead of time and keep it at room temperature, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.)