For the 4th of July, Frank and I attended a neighborhood bash. I offered to bring a dessert, and when I saw the huge blackberries at Mt. Olympus Farm last week at the Kingstowne Market, I knew I had to use them in my dessert. I froze them for the week, while I contemplated what to make.
A tart? A fruit salad? Hmmm. Nope….a cheesecake! A decadent cheesecake that I could enjoy a small piece of. One that wouldn’t be hanging around, taunting me to eat more. Perfect. I would use those blackberries to make a blackberry coulis to top off my New York style cheesecake.
A coulis (koo-LEE) is a thick sauce using vegetables or fruits. The term coulis initially referred to the juices from roasting meat and is French for “strained liquid”. Coulis are smooth and even in texture, and generally used to accent a dish. For example, meats can be artfully plated with a pool of vegetable coulis underneath or on the side, and desserts can be accented with a sweet and tart berry coulis.
Berry coulis are sweetened with sugar to mitigate tartness as needed. Lemon is also commonly added to brighten the flavors. In my blackberry coulis, I used a cornstarch slurry to thicken it at the end of cooking, before straining the sauce through a chinois. The slurry must be heated to the boiling point, or about 203 degrees to activate its thickening properties prior to straining.
The end product was a dense, moist cheesecake topped with the blackberry coulis, which looked like a deep purple ganache flowing over the sides. I reserved a handful of the largest berries to garnish the center of the cake.
The cheesecake looked beautiful plated on a white cake stand. Guests at the party admired it before the first piece was cut. After that, it went in a flash! Fortunately, Frank and I were able to enjoy a piece before it was gone.
New York Style Cheesecake with Blackberry Coulis
For the crust
- 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 5 tablespoons melted butter
For the cheesecake
- 2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, softened
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/3 cup sour cream, full fat or light (not non-fat)
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 large egg yolks
- 6 large eggs
For the coulis
- 2 pints blackberries (minus a few reserved for garnish)
- 2/3 cup water
- 3/4 cup sugar (more if needed)
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 cup water
Pre heat oven to 325 degrees.
For the crust.
In a bowl, combine the graham crackers, sugar and melted butter. Mix with a fork to incorporate fully. Spread the crust evenly into the bottom of a spring-form pan that has been buttered on the bottom and sides. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 12-14 minutes, or until it becomes aromatic.
Take the crust out of the oven, and allow it to cool while you make the batter.
For the batter.
Increase the oven temperature to 500 degrees.
**Between each step of adding ingredients to the batter and mixing, use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, and the paddle. This helps prevent chunks of cream cheese in the final batter product.**
In a mixer using a paddle attachment (this might be tough for a hand mixer due to the initial thickness of the batter) add the softened cream cheese that has been cut into 2-3 inch chunks. Mix on medium-low for a minute to soften.
Add the salt and half of the sugar. Mix on medium-low for a minute.
Add remaining sugar and mix on medium-low for a minute.
Add sour cream, lemon juice and vanilla. Mix on medium-low for a minute
(are you scraping?)
Add egg yolks and mix on medium-low for a minute.
Add eggs, two at a time and mix for one minute between additions.
Place the spring-form pan on a baking sheet and butter the sides. Add batter and place on middle rack of oven. Bake at 500 degrees for 8 minutes. Without opening the oven door, turn the heat down to 200 degrees and continue to bake for 90 minutes.
Remove cheesecake from oven and allow to cool for 3 hours, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. The cake can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for 4 days.
For the coulis.
Place berries, water and sugar into a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and reduce to medium simmer. Allow to cook uncovered for 10-15 minutes, or until the berries are completely softened. Add the lemon juice and taste for desired balance of sweet and tart. Add additional sugar if need and cook until the sugar is fully dissolved.
In a small bowl, make the slurry by mixing corn starch and water. Whisk until smooth. Add slurry to the simmering berries and bring to a boil. Allow mixture to boil for 4-5 minutes, or until thickened.
Remove the coulis from the heat and strain through a fine sieve or chinois. Allow the coulis to cool, covered, in the refrigerator along with the cheesecake.
To serve, pour coulis over cake, allowing some to drip down the sides. Leftover coulis can be served on the side. Garnish witha few berries in the middle.
Cutting pieces of the cake can be made easier by using a knife which is warmed in hot water, then wiped dry. Cut cake, wipe knife, warm in water, and repeat.