Baked Goods / Desserts

Stormy Weather

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There’s always been a little tug in my heart once my birthday passes in late July and I sense the end of summer.  We’ve been spoiled this year in Seattle with glorious, high-in-the-sky, sunny 90° days which abruptly came to a halt last weekend with a wind storm the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time.  I may not wear flannel every day, such as the Seattle stereotype goes, but I do have a place in my heart for those quintessential Northwest moody grey skies that burst with cool, quiet showers and wind that leaves our beautiful evergreens looking tousled like some 1980’s hairband.

Luckily, just before this storm knocked out and over many trees and power, my friend Lori gifted me with a beautiful bounty of assorted pears from the 11-year old grafted pear tree that stands in her front yard.  “Thank God you like to cook, ” she said and I happily came home dragging my loot of about 10 pounds of anjou, comice, bartlett and conference pears like some tricker-treater on Halloween. Thank God for friends with little time and fruit trees.

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It seemed rather fitting that this recipe came together when it did.  The mottled browns and green of the pears, the spice of cardamom and ginger, the wind-strewn maple branches I had The Vegetarian forage for me the next morning while the sun peek-a-booed between billowy clouds, all made for a great autumnal photo shoot of a very worthy and delicious subject.  Thank God for stormy weather, crisp southern exposures, and lazy Sunday mornings.  After eating breakfast, I still had room for a thick slice of this ginger pear and roasted fruit cheesecake and I’m definitely making this recipe an annual tradition to celebrate the ushering in of September in Seattle.

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Ginger Pear & Roasted Fruit Cheesecake

Ingredients

GINGERSNAP CRUST

1- 10 oz bag of gingersnap cookies
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

ROASTED FIGS AND PLUMS

8 small mission figs, sliced in half
8 Italian plums, sliced in half, pits removed
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons honey
1/4 cup water
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out and pod
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 star anise

GINGER PEAR BASE

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cups peeled and chopped assorted pears
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup diced candied ginger
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out and pod

LEMON CARDAMOM FILLING

1- 8 oz package of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
3 large eggs

Serves 8-10

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Instructions

Preheat oven to 400°.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place cut figs and plums in a bowl.  In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine brown sugar, honey, water, vanilla bean, star anise and cinnamon for about 4 minutes.  Be careful not to scorch the star anise as it can become very bitter.  Remove from heat and pour over fruit.  Let macerate for about 15-20 minutes before placing fruit cut side up on the baking sheet and roasting for about 15 minutes. Reserve any remaining syrup.  When done, transfer fruit to a plate to cool in the refrigerator.  Place onto cheesecake prior to serving. Turn oven heat down to 350°.

Prepare a springform pan with a round of parchment paper on the bottom and spray the sides with pan spray.  I like to place my pan onto a foil-lined baking tray to prevent any drips or spills.  In a food processor, pulverize gingersnaps with melted butter. Press this mixture into the bottom of the springform pan.  Set aside.

In a large saute pan over medium-low heat, melt butter.  Add in pears, lemon juice, candied ginger, brown sugar, cinnamon stick and vanilla.  Saute 8-10 minutes until pears are slightly soft. Pour into pan over crust.

In a mixing bowl, use an electric beater to blend together cream cheese, sour cream, vanilla extract, cardamom, lemon zest and eggs.  Pour mixture into springform pan.  Make sure your oven temperature has been reduced to 350° and bake for 55 minutes or until the center of the cheesecake is set but still slightly jiggly.  Set onto a cooking rack and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour before slicing and serving.  Top with roasted figs and plums and a drizzle of remaining syrup.

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