So, here's a question that makes my head spin.
"What's your favorite dessert of all time?"
I usually follow this up with an uncomfortable pause, an "umm..." or two and then I get red in the face because dessert is my LIFE and I should have a solid answer for this question.
"I'm still deciding."
I know. Bor-ing. I'm just not ready to commit! But I can tell you this. Cheesecake is in my top 5, and this Baklava Cheesecake is definitely in my top 10.
I was inspired by this recipe, and decided to re-work it a little. I thought it best to incorporate Greek yogurt into the cheesecake batter (that makes sense, right?) and ground walnuts can almost always use the loving touch of a little salt. I also made an embarrassing amount of honey syrup for drenching this filo covered cake, mostly because - have you ever had dry baklava? Ugh. I don't even want to talk about it.
I used my 7-inch spring-form pan made by Nordic Ware for this cheesecake. It worked well, though I was worried half way through baking because it puffed up over the edge of the pan. I'm suggesting the use of an 8-inch pan in the recipe below. It will provide a little more room for the batter and 7-inch pans aren't a standard size (but personally, I love them and use. mine. often!).
This is a must-try if you're a baklava lover! The cheesecake is rich and creamy with the addition of Greek yogurt, and it is rippled with cinnamon-walnut filling. The flaky filo layers on top provide a nice, satisfying crunch. If you're making this for a party or gathering, be sure to place the extra drenching syrup in a gravy boat or pitcher beside the cake. Guests can pour additional syrup onto their individual slices.
[click for printable version]
Yield: One 8-inch cheesecake, 10 servings
Source: Adapted from taste.com.AU
Prep:1 hour 30 minutes
Total: 3 hours
Make the honey drenching syrup first. It needs to reduce on the stove top for 20 minutes and then cool completely. For the cheesecake portion, I used nonfat honey-flavored Greek yogurt, but I'm sure full fat would be wonderful, too. You may also choose to use almonds or pistachios in place of the walnuts in the nut filling, or use a combination of all the above!
Cinnamon-honey drenching syrup
1 cup granulated sugar (8 oz)
1 1/3 cups water (10.7 oz)
1 cup honey (250 ml)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Stir together the sugar, water and honey in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 20-25 minutes until reduced and syrupy. You should have around 1 3/4 to 2 cups of liquid after cooking. This amount doesn't have to be exact, as long as you're somewhere at or in between. Remove syrup from heat and stir in cinnamon. Let cool completely.
6 oz. walnuts
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 packages (20 oz.) cream cheese, at room temperature
2 5.3 oz. containers (or 300g total) Greek yogurt, honey flavor (or plain)
3/4 cup granulated sugar (6 oz.)
3 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, melted (4 oz.)
12-14 sheets filo pastry
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 5-8 minutes in the oven. Let cool, then place 5 oz. of the nuts in a food processor and process in quick bursts until finely chopped. You can also chop them finely with a chef's knife. Transfer the 5 oz. finely chopped nuts to a medium bowl and add 1/2 cup of the drenching syrup, salt and cinnamon. Stir together and set aside. Reserve remaining 1 oz. walnuts for later use.
- Process cream cheese, Greek yogurt, sugar and vanilla extract together in the bowl of a food processor. Scrape down sides of the bowl if needed. Process until completely smooth. Add the eggs and process again. Let rest in the bowl while you prepare the filo crust.
- Reduce oven heat to 325°F. Release the collar from an 8-inch spring-form pan. Tear off a sheet of parchment paper and place over the base, then re-attach the collar, allowing the baking paper to stick out the bottom edges (see photo). Place the filo sheets on a clean work surface. Working quickly, lightly brush a sheet with butter then fold in half. Lay the sheet inside the pan allowing one end of the pastry to overhang the top edge of the spring-form pan. Repeat process with 9 more sheets of filo; turn and overlap the pieces until the bottom of the pan is completely covered. Cover the remaining sheets of filo with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for later use.
- Pour cheesecake batter into the prepared pan. Use a spoon to place dollops of the reserved walnut filling on top of the cheesecake batter. Some dollops will sink to the bottom, some will sit on top of the batter, so don't worry too much about this part looking perfect. The filling will create random ripples of walnut in the baked cheesecake (that's just part of the beauty). Fold the overhanging filo edges onto the cheesecake. Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until the center is set. Do not remove cheesecake from the oven - turn off the oven and prop the oven door open (about 5 inches or so) and let the oven cool down completely (about 40 minutes).
- Remove cheesecake from the oven and re-heat the oven to 350°F. Brush the remaining 2-4 pieces of filo dough with butter and place them in a crumpled fashion on the top middle of the cheesecake. Bake for 8-10 minutes more or until the newly added filo has turned golden. Cool to room temperature. Top cheesecake with drenching syrup and remaining 1 oz. of toasted walnuts. Place leftover syrup in a gravy boat beside the cheesecake. Refrigerate leftovers.