Holiday Cranberry, Vanilla and Orange Cheesecake

When it comes to quintessential Thanksgiving recipes, I prefer to skip the turkey and jump straight to fresh cranberries. They are tart but sweet, crunchy yet juicy and extremely beautiful. They add color to a plate or platter, crunch to a sweet or savory salad, a garnish to a cocktail and sophistication to a dessert topping.  And, while I admit to having an old guilty pleasure for canned cranberry sauce, I’m creeping towards maturity by going straight to the bog for the fresh cranberries! Luckily, The Fresh Market has their own miniature version of a cranberry bog in their produce section and you can joyfully dip out exactly the amount you need for a recipe. Their bog also ensures that the best and most fresh cranberries float to the top. If only all purchases were so playful and quality ensuring!

My mother and I made this beautiful cheesecake using Florida oranges and fresh cranberries this Thanksgiving holiday. We made both of our Thanksgiving desserts the day before so we could completely enjoy our family celebrations without worrying about baking. We crafted this recipe that is a cinch to make with just a few steps. Although, making desserts with my mom is always a pleasure and is easier with four arms mixing and washing beaters!

Notice the use of vanilla paste in this cheesecake recipe. Vanilla paste is a thicker, more sugary vanilla extract that includes whole vanilla seeds. I love it because it has a deeper, richer flavor  — and because you can also see the specks of vanilla in finished product! It’s much less expensive than purchasing vanilla beans and easier to work with. The Fresh Market carries jars of vanilla paste in the baking section. I’m addicted to the jar I’ve been baking with this holiday season!

Enjoy this recipe while citrus and cranberries are in season — and while the season calls for eating more dessert without excuses!

Holiday Orange, Vanilla and Cranberry Cheesecake 

Crust

  • 1 and 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted

Filling

  • 4 8-ounce packages cream cheese
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste

Topping

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon arrowroot
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine graham cracker crumbs and sugar in a bowl. Stir in butter and blend. Using the back of a water glass, press the mixture into a spring-form pan firmly to the bottom of the pan and up into the sides. Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes – remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

Beat cream cheese and sugar in a stand-up mixer. Add flour and beat in eggs one at a time. Once blended, add orange zest and vanilla paste. Make sure the mixture is creamy and blended – then pour into cooled crust.

Create a water-bath by wrapping foil around bottom and up sides of spring-form pan. Put the pan into a high-sided roasting pan and add enough water to the roasting pan so that the water comes up about halfway to the spring-form pan. Bake about 1 hour – or until the mixture is set. Remove from water and allow to cook. Then, cover and chill overnight or up to 2 days.

Meanwhile (while baking the cheesecake!), combine sugar and water in medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add arrowroot and combine until smooth. Add cranberries and cook until they begin to pop and meld together. Add zest, stir, cool and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, run knife around top edge of cheesecake and release pan sides. Carefully top the cheesecake with cranberry mixture and serve!

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