Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gedd - OPA! - Here

You really can’t go wrong with cheesecake. Even if you’re lactose intolerant, vegan or diabetic, you’re sure to find one or another that pleases your palate. You can have low-fat pies (even Paula Deen’s got one!) or total calorie bombs (mmm, Caramel Brownie!), crustless or on a bed of super-thick cookie dough.

Then comes the types of cheesecake you can have. The Italians have their ricotta and mascarpone blended into a smooth and creamy, somewhat crumbly batter. Go to France and you get the airy gelatine and Neufchatel baked into rather thin cakes. Japan has cottony, matcha-laced confections. Check out the US or Canada and you get all sorts of them – from the sour-cream capped to the notorious New York Style.

I thought I was being all unique and innovative when I had the idea to combine the well-loved cheesecake with my all-time favourite dessert – baklava. You know it: that rich flaky pastry made with tons of phyllo, nuts and butter and soaked in decadent honey syrup. Pretty much every Greek restaurant I’ve ever eaten at has some form of baklava on its dessert menu, and I know there are a ton of varieties spanning all across the Middle East. Technically, I suppose it’s Turkish originally, but no matter what country’s flag you attach to it there is no denying the fact that it is one heck of a good way to blow one day’s diet out of the stratosphere. The combination of the two sounded so different, sinful but a “lighter” variation on a theme that wouldn’t sit as heavily on the stomach as a grand New Yorker. It was a perfect thing to blog about: cheesecake and baklava – new and improved!

Except it wasn’t new. Lo and behold, Philadelphia of all companies already had a Sweet Cheese Baklava, with their namesake cream cheese resting on a bed of what essentially is a thin phyllo-nut stack. So I missed the boat on that one as far as making a breaking-news story. But I could make it an improved dessert. I was cooking for a mixed group where I wasn’t sure about the amount or types of allergies around, which pretty much negated the use of nuts.

Now I know what you’re thinking... baklava without NUTS? Can I be serious? Most definitely. While nuts were out for me, there were plenty of crunchy, honey-friendly things I could sandwich into the base. I grabbed a few handfuls of plain old granola – no nuts or fruit – and teamed it up with one of my other favourite “grains” – toasted buckwheat. Inherently “nutty” and “toasty”, it was a logical combination. The result was spectacular. Everyone wondered what I had done this time, how I got that crunch... and now they’re using it for their muffins and cookies!

Cheesecake Topped Granola Baklava
Adapted from Philadelphia
Serves 12
1 cup crunchy plain granola
1/2 cup toasted buckwheat (kasha), soaked in warm water 10 minutes and drained
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 lb cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp rosewater
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp cold 1% milk
2 eggs
12 sheets phyllo pastry (1/2 lb), cut in half crosswise
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 tbsp honey

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Mix granola, kasha, cinnamon and nutmeg, set aside.
  3. In another bowl, beat cream cheese, honey, vanilla, rosewater and lemon juice until well blended.
  4. Mix together the cornstarch and milk until smooth, beat into above.
  5. Add eggs, beat well. Set cheese mixture aside.
  6. Layer phyllo sheets in a greased 13x9" pan, brushing each layer with a light coat of butter and sprinkling granola mixture over every other layer.
  7. Pour cream cheese mixture overtop and smooth, then drizzle with remaining 2 tbsp honey.
  8. Bake 25-30 minutes.
  9. Cool to room temperature before cutting.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 363.8
Total Fat: 23.0 g
Cholesterol: 90.5 mg
Sodium: 254.4 mg
Total Carbs: 32.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.2 g
Protein: 8.0 g