Thursday, November 29, 2012

Raspberry Pistachio Cheesecake from John Barricelli of the SoNo Baking Company

            Just before Thanksgiving, Andrew heard from a friend from his college days requesting a dessert recipe using raspberries.  Well it took all of two minutes to remember a spectacular cheesecake he made earlier in the season.  But why it has never made an appearance on these pages is a bit of a puzzle.  The cake is the essence of what a truly great cheesecake should taste like--extremely, densely creamy with that wonderful tang from the touch of sour cream that’s added to the batter.  But in this version there’s so much more...a pistachio-flavored graham cracker crust, more pistachios ringing the cake and topping the whole thing off, a layer of brilliant red raspberries.  In planning our offerings for the dash from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I wanted to give our readers some easy weeknight meals and also to give some ideas for fantastic desserts for all the entertaining that happens this season. It was a no-brainer to include this phenomenal cake because it even looks like Christmas with it’s red and green coloration.  Raspberries, while hardly in season, are one of those fruits that are increasingly found year ‘round so it shouldn’t be too difficult to pull off this.  And oh what a response you can expect when the first bite puts everyone’s taste buds into high gear.  And the surprising thing is Andrew says it's not at all hard to make, it just looks it! 

         This recipe is yet another from one of our favorite bakers, John Barricelli.  It’s from his “The SoNo Baking Company Cookbook” (Clarkson Potter, 2010).  The SoNo in the title is for the Chef’s South Norwalk Connecticut bakery.   I really wish we lived anywhere near this place because we consistently love everything that Chef Barricelli has on offer.  He is a third generation baker and in his recipe he mentions his father Joseph’s passion for cheesecake.  Unfortunately, the chef’s father never lived to taste his son’s invention.  But it has become one of the all-time best sellers at The SoNo Baking Company.  The chef doesn’t limit the topping to raspberries but points out that strawberries, blueberries, even kiwis can be used to top the cake. 
          This cake requires a "Bain-Marie" which, simply stated, means the cake pan bakes in a water bath.  "Bain-Marie" gets its name from a piece of kitchen equipment we're all familiar with: the double boiler.   But in this instance, it refers to the technique which involves taking a spring mold pan and using 18 inch wide Heavy Duty aluminum foil to completely encase the spring mold so that no water seeps in.  The big sheet is ideal for this purpose whereas a standard roll of aluminum foil would necessitate a seam--never a great idea in a bain marie.  The spring mold is then put into a roasting pan and boiling water is poured in to within a half inch of the top of the spring mold. 
            Once baked the cake requires a 4 to 6 hour stint in the refrigerator so you might want to start it one afternoon and finish it off the next day.  Here’s the recipe  which will make 1 9-inch cheesecake that serves 10. That is if you not tempted to eat the whole thing all by yourself.  It's that good. 

John Barricelli
Recipe for Raspberry Pistachio Cheesecake from John Barricelli

For the Pistachio Graham Cracker Crust:
¼ cup shelled, unsalted pistachios
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
1 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the Filling:
         2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature for at least 6 hours

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
½ teaspoon coarse salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon vanilla paste, or seeds from 1 whole vanilla bean
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup sour cream
½ cup apricot jam
½ cup shelled, unsalted pistachios, pulsed in a food processor until coarsely ground
3 (1/2-pint) containers raspberries
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Bring water to a boil for a water bath. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 inch spring mold  cake pan; set aside.
2. To make the crust: In a food processor, pulse the pistachios with the sugar and the salt until coarsely ground. 
Transfer to a large bowl, add the graham cracker crumbs and butter, and mix to combine. 

Press the graham cracker mixture over the bottom of the buttered pan. Set aside.

3. To make the filling: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, sugar, salt, vanilla extract, and vanilla paste or seeds on medium-high speed, scraping down the bowl several times, until the mixture is completely smooth, about 5 minutes.

4. Turn the mixer to low and beat in the eggs one at a time, until blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in the sour cream until blended.
5. Using a large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil, surround the spring form pan and place it in a roasting pan. Pour the cream cheese mixture into the cake pan-it will come all of the way to the top of the pan. Place the roasting pan in the oven and pour in the boiling water to come about ½ inch up the sides of the cake pan. 
Bake until the filling is set but still jiggles slightly in the center, 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes. Remove from the water bath and let cool to room temperature. Chill for 4 to 6 hours, or overnight, in the pan.
6.  Release the sides of the pan and place the cake  onto a 9-inch cake round or large plate.  In a small saucepan, warm the strained jam over low heat until liquid. Strain through a fine strainer. 
Brush the top and sides of the cheesecake with the strained jam. 

Holding the cake with one hand under the bottom, and working over a sheet pan to catch the excess, gently press the ground pistachios all around the side of the cake.
Cover the top of the cake with a single layer of raspberries. Dust with confectioners' sugar, if desired.


  1. Wow not only beautiful but a classic flavor combo. YUM!! Thank you.

    1. Andrew gets the photo credits on this. He is great with the point and shoot, don't you think?

  2. Beautiful cake. Almost too pretty to eat. I know Andrew is glad he doesn't live close by to the bakery.

    1. I think we both are! But when you live with a a baker as good as your brother, believe me, you don't need to live anywhere near a bakeryl XOXO M