Both Subtle and Surprising. It’s a Real Eye Opener.
I’ve come up with an unbaked tahini cheesecake that is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. I’ve seen recipes for these types of cheesecakes, but I never felt they were fully realized. Sounded kind of boring to me. But I felt there was real potential for something great and got to work on this one.
The first thing I tackled was the crust. Because of the tahini in the filling, I wanted to emphasize the sesame flavor, so I got out my trusty Lorna Doone shortbread cookies and added both white and black toasted sesame seeds, along with a couple tablespoons of toasted pistachios. The only thing needed was some softened butter. I didn’t feel any additional sugar was necessary after tasting it. It was sweet enough from the cookies and had a rich nutty flavor. So far, so good.
After baking it for only 12 minutes, I let it cool and placed it in the freezer to quickly chill while I got on with the filling. Room temperature cream cheese, tahini, and Greek yogurt are the mainstays here. I rubbed grated orange zest into the sugar before beating it into the other ingredients. I was knocking around flavor ideas with my son when he suggested saffron. The more I thought about it, the better I liked the idea. So, I steeped a teaspoon of saffron threads in a couple tablespoons of warm heavy cream, let it cool, strained it, and added it to the filling.
At this point, I whipped a cup and a half of heavy cream, folded it into the filling, and spooned it into the chilled crust. Right before I put it into the fridge to chill and set, I decided it needed a little something else. The deep flavors of the tahini and saffron were really lovely, but a tiny bit of brightness to augment the orange zest would be a good thing. So, I drizzled a tablespoon of pomegranate molasses over the top and gently swirled it into only the very top layer of filling.
After it had chilled and set, I topped it with plenty of pomegranate arils, toasted pistachios and cocoa nibs. Each one of these served a purpose. The tart/sweet pomegranate arils are necessary for brightness, the pistachios reinforce the nutty element, and the texture and flavor of the cocoa nibs add crunch and a little bitterness which was really perfect.
I kept my fingers crossed as I took my first several bites. Sometimes, things can seem like a great idea, but don’t work out so well in the end. As I savored each bite, I really couldn’t believe how much I loved it. Yes, it’s definitely unlike any other dessert I’ve ever made or tasted.
Since there are no eggs and it’s unbaked, the mouthfeel is very creamy, but light. It’s nothing like a regular cheesecake. I hesitate to call it a mousse because it feels more substantial than a mousse, but it’s definitely not a dense cheesecake. From the nuttiness of the crust to the silky richness of the filling, and then on to the pop of freshness from the pomegranate arils, each bite is a veritable delight. I love this dessert so much. It’s easy to make. Can be made ahead. And I don’t think it could be any prettier. It’s a winner on all counts.