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Tahini, Saffron, and Pomegranate Cheesecake

Tahini, Saffron, and Pomegranate Cheesecake

Renée Robinson

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.

Unbaked crust

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.

Saffron steeping in cream

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. 

Slice of Tahini, Saffron, and Pomegranate Cheesecake

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.

Tahini, Saffron, and Pomegranate Cheesecake

Recipe by Renée Robinson
Servings

10-12

servings

An unbaked, silky cheesecake flavored with tahini, saffron, and orange zest sits on a crust of shortbread cookies, sesame seeds and pistachios. Then it's topped with a little pomegranate molasses, pomegranate arils, more pistachios and cocoa nibs. Ethereal is the best description.

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Ingredients

  • 150 g 150 (5.2 ounces) Lorna Doone shortbread cookies

  • 50 g 50 (1.75 ounces) salted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan

  • 20 g 20 (2 tablespoons) roasted and salted pistachios

  • 1 tablespoon 1 toasted white sesame seeds

  • 1 tablespoon 1 black sesame seeds

  • 1 1/4 cups 1 1/4 heavy whipping cream, plus 1 1/2 tablespoons for steeping the saffron

  • 1 teaspoon 1 saffron threads

  • 200 g 200 (1 cup) granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon 1 finely grated orange zest

  • 20 ounces 20 full fat cream cheese

  • 3/4 cup 3/4 , plus 1 tablespoon tahini

  • 3/4 cup 3/4 plain whole milk Greek yogurt

  • 1/4 teaspoon 1/4 fine sea salt

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons 1 1/4 vanilla paste

  • 1 tablespoon 1 pomegranate molasses

  • 1/3 cup 1/3 pomegranate arils

  • 2 tablespoons 2 chopped toasted pistachios

  • 2 teaspoons 2 cocoa nibs

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350° with a rack in the center. Grease a 9 inch springform pan with salted butter and set aside.
  • Place the cookies, butter, and pistachios in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add the white and black sesame seeds and briefly pulse, just to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and press firmly into the bottom. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Chill in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, combine 1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream and the saffron threads. Heat in the microwave for 20 seconds. Stir and allow to completely cool. Strain through a fine meshed strainer, reserving the liquid. It will be thick.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the sugar and orange peel. Rub together with your fingers in order to release the fragrant oil in the zest.
  • In the same bowl of a stand mixer or in large bowl with a hand mixer, on medium high speed, beat the cream cheese, tahini, Greek yogurt, reserved orange sugar, vanilla paste, and the reserved saffron cream until smooth and fully mixed.
  • Using either a stand mixer or a hand mixer, whip the heavy cream until it hold stiff peaks, but do not over beat. Using a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture until it’s mostly fully incorporated. It's preferable to have a few white streaks of the whipped cream, rather than over mixing it. Spoon all the filling into the chilled crust in the pan and smooth the top. Drizzle on the pomegranate molasses and using either a butter knife or a small offset spatula, swirl it into the top of the filling. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  • Slide a knife around the perimeter of the cake and remove it from the pan. Scatter the pomegranate arils, chopped pistachios, and cocoa nibs on top. Slice, serve, and Enjoy!

Equipment

  • 9 inch Springform Pan
  • Stand Mixer or Handheld Beater

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