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Published April 10, 2012, 11:30 PM

Halgrimson: Baklava cheesecake will make you say ‘wow’

In my youth, I can remember thinking that making a cheesecake was very difficult. My friend, Ralph Engel, who taught English at North Dakota State University, was a wonderful cook and his cheesecakes were classics. Mine were not.

By: Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, INFORUM

In my youth, I can remember thinking that making a cheesecake was very difficult.

My friend, Ralph Engel, who taught English at North Dakota State University, was a wonderful cook and his cheesecakes were classics.

Mine were not.

But cheesecake remains a passion, and I recently sampled one at Santa Lucia, 1109 38th St. S., Fargo, that is truly of the, “I thought I’d died and gone to heaven,” variety.

It is called Baklava Cheesecake and all I can say is, “Wow.”

It sells for $7.95 and we usually split the piece.

I always hesitate to ask restaurateurs for recipes but Santa Lucia’s Maria Simeonidis has shared with us before, so I asked for the cheesecake recipe and she obliged.

I wanted to pass on the recipe but it was for a 12-inch springform pan which is not found in most kitchens. However, Santa Lucia’s sous chef, Anthony Bachman, came to the rescue with a recipe for a 9-inch springform pan. A springform pan has 2½- to 3-inch sides that expand due to a clamp. The bottom is separate and can be removed when the pan is unclamped thus easing the removal or cutting of the cake within.

His recipe uses kataifi, which is a kind of shredded fillo. Kataifi is available at the F-M International Market, 1402 Main Ave., Fargo.

Following are some tips for making a good cheesecake, whether it’s for this recipe or any others.

  • Bring all ingredients to room temperature before mixing the batter.

  • Using an electric mixer or a food processor, combine ingredients until just smooth. Over-mixing causes air bubbles which result in cracks in the finished cake. If you have a small processor, mix the batter in halves.

  • Butter the sides of the springform pan.

  • Place the springform pan on a jellyroll pan to avoid leaks in the oven. And put a shallow pan of water on the rack below the cheesecake to keep oven moist.

  • Do not open the oven while the cheesecake is baking. It does not like fluctuations in the oven temperature.

  • The cheesecake is done when the edges are set and puffed and the center still quivers slightly.

  • Cool on a wire rack, away from any drafts before refrigerating, loosely covered. It keeps refrigerated for four days.

  • Store in the refrigerator, loosely covered, for up to four days but bring to room temperature before serving.

  • Use a very sharp chef’s knife to slice the cheesecake. Cut all the way through to the base. Rinse the knife in hot water and wipe it dry before making another cut.

  • To freeze, wrap a refrigerated cheesecake well and it can be kept in the freezer for 2 months. Thaw it overnight in the fridge.

SANTA LUCIA’S BAKLAVA CHEESECAKE

Filling

2 1/2 pounds cream cheese

1 cup sugar

1 cup sour cream

2 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla

Crust

1 stick butter

10 sheets fillo dough

2 cups shredded fillo (Kataifi fillo) or a few more layers of fillo

Nut Mixture

1 cup chipped almonds

1 cup chopped Walnuts

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 tablespoon sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

  2. Mix cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, eggs and vanilla using an electric mixer adding one ingredient at a time in the preceding order and scraping bowl between each ingredient.

  3. Using a standard 9-inch spring-form pan, layer fillo dough one sheet at a time brushing melted butter with a pastry brush and hanging the excess over the sides of pan.

  4. Mix almonds, walnuts, cinnamon, cloves, and sugar together.

  5. Spread one cup of nut mixture over fillo.

  6. Put cream cheese filling in pan and fold excess fillo over cheese cake mixture.

  7. Top cheesecake with the kataifi fillo and brush with remaining butter.

  8. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 250 degrees and continue baking for one hour.

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